The World Jewish Congress, in partnership with the Consulate General of France and the Museum of Jewish Art and History of Paris, cosponsored a symposium entitled “Jewish Survival and Rescue in Occupied France,” at the Museum of Jewish Heritage at Battery Park.
The symposium is part of the four-part series “France and Judaism: 2,000 years of intertwined history,” which began last year as a joint initiative of the WJC, the Consulate, and the Musée d’art et d’histoire du Judaïsme (MahJ) in Paris. Coming shortly after the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau in January and just before Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah) in Israel in April, this month’s discussion explores the conditions of Jewish survival in occupied France under the Vichy government and the efforts of the Jewish resistance.
The symposium features renowned guest-speakers, including the esteemed Holocaust historian Jacques Semelin, who will talk about the survivors from Le Chambon sur Lignon, a French Commune which was used for a safe haven for Jews during WWII. The symposium also features Holocaust survivor and French-American documentary filmmaker, Pierre Sauvage, and will feature a special showing of his documentary “Weapons of the Spirit.” Following the completion of his documentary, Sauvage and other experts will participate on a panel about the documentary.
The series began in November, with a launch at the French Consulate in New York, featuring Paul Salmona, Director of the MahJ, with a discussion on what archeology can reveal about the history of Judaism in France.
“The World Jewish Congress is extremely grateful for the strong relationships that we have built with our friends in the French government, particularly at this critical juncture of the rising antisemitism and incitement to xenophobic violence that has swept Europe, including in France,” said WJC President Ronald S. Lauder, at the launch of the series. “Education is without a doubt one of the most important tools we have to eradicate sentiments of hatred among before they are formed. It is our collective duty to combat misinformation and encourage coexistence whenever and wherever we can. We see great importance in this initiative that we have developed together with the French Consulate of New York to bring the long and rich history of Judaism in France to the general public and look forward to the discussions and future collaboration that this inspires.”
Consul General of France in New York Anne-Claire Legendre stated: “Today, France would not exist but for its Jewish citizens and the role they played throughout our history."
The series continued with its second installment in January, with a lecture at WJC President Lauder’s Neue Galerie, on the French Jewish artists who formed the Ecole de Paris artistic movement at the beginning of the 20th century. In his remarks, WJC President Lauder reflected on the “indelible legacy” of some of the most seminal Jewish artists of the period who “influenced the direction of art for generations.”