Saturday, October 3, 2009

Plus ça change...

You notice things when you wander around with no real objective in mind.  These kids are students of the Lycee Charlemagne, a school established in the Marais by Napoleon in 1804. 

That wall behind them was built by Philippe Auguste, a King of France who enlarged the confines of the city of Paris in the 12th century by building a protective wall that allowed the city to extend its defenses over a larger area.  Traces of this wall remain all over the city, sometimes in cellars, sometimes in the open. 

Philippe Auguste was a Crusader and, as most monarchs at the time did, waged many and costly wars.  He couldn't seem to borrow enough money to finance them and so he got creative.  Thus Philippe Auguste's other claim to fame: he expelled all Jews from France and confiscated their property. 

Directly across the street from this wall, on another wall of the Lycee Charlemagne, is this plaque, one of several placed on schools in this quartier in 2005, when the French government finally accepted responsibility for the complicity of the collaborationist Vichy government in the deportation and murder of nearly all Jews living in France, immigrant and French-born.

The plaque reads: "To the memory of the students of this school deported from 1942 to 1944 because they were born Jews, innocent victims of Nazi barbarism with the active complicity of the Vichy government.  They were exterminated in the death camps.  Never forget them."

There is no plaque to recall the 12th century community of adults and children driven from the same city by the man whose wall still stands just opposite. 

Just something I noticed.

No comments: