April 7th 1946 : remembrance day
After the roundup on April 6th 1944, Sabine Zlatin goes to Vichy to find some help and try to save the 44 children and the 7 adults arrested in Izieu. She collects the belongings left at the Home and preciously keeps the letters and drawings made by the children. This is the very first act of remembrance. Thereafter she becomes a member of the Resistance and coordinates the surviving deportees’ welcome at the Hotel Lutetia in Paris.
The International Military Tribunal of Nuremberg is created to bring to justice the major Nazi criminals from November 20th 1945 to October 1st 1946.
On February 5th 1946, Edgar Faure mentions the Izieu case to the International Military Tribunal of Nuremberg. He reads the telegram signed by K. Barbie and adds this comment :
« I think that we can say there is something even more stricking and even more horrible than the concrete removal of these children ; it is its administrative nature, its debriefing which is according to the official channels, the conference during which different civil servants have a quiet discussion about it, like a natural procedure of theirs. It means that all the inner workings of a State, I am talking about the Nazi State, are set in motion for such an occasion, for such a goal. »
In 1946, commemorations of such magnitude to pay tribute to Jewish adults and children were rare.
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The organisation of the ceremony
On July 24th 1945, Sabine Zlatin writes an official letter to the prefect of the departement of Ain asking him to organise a remembrance day at Izieu and Brégnier-Cordon. Many people get involved around her and the Committee of organisation is created. It gathers elected representatives, local people, personnalities…
Local councillors carry a public subscription which allows to finance the monument at Brégnier-Cordon as well as the commemorative plaque on the house bearing the deported children and monitors’ names.
771 donators have been identified so far in the department of Ain including individuals, local authorities, associations and schools mainly from the Bugey but also from all over France especially in the departments of Isère, Savoie, Haute-Savoie, Rhône, Paris, Hérault and Alpes Maritimes.
From the beginning of the project – the transports’ commission can testify – the event is expected to be a large, popular and family gathering : everything has to be done so everyone could get to Izieu. In the postwar years, the car is not the most common mean of transport unlike the bike and the bus. A particular logistics is put in place within a radius of 50-ish kilometres – 8 bus lines, 20 round trips – to allow people to attend the ceremony on Sunday April 7th 1946. Mr Gonnet, head of the company « Transport Gonnet » and member of the Committee, in charge of the transports’ commission, donates all the receipts made during April 7th for the subscription « 33,465 francs ». The « Thomas » bus company from Lhuis and the « Brunel and Chapot » bus company from Belley followed that initiative and respectively donated 2,185 and 1,500 francs.
What do these two ceremonies represent ?
At Izieu, the mourning
The commemorative plaque gathers the names of the 44 children and the 7 adults rounded up on April 6th 1944 by the Gestapo of Lyon. Some of the victims’ families are gathered around Sabine Zlatin and Léon Reifman, and others were not able to come like Léa Feldblum (the only survivor of the roundup) and the Halpern family.
It is a moment of remembrance of the Home’s children and adults but also a moment which allows to give the victims a grave.
At Brégnier-Cordon, the memory
The stone tablet’s base is ornamented with a bas-relief drawn by Sabine Zlatin, which represents two children’s faces in front of a Star of David threatened by a dagger with a swastika on it. It bears several inscriptions.
Under the bas-relief, extracts from John Donne’s meditation 17 chosen by Sabine Zlatin :
« Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main (…), any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. »
Interview-testimony by Mr Yves Pastorino, February 11th 2021
« I was there on April 7th 1946, I was 10 years old and we were not aware of what had happened. I lived in Les Avenières and was a member of the brass band. The leader of Les Avenières’ brass band was Mr. Parmentier, he lived in the old harbour of Cordon. The mayor of Brégnier-Cordon had to ask him to come and reinforce the Clique made up of cavalry trumpets and bugles. The Clique came to rehearse on Friday night at Les Avenières for the ceremony on Sunday. I played the bugle.
I remember a party in the afternoon at the Maison d’Izieu in remembrance of the children in which I took part and I remember going there with my bike after lunch. »
Testimony from Daniel Maître, inhabitant of Brégnier-Cordon
« I have just turned 11. Soon comes Secondary school ! In the late morning I am well placed at my bedroom’s window to attend a solemn event : the opening of the stone tablet in remembrance of the children of Izieu. A photo, probably extracted from the local newspapers and kindly given to me by the Maison des enfants d’Izieu, shows the enthusiasm created by this event and proves that my memory has not betrayed me : this figure at my bedroom’s window is indeed me, a shadow from the past, the ghost from my childhood forever immortalised by the photographer’s lens. The stone tablet stands opposite the post office, at the crossroads of the roads of Belley and Izieu. An elegant, very understated monument, in white stone. There is a detail which would make you smile in other circumstances : the very moving text contains two spelling mistakes which will be corrected only in the 1980’s on the initiative of Robert Mériaudeau, mayor of this village.
All the personalities of the department attend this commemoration, alongside Mrs Zlatin. »
Extracts from the book Mirka, L’enfance d’un Gone published by the publishing house of Poutan in spring 2021.