“We write on the walls the names of those we love. Messages for the days to come. We write on the walls with the ink of our veins. We draw everything we want to say.” On the small Place Marcel Achard, in the 19th arrondissement, words resonate, carried by thin voices. This Monday, February 5, 5th grade students from Charles Péguy college, located a few hundred meters away, chose this song by Demis Roussos to pay tribute to Louise Pikovsky, a young Jewish high school student deported on February 3, 1944.  

“We remembered Louise, who died 80 years ago. We read her letters. We talked about her emotions,” explains Marion, one of her schoolgirls. “Louise was very strong. She never lost hope. She shows us that there is always a flame that remains lit,” adds her comrade Giovanni.

The students of the Charles Péguy college read letters written by Louise Pikovsky, but also texts that they wrote in her memory. © Stéphanie Trouillard, France 24

These students aged around twelve participated in a ceremony organized by the town hall of Paris and that of the 19th arrondissement on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the assassination of Louise Pikovsky at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Deported by convoy No. 67, the young girl was gassed on February 6, 1944, upon her arrival at the extermination center, with her parents, her brother and her two sisters. A plaque was placed in her memory at 18 boulevard de la Villette, the address where she was born on December 7, 1927.

“It’s an all-time struggle”

For eight years, this young girl has been part of my life. She accompanies me every day. In 2016, I was contacted by teachers from his former establishment, the Lycée Jean-de-La-Fontaine, in the 16th arrondissement of Paris, after the discovery of letters belonging to him. I dedicated a web documentary to him as well as a comic strip entitled “If I come back one day, the found letters of Louise Pikovsky”. Since then, Louise's writings have gone around the world. They are now used in the context of teaching the Second World War, and more particularly the Shoah.

The France 24 web documentary dedicated to the letters of Louise Pikovsky. © Studio Graphique - France Médias Monde

Retired mathematics professor Christine Lerch is the originator of this story. It was she who unearthed Louise's letters in 2010 while tidying up an old wardrobe. She came especially from Gironde to attend this event. “This ceremony is a highlight. I am so happy that there are all these children,” describes the retiree. "We must be vigilant. Unfortunately, we must never fall asleep. Even more so now. We must not believe that everything is acquired. It is a struggle of all times."

Eighty years after the last world conflict, Christine Lerch refers to the rise of racism. In 2023, 1,676 anti-Semitic acts were recorded in France, an increase of 1,000%. Tags, insults, and physical violence have multiplied in France against members of the Jewish community, particularly since the Hamas attacks on October 7 in Israel.

In light of this news, this state of affairs was recalled by the various speakers at the ceremony. “It is essential to maintain this memory today, while anti-Semitism, hatred, racism, exclusion are still evils which damage our society today”, insisted Amaury Guibert, editorial director French from France 24.

"Let us together hope that this plaque will not only be an open door to the past, but above all an additional landmark in the Paris of tomorrow and that of today. May it inspire us to cherish diversity, to resist "obscurantism that lurks, that threatens, and to fight against all forms of anti-Semitism and hatred", also summarized Laurence Patrice, deputy mayor of Paris in charge of Memory.

Amaury Guibert, editorial director of France 24 in French, Claire Pikovsky, Louise's little cousin, Laurence Patrice, deputy mayor of Paris in charge of Memory and François Dagnaud, mayor of the 19th arrondissement. © Stéphanie Trouillard, France 24

“It’s a whole past that has taken shape again”

This ceremony was also an opportunity to bring together members of Louise's family. During my research, I had the chance to find Claire Pikovsky in Belgium, the daughter of a first cousin of the young high school student. Until I contacted her, she knew nothing of the history of her ancestors. His father Jean, traumatized by the loss of his parents and his sister during the Shoah, had not passed on this past to his children. “When I discovered this story, it was an earthquake in my life. It was something unexpected. I have not been the same since. I feel like I belong to the Jewish community now,” confides to me -she is still very moved.

Claire did not hesitate to make the trip from Waterloo, near Brussels. The opportunity to meet distant cousins ​​for the very first time. "This inauguration is the culmination of this story. It creates a bond between us. The war deprived me of half of my family. I know that my grandmother wrote to Louise's parents. They were close. Today "Today, a whole past has taken shape again, whereas it was a nebula before", she describes while trying to swallow back her tears.

80 years ago to the day, on February 5, 1944, in their deportation wagon, Louise, her sisters Annette and Lucie, her brother Jean, her parents Abraham and Barbe Brunette, were heading towards their death. Today we celebrated their lives. “We will never forget you, Louise and all those who experienced the war,” concluded the students of Charles Péguy college. “We kiss you affectionately Louise.”

In this photo taken in August 1943 in Joinville-le-Pont, the entire Pikovsky family appears: mother Barbe Brunette, three daughters Annette, Lucie, Louise, father Abraham and son Jean. © Claude Counord

“If I come back one day”, the found letters of Louise Pikovsky (Editions Des ronds dans l'O) by Thibaut Lambert and Stéphanie Trouillard, in partnership with France 24 and the Foundation for the Memory of the Shoah.

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