The Hotel Meurice: A Guide to the Holocaust in Paris by Jeremy Mack

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The Hotel Meurice: A Guide to the Holocaust in Paris by Jeremy Mack

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From The Hotel Meurice: 

During my first stay at the Lutetia I felt that it was haunted, but the second time I knew that it was poisoned.

The year was 2004. I was there at the hotel on a visit to Paris, my fourth, with my son Ben and his friend, Elio. I liked the location, Left Bank, near the cafés and shopping but still with the amenities of a large hotel. I had stayed there several years previously, and knew vaguely that it had been used by the Germans. But in between the first and second trip I had learned more of what had happened in France and Paris during the years from 1940 to 1945, when the country and the city were occupied.

Specifically, I had learned about the Occupation and the treatment of the Jews mainly as a result of talking to French people. My family had come to the United States before the turn of the century. I had no relatives, as far as I knew, who had been in the camps. However, one of my good friends, Yehuda Nir, had been in hiding during the war in Poland; and my realization of the meaning of being Jewish grew apace with his. For him, this resulted years later in his widely read book, The Lost Childhood. We were both incensed, in 1985, by President Reagan’s decision to persist in his blunder when, intending to honor the German dead and ally with German Chancellor Kohl, he chose the dead in a Bitburg cemetery containing the graves of many SS soldiers. We were determined to protest, and joined with a group called the International Network of Children of Holocaust Survivors, which was going to Germany to counter his decision to use a visit to the Bergen-Belsen camp as a whitewash for the blighted visit to Bitburg. One of the members of the group was a psychologist, Eva Fogelman, who was studying altruism as expressed by those daring to shelter Jews. As we became friends, I learned about her work, which was summarized ultimately in her book Conscience and Courage. I then began to conduct interviews for her, when I visited France, with French men and women who had protected Jews.  

Thus, at the time of my second stay at the hotel, I was well acquainted with the demonic fixation of the Nazis on their sacred task.  I was therefore more sensitized to look for acknowledgment or indication of this crazed behavior in Paris, the site where the plans for the killing of the Jews in France took place and were carried out. Therefore,  imagine my astonishment at finding almost none.

During the Occupation, the Lutetia was used as the headquarters for the Abwehr, the counter-intelligence service of the Wehrmacht. I knew this from my own reading, since there was nothing at the hotel to testify to this usage, nor did any of the staff I spoke to know its history during the war.  Was I then the only one there in possession of such incendiary information--the only one curious as to, for example, which rooms were used as offices or for “interrogation”?  In fact, it was likely that the very room in which I was staying was used by my enemy. I was, after all, a Jew whose identity had been attenuated through assimilation, but not enough to have deterred the Nazis from doing the world a favor by removing me in the process of “finally resolving the Jewish question.” Perhaps there were bloodstains on the floorboards under the designer carpet, places on the wall where shackles were attached, marks for the feet of the bathtubs to be used for waterboarding. 

 

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