March 29, 2006

French collaboration: the silence continues

A bit of a followup on this story, regarding Kurt Werner Schaechter's attempts to pressure the French national railway to acknowledge its role in shipping Jews to Nazi death camps:

A une quarantaine de kilomètres au sud de Toulouse, la gare commune aux villages de Noé et de Longages (Haute-Garonne) est fermée de longue date. Il ne subsiste plus qu'une "halte" SNCF, dotée d'un distributeur automatique de billets "momentanément hors service". Mais une plaque commémorative apposée sur la façade va bientôt rappeler aux propriétaires de la trentaine de voitures qui emplissent quotidiennement le parking que de nombreux trains de déportés sont partis d'ici, entre 1942 et 1944, direction Auschwitz-Birkenau, via Drancy. . .

La cérémonie de pose de la plaque, vendredi 31 mars, s'annonce intime, voire confidentielle. Les maires des deux communes concernées ne pensent pas y assister. Ils font valoir qu'ils n'ont pas été officiellement invités. Le directeur régional de la SNCF déléguera un adjoint. Le principal instigateur de la pose de cette plaque, Kurt Werner Schaechter, 85 ans, a prévu de faire l'aller-retour dans la journée depuis la région parisienne, où il réside. Plus de dix heures de train pour quelques minutes de cérémonie. "Ce sera furtif, sans musique ni grands discours", résume un ami toulousain du vieil homme, qu'il a assisté tout au long des quinze années passées à lutter pour que le passé ne s'efface pas.

Fils de juifs autrichiens déportés du camp de Noé, Kurt Werner Schaechter a fait de l'exercice du devoir de mémoire un combat personnel, mené en franc-tireur. Il s'est illustré, au début des années 1990, en photocopiant clandestinement des milliers de documents aux archives de la Haute-Garonne. D'après ses calculs, plus de 250 000 personnes auraient transité par le camp de Noé, avant d'être embarquées à bord des trains à la gare, distante d'un kilomètre du camp à vol d'oiseau. "Presque tous les trains de déportés partaient de là, c'était la gare la plus importante de tout le Sud-Ouest, elle permettait d'éviter les gares des grandes villes", assure M. Werner Schaechter pour expliquer le rôle historique de cette halte, perdue en rase campagne.

From Le Monde. Sorry, no time for a translation right now.

UPDATE: My translation below (automatic online translation still leaves something to be desired, I see).

Around 40 kilometers to the south of Toulouse stands the long-closed railway station shared by the villages of Noé and Longages. It consists of nothing more than a SNCF stop with an automatic ticket machine "temporarily out of service". But a commemorative plaque on the building's facade will soon tell the owners of the thirty-odd cars that use the parking lot each day about the many trains that left from here between 1942 and 1944, destination Auschwitz-Birkenau, via Drancy. . .

The dedication ceremony for the plaque, Friday March 31st, has barely been publicized. The mayors of the two neighboring towns don't plan to attend. They state that they have not been officially invited. The regional director of the SNCF will be sending an aide. The driving force behind the plaque's installation, Kurt Werner Schaechter, 85 years old, plans to make the round trip on the day from his home near Paris. More than ten hours of train travel for a ceremony lasting just a few minutes. "It will be furtive, without fanfare or speeches", comments one of the old man's friends from Toulouse, who has helped him over the last 15 years in his struggle to keep the past from being erased.

The son of Austrian Jews deported from the camp of Noé, Kurt Werner Schaechter has made the service of memory a personal battle, enlisting himself as a guerilla. He made his mark at the beginning of the 1990s in secretly photocopying thousands of documents in the archives of the Haute-Garonne. According to his calculations, more than 250,000 persons were taken through the camp of Noé after being loaded aboard trains at this station, just a kilometer away as the bird flies. "Nearly all the deportation trains left from there; it was the most important such station in the southwest, and it allowed the deportations to take place away from the stations of the big cities", says Mr. Werner Schaechter in explaining the historic role of this waystation, lost in empty countryside.

Posted by David on March 29, 2006 11:01 AM

Comments

Thanks to AltaVista:

"To forty kilometers in the south of Toulouse, the station common to the villages of Noah and Longages (Haute-Garonne) is closed of long date. There does not remain any more but one "halt" the SNCF, equipped with a slot-machine of tickets "temporarily except service". But a commemorative plate affixed on the frontage soon will recall to the owners about thirty cars which fill up the carpark daily that many trains of deportees left from here, between 1942 and 1944, Auschwitz-Birkenau direction, via Drancy.. . The ceremony of installation of the plate, Friday March 31, announces close friend, even confidential. The mayors of the two communes concerned do not think of assisting to with it. They make the point that they were not officially invited. The regional manager of the SNCF will delegate an assistant. The principal instigator of the installation of this plate, Kurt Werner Schaechter, 85 years, envisaged to make the return ticket in the course of the day since the Paris area, where it resides. More than ten hours of train for a few minutes of ceremony. "It will be furtive, without music nor great speeches", summarizes a Toulouse friend of the old man, who it assisted throughout the fifteen years last to fight so that the past is not erased. Wire of Austrian Jews off-set of the camp of Noah, Kurt Werner Schaechter made exercise of the duty of memory a personal combat, carried out in frank-tireur. He illustrated himself, at the beginning of the years 1990, by clandestinely photocopying thousands of documents to the files of Haute-Garonne. According to its calculations, more than 250 000 people would have forwarded by the camp of Noah, before being embarked aboard train at the station, distant of one kilometer of the camp with flight of bird. "Almost all the trains of deportees started from there, it was the most important station of all South-west, it made it possible to avoid the stations of the large cities", ensures Mr. Werner Schaechter to explain the historical role of this halt, lost in open country."

Im still not sure I understand whats going on but it sound awfully French. Awaits updates.

Posted by: Ashley on March 31, 2006 10:59 PM

Once again - the banality of evil. Thinking about the journeys of terror that began from this small, remote, railway station sends a shiver down my spine over sixty years later.

Posted by: MP on April 4, 2006 3:32 PM

On the one hand, the evil needs to be remembered that it not be repeated.

On the other, as the oldest pass away and the old owners/managers of the railway are gone, maybe we need to let go of the pain and anger, while keeping the lessons of the past.

That's the hard part, isn't it?

Posted by: Sarah on April 5, 2006 6:04 PM
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