Navigate to News section

Imagining the Grandparents He Never Met

Ivan Jablonka pieces together the history of ancestors who perished before he met them

Adam Chandler
October 03, 2013
Ivan Jablonka(Emmanuelle Marchadour)

Ivan Jablonka(Emmanuelle Marchadour)

Today on Tablet, in addition to a little something I did, we’ve got a great piece by Ivan Jablonka, a young Jewish French historian. In it, Jablonka makes use of new tactics by French historians, whom are heavily dedicated to archival research and sensitively reimagining history, to trace the lives of his grandparents who died in the Holocaust.

We’re proud to be publishing Jablonka and here’s a little section of it:

On the morning of May 11, 1939, Matès and Idesa were walking along the boulevard with their little girl, Suzanne, when a policeman asked to see their papers. They were placed under immediate arrest and transferred to the police headquarters at 11 a.m. Idesa was released, in view of either her Polish passport or her maternal responsibilities, but Matès was taken to the police cells.

I have that committal paper in front of me, unearthed from the archives of the police headquarters and entitled “Public thoroughfares—Foreigners”, and I see “Feder Idesa, 11 Pressoir Street, refus de séjour [residency denied]” and “Jablonka Matès, idem” at the bottom of pages 390-391; the entries on either side are for an Armenian man domiciled in Alfortville, “récépissé de carte d’identité périmé” [receipt for identity card expired], and a woman from Montreuil, who also had her “residency denied” I see these and I feel their fear. The following day, Matès was issued a committal order and incarcerated in La Santé prison.

Check out the rest here. If you want to see Jablonka during his U.S. tour, he’ll be in New York on October 15 for the Walls and Bridges Festival, which is curator by Guy Walter, who can purportedly trace his lineage as the great-great-grandson (x15) of Rashi. Jablonka will also be in New Haven on October 16, and Boston…well, outside of Boston really…fine, Harvard on October 18.

Adam Chandler was previously a staff writer at Tablet. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Slate, Esquire, New York, and elsewhere. He tweets @allmychandler.

Thank you for reading Tablet.

The Jewish world needs a place like Tablet where varying—even conflicting—viewpoints can exist side by side. Our times demand an engagement with big ideas and not a retreat from them. Help us do what we do.