The Journal of Helene Berr
The exhibition "Hélène Berr, A Stolen Life" curated by the Shoah Memorial in France had been on display at the United Nations Headquarters in New York from January 25 to March 13. Through excerpts of the journal kept by Ms. Berr, a young Jewish woman, this exhibition documents the persecution of Jews in occupied France during the Second World War. Ms. Berr died in Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp in 1945.
"Diary of Auschwitz Victim , Hélène Berr, performed by Guila Kessous at French Consulate"
By Masha LEON
in: The Forward, March 30th
On March 16 at the French Consulate, Consul General Philippe Lalliot paid tribute to Helene Berr, a graduate of the Sorbonne who, from April 1942 to February 1944, kept a remarkable diary about life in occupied Paris. It was published in English as “The Journal of Hélène Berr” (Weinstein Books, 2008). Arrested in March 1944, she was sent to Auschwitz with her family. The all-in-French evening followed the exhibition “Helene Berr, a Stolen Life” curated by the Mémorial de la Shoah, in France. It had been on display at the United Nations headquarters from January 25 to March 13.
Present were Mariette Job, who is Berr’s niece; Rabbi Levy Djian, founder of the online entity Torah on Demand, and Menachem Rosensaft, president of the Federation of Survivors of Bergen-Belsen. In French, Rosensaft said: “It was possible that Helene and my mother saw each other in Auschwitz… even interacted with each other, since my mother spoke French fluently…. On October 31, 1944 Helene was transported from Auschwitz…to Bergen-Belsen in Germany. Two weeks later the notorious SS Dr. Josef Mengele assigned my mother and eight other Jewish women as a medical team to be sent to Bergen-Belsen.”
The evening’s star attraction was Guila Kessous, a French-Jewish professor at Boston University who was a student of Elie Wiesel. Kessous, who is also an actress, director and producer, channeled Berr for almost an hour in an adaptation of Berr’s diary, by playwright Pierre Tre-Hardy. “About the Shoah, I have been Elie Wiesel’s student for six years during my Ph.D.,” Kessous later told me. A professor with “a degree from the French government and a doctorate in ethics and aesthetics,” and a researcher at Harvard University’s Center for Jewish Studies, the beautiful 28-year-old Kessous has produced and directed the world premiere of Wiesel’s “Il Était un Fois” (“Once Upon a Time”), which she translated into English and which was performed both in Boston and at France’s Avignon Theater Festival, with actors from the Comédie-Française. “I am about to publish a book in France about [Wiesel’s] theater works… and was also the only director to have been permitted to stage [Wiesel’s] three plays: ‘The Trial of God,’ ‘Once Upon a Time’ and ‘Zalmen, or the Madness of God.’”
The exhibition at the Shoah Memorial : "Helen Berr a stolen Life"
The exhibition at the United Nations headquarters
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