In Buchenwald, in order to feel like a human being despite everything, Jacques Bloch, number 85235, wrote poems on tiny bits of paper stolen from the Nazi administration. In one of them, he compared his fate as a deportee to that of an ellipsis.
At the beginning of the year 1945, this metaphor applied rather well to the situation of the prisoner, immersed in feverish expectation. The Allies were slowly approaching and conditions grew more intolerable each week in the concentration camp. Which would arrive first, the armies of the liberator or the exhaustion of the body?
Men were, in effect, suspension points, stuck in the frail interstice between life and death. “People who lost hope collapsed and disappeared within days”, said Jacques Bloch, seven decades later, seated in front of a small iron box that easily fit in a pocket. There was a piece of fabric with his registration number and some trophies, as derisory as they were poignant, brought back from Germany.
Jacques Bloch, who died on Saturday January 28, at the age of 98, in Paris, had also kept the red triangle of political deportees marked with the “F” of his nationality. Jewish and resistant, doubly hateful in the eyes of the Nazis, he had been arrested in Guéret under his surname of a maquisard, Jacques Binet, a farmer in the Creuse. Being caught under a false identity left him with a slim chance of surviving.
He was born in Paris on July 7, 1924, to a family originally from Alsace-Lorraine who, to remain French, had fled their territories after the defeat of 1870. His mother, Germaine, had lost two brothers in the trenches. His father, Marc-André, had himself been a soldier in the Great War. Having become an associate professor at the Lakanal high school, in Sceaux, he had been recalled in 1940, taken prisoner and then released from the Stalag. But, back in France, he had been removed from the administration by virtue of the new Jewish laws, then expelled from his house requisitioned by the occupier.
As the situation became ever more precarious in the Paris region, the family took refuge in a village in Indre-et-Loire. Warned by the rural warden of her imminent arrest, she fled hastily, crossed the demarcation line at the beginning of 1942 and hid in Genouillac, a town in Creuse where the population ensured her silent protection until the end of the conflict.
But Jacques wants to fight. He joined the maquis in February 1944, helped by a cousin of his father, Marc Bloch, the co-founder of the Annals, great historian and resistance fighter executed by the Germans a few months later. Within the first free company FFI of the Creuse, the one who became Jacques Binet frees Guéret the day after the D-Day landings, June 7, 1944. In the fighting, he was seriously injured in the arm by a burst of machine gun fire and had to be amputated .
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