Jack Engelhard
Jack EngelhardJack Engelhard

You must remember this, the scene in “Casablanca” when, defying the Germans, Madeleine LeBeau rises up to belt out the French National Anthem, “La Marseillaise.”

Goosebumps all around. Gotta love the French, you’re thinking. Vive la France.

Not so fast for my beautiful and multi-talented sister, Sarah. She was there, and to this day, can tell a different story.

She was there, in Toulouse, for the Vichy Laws that dehumanized the Jews and turned us into preys to be hunted.

She was there when aunts, uncles, cousins, were whisked off the boulevards never to be seen again.

She was there when her best friend Incarnacion called her, Salle Juif, Dirty Jew.

The family made the great escape into the Pyrenees when Sarah was nine years old.

I phoned her this morning soon after I read the news that France, today, leads the EU in Jew-hatred…well, tied with Poland.

“I’m not surprised,” she says.

But France, mon amour…the art, Matisse, the literature, Proust, the music, Piaf, the romance of Paris…

“The Paris we know was created in Hollywood.”

No pride, Sarah? After all, for a time you were French.

“No pride at all.”

Sarah is proud of just two countries…” the United States and Israel.”

Amen to that!

So, what comes up when you think of France?

“Danger.”

But the Germans were the bad guys. The French…

“The French were just as bad. The round-ups, the expulsions until more than 70,000 were sent to the camps.”

But don’t you remember your crush on Yves Montand?

“But we enjoyed him from the convenience of America. From America, France can be wonderful. It was different when you were there.”

No fond memories at all?

“When we went to pick up mother from the hospital and my new baby brother, you, the roads were roped off for Jews and people were saying the Jews started it all.”

Sarah tells her story in the book, “Sarah and Abraham,,” a book about being there; mine, “Escape from Mount Moriah,” is about arriving and adjusting to the new world.

Even Sarah concedes that it’s not that simple.

“There was Godliness from many people. The French priest, Father LaRoche, risked his own life to facilitate our escape. In the Pyrenees, nuns and priests risked the danger to shield us.”

From the movies, we also get the paradox that is France.

You couldn’t help but cheer the French when, as told in the movie, “The Train,” starring Burt Lancaster and Jeanne Moreau, the Germans came to confiscate France’s art treasures.

Every effort was made to save the paintings for France, the art described as “precious” throughout the film.

Wonderful suspense, and absolutely you rooted for the French to win. Until you realized, all that for the paintings…where was it for the Jews?

In the movie, “Mr. Klein,” Alain Delon is Mr. Klein, a non-Jewish rapacious Parisian art collector who gathers up the treasures left behind by Jews being rounded up and deported.

Things go wrong when the authorities mistake him for a Jewish Mr. Klein.

Throughout the red tape entanglement, our hero begins to understand the loneliness of being Jewish of this time and at this place.

Big finish, as he is herded off to suffocate at the Velodrome d’Hiver en route to Drancy and then Auschwitz.

But as he is boarding, word comes that the mis-identity has been corrected. He is free to go home.

Instead, he voluntarily follows the crowd into the deadly transport.

Good ending. But not a happy ending. No such luck to this day.

New York-based bestselling American novelist Jack Engelhard writes regularly for Arutz Sheva.

He wrote the worldwide book-to-movie bestseller “Indecent Proposal,” the authoritative newsroom epic, “The Bathsheba Deadline,” followed by his coming-of-age classics, “The Girls of Cincinnati,” and, the Holocaust-to-Montreal memoir, “Escape from Mount Moriah.” For that and his 1960s epic “The Days of the Bitter End,” contemporaries have hailed him “The last Hemingway, a writer without peer, and the conscience of us all.” Website: www.jackengelhard.com

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