Exhibition « Hélène Berr: A Stolen Life »
Speech by Consul General of France Vincent Floreani on the occasion of the opening of the exhibition « Hélène Berr: A Stolen Life » - Highland Park Public Library (Illinois)
(September 8, 2014)
Dear Rob Olian, President of Highland Park Public Library,
Dear Jane Conway, President of Highland Park Public Library,
Dear Jacques Fredj, Director of the Mémorial de la Shoah,
Dear Consuls General of Greece and Hungary,
Dear Friends of Highland Park Public Library,
It is a great honor for me to be here tonight for the opening in Chicago of “Hélène Berr, A Stolen Life”. This exceptional exhibition is presented by the “Mémorial de la Shoah.”
Memorial de la Shoah, in Paris, is the largest center in Europe for research, archive, information, and awareness on the history of the Jewish genocide during the Second World War. We are proud to have today with us Jacques Fredj, its executive director, who came from Paris to attend this event.
I also would like to acknowledge the presence of Déborah Farnault Sinclair, in charge of the touring exhibition in North America, as well as Alain Leray, President of SNCF-America and the main contributor to this project, and several other partners, such as Pierre Sauvage or Michael Marrus.
To all of you, thank you for your dedication and personal commitment and our warmest thanks to our host, the Highland Park Public Library, for being such an active partner.
The exhibition “Hélène Berr, A Stolen Life” has already been presented in several cities around the U.S. At each stop it has been a great success, including at the UN HQs in New York.
Many reasons can explain the success of this exhibition: its universal message, its social dimension, and the impact it has on all of us that compels us to remember and reflect on the darkest hours of our past.
Hélène Berr is one of the greatest Jewish figures of France. She stands alongside Irène Némirovski, author of the novel “Suite Française”, and Claude Lanzmann, film director of “Shoah” and “The Last of the Unjust”.
This evening has a special meaning for all French citizens.
It is important to remember that the history of the Jews of France is inseparable from the history of our Republic. With about 600,000 fellow citizens who belong to the Jewish community, France has the largest Jewish population in Europe. The Jewish tradition is a key part of the French heritage.
It is also crucial to remember that France came to terms with a difficult past. We did it through the creation of a Commission to Compensate the Victims of Spoliation, the Fondation pour la mémoire de la Shoah, awareness programs, and a curriculum that includes mandatory teaching on the shoah.
As the French general consul in the MidWest, I would like to underline that preserving and passing on the memory of the Holocaust, as well as fighting intolerance, anti-Semitism, and all forms of Holocaust denial are priorities of the French Government.
And to conclude, I would like to quote President François Holland at the commemoration of the Vel d’Hiv Roundup in Paris:
“We are also here to pass on the memory of the Holocaust, which began with police round-ups; to lead the fight to keep that memory alive; to show the younger generations the barbarity that can exist and the strength that humanity possesses to defeat it. (…) To understand how such infamy was possible in the past, so that it may never reoccur in the future./.”