On «Journal de Rivesaltes 1941-1942»



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Shooting at Rivesaltes (F): Jacqueline Veuve, Thomas Wüthrich


Friedel Bohny-Reiter
Journal de Rivesaltes

Édition préparée
par Michèle Fleury-Seemuller
Genève, Éditions Zoé, 1993


During World War II, Friedel Bohny-Reiter, a nurse in the Save the Children section of the Swiss Red Cross, worked in a camp at Rivesaltes. The camp, like many others located in territory not yet occupied by the Nazis was run by the French. It regrouped Jews, Gypsies and Spanish people, either residents or refugees pouring into unoccupied France. Thanks to this young nurse from Basel, many children were saved from certain death at Auschwitz.
The film follows Friedel's journey as seen through the diary she faithfully kept during those terrible years. This is illustrated by images of the camp now in ruins, testimony from survivors, Friedel visiting the camp today and at work in it fifty years ago (a young actress plays this part).
Darker issues are raised in the margins of this true story: an Austrian writer tells how he was refused asylum in Switzerland and found himself first in Rivesaltes and, via Drancy, in Auschwitz. Friedel now wonders if she was not an unwitting accomplice of those deportations.
THE JOURNAL FROM RIVESALTES focuses on a part of history not often shown in school textbooks.
From August to October 1942, over 2250 Jews - among them 110 children - were deported to the death camp of Auschwitz from the French internment camp of Rivesaltes by way of Drancy.

Press review

( ... ) If there is a good story to tell, film is the ideal medium for it, and Swiss filmmaker Jacqueline Veuve is an expert. Her films are ethnographic jewels, and JOURNAL DE RIVESALTES 1941-42 particularly so. It is based on a discovery made during a holiday. In the Pyrennes near Perpignan, Veuve came across the ruins of the internment camp Rivesaltes. ( ... )

We see former nurse Friedel Bohny-Reiter in the festival hall of Locarno, down-to-earth, a very old witness to the events, a woman without a trace of vanity who asks herself how to reconcile an unbearable paradox: having saved people from certain death and yet, to a certain degree, to have been an accomplice.

How was it possible to bear it? By keeping the faith, she says. At the time and afterwards. What an answer. So many people lost their faith afterwards. Jacqueline Veuve made a film free of all pretensions, unnecessary drama and without selling out. Texts, drawings and gouaches from the diary, numerous photos (a.o. by Paul Senn from the 'Schweizer Illustrierte') as well as statements by survivors reflect Friedel Bohny-Reiter's memories of the time.

Martin Walder, in: Neue Zürcher Zeitung, August 16th, 1997

In World War II, Gurs, Les Milles, and Recébédou were prison camps in the so-called southern zone in France. Here, Spanish refugees from the Franco regime were interned. In Rivesaltes near Perpignan the French interned refugees from the East, i.e. Czechs, Germans, Poles, Russians, Austrians, gypsies and Jews who were made responsible for the defeat of France. At times, there were between 17 000 and 18 000 of these 'undesirables' living in 150 barracks.

People complained about the biting wind, the bitter cold, gnawing hunger. indescribable dirt, chaos and many illnesses in the camp. The internees lost any sense of dignity and humanity, a particulary awful point to remember for survivors.

( ... ) For a long time, Friedel Bohny-Reiter considered her diary notes to be too personal and sentimental for publication. She had to be convinced to collaborate in Veuve's film. She felt she needed a good reason for publishing her diary entries. Finally, she talked about the woman on the deportation train who called out to her in despair: ', Sister Friedel, don't forget us!" - I feel responsible", Friedel Bohny-Reiter says. `Even if I wanted to, I can't forget them." ( ... )
Christoph Heim, in: Basler Zeitung, August 30th/31st, 1997