It was a transit place to sleep in a good bed for a few days. Even today, secure in his fine Paris home, he seems uneasy over revisiting those memories, those nightmares. At Normandy, he recalled, there were survivors with him who had asked after the fate of family members, when they learned that he had been at Buchenwald and Auschwitz.
Haunting images from the attacks in Paris
In some cases, Buzyn says, he knew how some of those prisoners had died. But he kept silent. And if he did speak? So I decided not to talk, because if I told my story, I might have committed suicide.
Haunting Photo Series Features Paris' Forgotten Generation | HuffPost
Such was the sentiment of many other survivors—until they were invited to take part in the exhibition. Most had arrived in Paris in open-air wagons, rolling through the war-torn streets and finally reaching the snow-white facade with its hanging grapes, vines, fruit and frolicking angels, the name Lutetia blazing high above in swirling letters and shimmering lights. Lists of known survivors had been broadcast over the radio, published in newspapers and posted around Paris.
Hundreds of photographs of the missing, posted by friends and families, occupied an entire wall of the hotel. Women fall to their knees, speechless. The deportees proceed somewhat shyly. Men, women rush at them with pictures in their hands: Where are you coming from? Have you met my brother, my son, my husband? It would never stop. A lot of people were crying. People were coming up and holding the photos.
He spread his hands wide to convey the impossible enormousness of the place. So I stepped into that, what do you call it? Revolving door. And turned with it, and as I walked inside the hall, I got this spray of white powder, almost in my face. It was DDT to treat lice, a common pesticide at the time. Now it has proved to be dangerous. But at the time they were trying to be nice. The trucks and buses and people on foot kept coming, an endless caravan depositing deportees in front of the grand hotel: arrived on April 29 and 30, , followed by per day in May, and a day from the end of May until early June, until between 18, to 20, had passed through its revolving doors.
Everything had to be done for those found in such awful condition They would spend three or four days at the Lutetia, or a week. And the nurse will ask if they need to be deloused They will be measured, weighed, vaccinated, screened for infectious diseases, especially STD, and then checked for cases of TB or other respiratory problems. The estimated medium weight would be around 48 kilos 95 pounds. There were questions and processes to give them papers for their new lives. The Hotel Lutetia had tons of DDT to fight lice, all over the hair, in the mouth, in the nose, in the eyes, in the ears.
Am I alive? Is this a sheet? Is this a real bed? You are free. You are in a requisitioned hotel. And you will soon go back to a normal life. I tried to imagine.
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I stood in those same halls, now pristine and white and filled with gaiety, and struggled to envision when 20, souls passed through this strange membrane between two worlds. The exhibit was inaugurated in Paris in , when it went on display for 15 days before going on tour across France, garnering an estimated 20, visitors at 48 sites.
But it was not shown inside the Lutetia. Because, once again, the old hotel was being reborn, and was closed for its to renovations. A few years before the closing in , it had seemed as if the hotel was trying to forget its past. A group of deportees had been meeting for dinner at the hotel on the last Thursday of each month since the mids. There were speakers and remembrances and a meal overseen by management at a two-thirds discount. The dinners began occurring less frequently. The Lutetia was officially closed as a repatriation center on September 1, Champagne, jazz and good times returned along with the Champagne magnate.
The fashion designer Sonia Rykiel redecorated the hotel, beginning in and into the early s, replacing everything dark and foreboding with the avant-garde. And for a time, Americans and other affluent guests did gravitate there. By , when Starwood acquired the Lutetia, the investment firm planned to transform it into a reimagined Element by Westin hotel. Shortly after, a group called the French Friends of the Lutetia was formed, made up of powerful Parisians and Lutetia guests from abroad.
In August , a new buyer for the Lutetia was announced: the Alrov company. The hotel that once housed Nazis was now in the hands of Jewish owners from Tel Aviv.
But there is the Lutetia of the war and the Lutetia of the liberation. Never forget it.
The flames engulfed the roof.
Finding nothing of the past there, I joined the present in the Bar Josephine, packed on this Saturday night with a line at the door, a band belting jazz and an army of hip bartenders dispensing artisan cocktails with names like Tokyo Blues and Le Rive Gauche. News Britain's most trusted digital news brand. Check the URL for errors or try our searching inews.
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