But she couldn’t say whether there was local resistance to the Nazi occupation, or if there was any nearby fighting that may have contributed to the eventual French victory over the Nazis.
Her memories of the time had blanks, and justifiably so; she was only 8 when the Occupation ended.
Born in 1940, the year the Nazi Occupation began, Jannik stipulated that she could not assist us in our quest of reconstruction, as she was too young at the time to remember anything of substance.
But despite her lack of memories, she would drive us to their hometown and help to arrange our reunions.
And, like with many children, her parents no doubt spared her some of the war’s harsher truths.
Since the liberation in August 1944, her already-constricted memories were inundated with a national narrative of underground resistance and unity.
As a protest against the occupiers, in November 1940, some 3,000 Parisian high school students marched around the Arc de Triomphe while belting the anthem.
The students were promptly arrested, as singing the song was declared a blatant act of resistance. “When there were alerts for the bombs, we had to climb below into the cellars to hide, and we sang songs there,” she answered, “but I don’t remember which ones.” “We sang .” Mémé sang a familiar melody set to lyrics about the lies of Philippe Henriot, the Vichy government minister for propaganda.
More than 200,000 documents, formerly available only to select scholars and officials, became open to the public after 76 years of secrecy.When I visited her in her home in London, Ontario, in the spring of 2016, before our trip, she said of the French police and Nazi occupiers: “They wouldn’t have done anything at all.” In fact, she continued, “They were probably instructed not to create problems.” When I asked her to expand, Mémé warmly recalled a German officer who had approached her on the way home from primary school.“This German asked if he could hug me,” she recollected.Born in a Catholic family in 1936, my grandmother—I call her Mémé— was only 4 years old when Nazi soldiers entered the area.Her town, she stated, had been relatively untouched by the atrocities of WWII.