Léonce Schwartz, the deportee from Royallieu, the “slow death camp”

Photo of the Royallieu camp taken through a glass stele on which are engraved the names of 45,000 people interned during the second world war, February 23, 2008, during the inauguration of the memorial of internment and deportation, in Compiègne (Oise).


In 21, rue La Boétie (Grasset, 2012/Livre de poche, 2013), the journalist Anne Sinclair had mentioned her maternal grandfather, the famous art dealer Paul Rosenberg (1881-1959), who represented Picasso, Braque, Léger and Matisse and had installed his gallery, offices and home at this address in 1910.

In June 1940, Paul Rosenberg, in the crosshairs of the Nazis because he was Jewish and in possession of a large collection of master paintings, had managed to emigrate to the United States and save his family from the anti-Jewish raids. This was not the case for Anne Sinclair’s other grandfather, Léonce Schwartz (1878-1945), whose destiny she traced in The Roundup of Notables (Grasset, 2020/Folio, 2021).

“Exploring this family past”

The journalist is the narrator of the documentary written and directed by Gabriel Le Bomin, which uses the title and plot of his book. In a foreword close to the one published, she wonders: “Why didn’t I explore this family past sooner? Why didn’t my father tell me this story? I am missing many answers to the questions that I did not ask and that torment me today. »

At dawn on December 12, 1941, Léonce Schwartz was dragged out of bed by two French police officers and two German soldiers and then taken to a Parisian riding school, like 742 other Jews. They are doctors, dentists, lawyers, academics, intellectuals, artists or, like Léonce Schwartz, business leaders.

For many, these French are veterans. “300 of them have a decorative title, including the Legion of Honor”, says Karen Taïeb, head of archives at the Shoah Memorial. They are therefore not worried (yet) about their situation even if the conditions of their detention are detestable.

Read also Article reserved for our subscribers Anne Sinclair: “I had no family archives, so I went to investigate”

But that is nothing compared to what awaits them at the Royallieu camp in Compiègne (Oise), the only one in France to be entirely run by the Nazis. They don’t kill there, but they leave their occupants to die of hunger and cold in trying hygienic conditions. A prisoner will write to his wife: “I even lost bones”. A survivor, the writer Jean-Jacques Bernard, spoke of Compiègne as “slow death camp”.

Books are forbidden, but some captives give lectures on their favorite subject, lyrical artists perform in chorus. A hundred prisoners from Compiègne died during the first three months of internment. On March 27, 1942, a convoy left Compiègne for Auschwitz, an extermination camp from which only 10% returned.

“The tragedy experienced by my grandfather, who was the primary object of my research, has been replaced by the urgency of sharing with as many people as possible the tragedy that a thousand French people went through with him and which was above all known to specialists”writes Anne Sinclair in her shocking investigative essay.

Léonce Schwartz will escape from Auschwitz but the consequences of his stay in Compiègne will cause him to die in 1945. “But in his bed, not in a gas chamber”, comments Anne Sinclair in this film where she replays the conditions of her research (archives, correspondence and prisoner notebooks) and her visits to places of internment. To which are added the interventions of eminent historians (including Laurent Joly and Annette Wieviorka).

The Roundup of Notablesa film written and directed by Gabriel Le Bomin (Fr., 2022, 52 min.) France 2

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Back to top button