1 December 2023

Jean-Claude Grumberg, 83, is a figure in French theatre. He wrote forty plays, which earned him five Molières, three of which are exhibited in the corner of the kitchen of his Paris apartment. “The other two are in a cupboard, with the Caesar”, he says. Because he is also the author of about twenty screenplays, two books of memories, and tales, the last of which, From Pitchik to Pitchuk (Seuil, 160 pages, 14 euros), was released on April 7.

I wouldn’t have come here if…

If in 1942, the commissioner of the 10e borough hadn’t been the least eager to arrest Jews and didn’t send my mother, my brother and me home. According to my mother, he judged that we did not fit in with the people we were arresting. My brother says that the trucks were full and that he wanted to go back to bed… That’s what saved me, even if I have no memory of it.

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The other decisive event, of which I have kept bits of memory this time, was my father’s arrest in February 1943. The cops broke down the door and yelled at my father: “Look at what you are forcing us to do. do, why didn’t you open? And they take him on board. Drancy, then Auschwitz, like his father, arrested a few months earlier. He was blind so they carried him up the stairs, either because they were considerate or because they were in a hurry, which I tend to think.

So you go through the war without your father…

And without my mother. She sent us with my brother to the free zone, to Moissac (Tarn et Garonne), in an institution that took in Jewish children. Then, as it became more risky, we were dispersed and we found ourselves with a family in the Vercors. I think that’s where I learned to read. I lived through all of this unconsciously: as long as my brother was there, what could happen to me? As my mother told me: “You were lucky in your misfortune. ” And that’s true. The chance of not being arrested like those hundreds of children from the 10ethe chance to make decisive encounters, later on, and the chance to have a vocation: to do nothing!

You didn’t like school…

Yes, but I didn’t like to work. I liked to answer, if possible before the teacher finished the question. So they kicked me out. And I didn’t want to learn anything, do anything. Except the writings. But since my handwriting was illegible, I took zeros. I knew I was going to quit at 14. It was natural. We lived in a kind of misery. My mother was dying at work. My brother had been working since he was 14, so I entered a clothing workshop.

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