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Journal de Rivesaltes 1941-42

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Jacqueline Veuve CH 1997 77'

From August to October 1942, over 2250 Jews were deported from the internment camp of Rivesaltes to Auschwitz by way of Drancy. Among them were 110 children. Friedel Bohny-Reiter, a nurse with the Swiss Aid to Children, worked in this camp in the South of France. Like many others in the formerly unoccupied zone, it was run by the French. Once a military camp, it had been converted in 1941 into a transit camp regrouping Jewish, Gipsy and Spanish people living in the area or who had fled to the free zone as refugees. Thanks to the young nurse from Basel, many children were probably saved from certain death. The film, that came out in France in the fall of 1997, follows the nurse on a visit to that still intact site as well as through the pages of the journal she wrote in those dark days, published by Editions Zoë, Geneva in 1993.

( ... ) 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, Neue Zürcher Zeitung

The diary, Journal de Rivesaltes, provides the basis for JacquelineVeuve's narrative. The filmmaker embellishes it with beautiful butharrowing photos by Paul Seen, Friedel's gouache paintings (herlast refuge from despair), the words of a few survivors, miraculouslypreserved thanks to lengthy negotiations on her part.We also see her in the lonely place she used to frequent, andwhere today only wind-beaten ruins remain. And finally, the filmmakerhas added fictional scenes in black and white, certainelyunnecessary, which tie the different elements together.Yet this story is a strong one because of its harsh simplicity.The guilt of the French authorities is crushing, humiliating. Andthe little nurse struggles on from day to day, without any claim toheroism, in her fight against horror and guilt. “We have becomeaccomplices to this trade in human beings”, she bitterly accuses.Many of these questions still concern humanitarian aid today.But not so long ago, Friedel acted anonymously, supported bynothing more than her faith.
Visions du Réel 1998