«We are all arrested. I leave you the books that are not mine that I would like to find if I come back one day …These words are the last of Louise Pikovsky, a Parisian Jewish teenager with a fate struck down by Nazism. This third year student at Lycée Jean-de La-Fontaine, in the 16th arrondissement, was arrested with her whole family on January 22, 1944. And will not return. She was 16 when she was gassed along with all of her family upon arriving in Auschwitz.
This tragic destiny could have been forgotten if luck had decided otherwise. Brilliant, the young girl maintained a moving correspondence with Mademoiselle Malingrey, her professor of letters, from the summer of 1942. Six letters kept in an old cupboard at the school and exhumed in 2010 during a move.
In 2017, journalist and historian Stéphanie Trouillard, specializing in World War II, took hold of this story. After making a rich web documentary on the France 24 site and a report devoted to the teenager, she decided to translate this story into a comic strip.
“I turned to comics to reach a wider audience, especially the youngest, she explains. I regularly work in schools to tell Louise’s story and I can see that the teachers work a lot with comics as part of their teaching. “
In France, there was not really a figure that adolescents studying this period of history could relate to.
A precious testimony to the France of those years, the letters evoke a daily life where comrades of the Jewish faith disappear overnight, the fathers of families find themselves interned in Drancy to come out stripped of their French nationality, like from Louise’s father. They also tell of the joys of the schoolyard, the ordinary preoccupations of a teenage girl, the evening visits to her professor of letters punctuated by fruitful discussions. Without forgetting the doubts: “Does the suffering stop?”, s’interroge Louise Pikovsky.
Endowed with an amazing sensitivity and maturity, Louise is reminiscent of Anne Frank, this other teenage girl with a broken destiny. Will Louise’s story have the same significance? “It’s not really comparable, considers Stéphanie Trouillard. Anne Frank wrote a whole diary, Louise barely ten letters. And she was not hidden, she lived an almost normal life until her arrest. In France, there was not really a figure that teenagers studying this period of history could identify with. We have the diary of Hélène Berr, who was a student. I see Louise’s story more as a gateway to Journal d’Anne Frank and the stories of Primo Levi.»
To reconstruct Louise’s life during the Occupation, Stéphanie Trouillard stuck to letters as well as memories of classmates and family members found during her investigation. The round and colorful design of the young Thibaut Lambert, attenuating the harshness of the subject, finishes moving us.
A folder at the end of the album features reproductions of the letters as well as family photographs. In addition to the testimony, the reader will appreciate the writing quality of the young college student. Like Anne Frank, Hélène Berr, Primo Levi, Jorge Semprun, Art Spiegelman and many others, Louise leaves us words to measure the inexpressible. Stéphanie Trouillard and Thibaut Lambert have given them the flesh they deserve.
If I ever come back. The letters found by Louise Pikovsky, Stéphanie Trouillard and Thibaut Lambert, Éditions des Ronds dans l’O, 20 euros.