Change of Heart: Passport for "Happy Hours of Paris" and "There Were Children"

My "Happy Hours of Paris" goodie bag includes a passport for the event.

Monday morning blues: Heavy rainstorms. Sad farewell to "Joseph the Butler". Appointment with the gynecologist. Young woman with beautiful voice singing "Ave Maria" on the metro. General feeling of melancholy.

That's a brief synopsis of my day up until the moment when I asked the surly man at the welcome counter in the Hôtel de Ville for three passports for "Happy Hours in Paris". Either the adjective "welcome" is a misnomer or the grey day had dampened his mood because he curtly responded that he would give me one passport at 12:00 pm. Unable to understand why I had to wait 30 minutes for him to honor a seemingly simple request, the man grudgingly revealed that the passports hadn't arrived yet and that he was skeptical that he would receive them by noon.

Rather than wandering around in the rain for half an hour, I decided to visit the free exhibition "C'étaient des enfants" ("There Were Children") that honors the memory of the Jewish children who were killed in concentration camps during World War II and those that managed to survive thanks to the efforts of fellow Parisians. Featuring letters, drawings, personal belongings and photos, the exhibition urges visitors to contemplate the long lasting impact of the children's separation from their parents when they were sent to concentration camps or safe houses in the unoccupied zones of France.

One letter in particular evoked memories of my own worst childhood fear. It was written by Henri Yacoubovitch on August 3, 1942. "Je suis à Pithiviers avec André. Maman est partie hier, où je ne sais pas, alors nous restons ici tout seuls." (I'm in Pithiviers with Andre. Mother left yesterday, where I don't know, so we are staying here alone.) Of the 11,000 children deported from France, only 200 of them returned.

Jerked out of my Monday morning funk by the realization that a little bit of rain is nothing when compared with the insurmountable challenges faced by people in war torn countries, I returned to the welcome desk and was pleasantly surprised to receive two passports for "Happy Hours in Paris". Life is good.

"C'étaient des enfants" ("There Were Children") until October 27, 2012
Hôtel de Ville
29 rue de Rivoli
10 am - 7:00 pm every day with the exception of Sundays and holidays.

"Playground. Reserved for children. Forbidden for Jews." C'étaient des enfants exhibition at the Hotel de Ville.


  1. We were distracted by the barricades and a load full of Police National setting up for what?
    we were excited to start using our Navigo Decouverte cards so we forgot about the Happy Hour passeports.

    1. The barricades were for a demonstration near the Hotel de Ville that sounded a lot larger than it was. When I first came out of the metro and heard all the noise, I expected to see a massive crowd. Actually, there were only about 30-50 people but they were blowing air horns to attract attention. Sorry but I don't know the reason for the demonstration.

      They're still giving out passports today. The entrance is the same one as for the exhibition on rue de Rivoli. If S and you go together, can you use your allotment to get one for Nancy. Otherwise, I'll try to get over there today to ask for another one.

      I always say that my Navigo card is like my magic ticket to Paris. It gets me everywhere I want to go so I can understand why you were so excited to start using yours!

  2. Any reminder of the appalling treatment of the Jews and other groups of people in WW2 distresses me greatly. I had to leave the Shoah museum because I was sobbing so loudly.

    ...and lets not forget the Romanys, and mentally and physically handicapped children whose only "crime" was not to be aryyan.

    Love Denise

    1. I know what you mean about feeling distressed. I had deliberately been avoiding this exhibition because I knew that it would upset me.

  3. Grandpa French was an orphan from that war. His parents were resistance fighters, gunned down in front of him as he escaped to safety on a bicycle.

    1. Even though Grandpa French probably felt proud that his parents were resistance fighters, I'm sure that he never forgot the manner in which they were so brutally killed. Memories and experiences like his were the focus of the exhibition. It makes one think not only of the atrocities endured by children during WWII but also of the conditions of children living in countries at war. What an awful legacy they're left with.

  4. Damn, I wish I read this post before we met up today! I'm interested in this exhibit and would have wanted to see more pictures, as you had your camera on you.

    That park image is chilling. The children playing. So carefree with that awful sign forbidding Jewish children to join the fun. I couldn't even imagine what it must have been like growing up under these conditions. It's just devastating....

    I'm so proud that my grandfather stormed the coasts of Normandy and is still here to tell his story about invading the nazis. Thanks Papa! ; )

    1. Thanks for mentioning your grandfather, Ella! I forgot to tell you that Tom from Wisconsin sent an email asking for more information about your Papa after he read one of your blog posts. Unfortunately, I didn't have any additional info to share with him.

      The photo of the children in the park sent chills down my spine because their innocent smiles are such a stark contrast to the words on the sign. Even if you would have asked me about the exhibition yesterday, I wouldn't have been able to show you any more pictures because I only snapped the one in the post before I realized that I wasn't allowed to take photos. It was actually better that I couldn't take pics because then I could more fully immerse myself in the exhibition.


Post a Comment