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Down Memory Lane Under The Iron Pavilion

Paris days can often be a big surprise from what you expected. All you have to do is go to the streets or meet with friends to discover things you wouldn’t have known existed otherwise.

Originally the only thing on my July 4th agenda was making burgers. And that we did…big and juicy and loaded with all the fixin’s — we chowed down on very traditional July 4th food fare (including homemade brownies, Häagen-Dazs and watermelon) while watching the final soccer match of the European Championship. Most of us were more interested in the handsome soccer players than in the goals…or lack of goals (!) they made in last night’s game. Greece was ecstatic over their one-to-nothing upset while the poor young Portuguese cried tears over their loss. (The women among us were more sympathetic to the losers!)

Earlier in the day, I agreed to meet for a coffee with Cheryl Pientka, author of “Paris for Dummies,” a one-time Paris resident who is working on the update of her third edition of the guide, written for first-time Paris visitors. We pondered over what fears Paris neophytes have to be assuaged while she made notes throughout her master copy and I accepted to add a few passages about my favorite neighborhood in Paris — Le Marais (particularly the 3rd arrondissement, the northern part of it).

Author and historian Thirza Vallois stopped by to whisk me off to an event she had heard about at the Carreau du Temple that she wanted to investigate. The iron structure was built by Napoleon III, replacing four wooden pavilions and was the “birthplace of fancy goods and fashion accessories, for the first time available to the masses.” It was recently voted on to renovate it for multi-purpose uses by the residents of the 3rd — the first time residents, regardless of citizenship, could cast their ballots for urban planning issues.

There, within the huge open space, we discovered literally thousands of people gathered for the “Festival Nova Polska,” a collection of performers, artists, authors and associations to promote the traditional and contemporary Jewish culture of Krakow.

Performances by various singers, comedians and theater troupes organized by the AUJF (Appel Unifié des Juifs de France) began early afternoon and continued well into the evening on a stage at one end of the structure before hundreds of seats of spectators, each and every one filled.

Tables backdropped by displays lined the pavilion’s walls manned by volunteer members of dozens of local associations, authors and book publishers. Many of the displays posted photos that were arresting. Mostly concerned with keeping the memories alive, these associations are publishing books, distributing information, promoting events such as this one and doing whatever they can to remind the public that what happened once should never happen again.

One in particular got my attention — the Conseil National pour la Mémoire des Enfants Juif Déportés — the group responsible for some of the plaques you see on buildings all over Paris. Not long ago I stopped short when I saw a plaque at the door of the school my daughter attended on rue de Béranger inscribed with a notation about the more than 11,000 children who were deported to the death camps by the Nazis with the active participation of the Vichy government because they were born Jewish. More than five hundred were from the 3rd arrondissement and many from that school. I had wondered at the time who was behind the gesture and when asked who paid for the plaques, the volunteer replied, “the city hall.”

Sacha Finkelsztajn’s rue des Rosiers bakery had a stand that was the most popular of all! The crowds were thick trying to get to the vatrouchkas, strudels, bagels, babkas, pletzels, challahs and other Polish pastries…perfect snacks to accompany the stroll down memory lane under the iron pavilion.

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris
E-mail: [email protected]

P.S. Until July 19th, you can visit a special exhibition about the children who were deported from France during the war at the Gare du Nord open every day from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., entry free. For more information: AUJF (Appel Unifié des Juifs de France), 39, rue Broca – Paris 75003, 01.42.17.11.34, http://www.aujf.org/

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