Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.
The Schmooze

Marianne Rubinstein: Grandchild of the Shoah

As Serge Klarsfeld wrote in his preface to a 2002 book by Marianne Rubinstein, “Not Everyone is Lucky Enough to Be an Orphan” (Éditions Verticales), only three percent of deported French Jews returned home alive after the war, leaving their surviving children with unspoken traumas which they passed on to their children in turn. The aforementioned book’s ironic title is a quote from Rubinstein’s father, whose own parents were deported from France during World War II and murdered at Auschwitz. Now Rubinstein, a French professor of economics, has written a new book further exploring the subject: “That’s All Over With” (“C’est maintenant du passé”).

Faced with a father too upset to recount family history, Rubinstein turns to metaphysical mulling over historical memory, along with documentary genealogical research, to learn about her forebears. Among her widespread reading is a chapter recording the dreams of Jews living in Nazi Germany from “The Third Reich of Dreams” by Charlotte Beradt, which captures the emotional resonance of displacement within society. Rubinstein also manages to locate a French Jewish survivor who recounts her grandfather’s tragic demise on a death march from Blechhammer to Buchenwald.

As she writes, Rubinstein recaptures Yiddishkeit by listening obsessively to the 1998 album The Well by Chava Alberstein and The Klezmatics, especially two tracks, “Di goldene pave” (“The Golden Peacock”) and “Ikh shtey unter a bokserboyim” (“I Stand Beneath a Carob Tree”). Another evocative favorite of Rubinstein’s is “Hilda Bronstein Sings Yiddish Songs Old and New” (Arc Music).

Even more inspiring, perhaps, are the poignant stories from other children of survivors, like the Israeli pop singer Mike Brant, who achieved stardom in 1970s France but whose troubled life ended in suicide at age 28. Brant’s surviving brother Zvi Brand, who created a website in Mike’s memory, is quoted saying that their mother, like Rubinstein’s father, was unable to speak of wartime horrors, but the atmosphere of suffering which survivors carried around with them made their children “extremely fragile emotionally.”

For its profound understanding of such experience, Rubinstein’s memoir is acutely valuable, as well as for its important reading list, which also includes the long-overdue-for-reprint “I Didn’t Say Goodbye: Interviews With Children of the Holocaust” by Claudine Vegh.

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.