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Charlotte Delbo (1913–1985)

Author of Auschwitz and After

Includes the names: Charlotte Delbo, Delbo Charlotte

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Short biography
Charlotte Delbo, the daughter of a metalworker who rose to run his own shipyard and an Italian immigrant mother, gravitated toward the theater and politics as a teenager. In 1932, she joined the youth wing of the French Communist Party and quickly became a prominent organizer. A couple of years later, she met and married Georges Dudach, a Communist and law student. Charlotte attended courses in philosophy at the Sorbonne in Paris and trained as a secretary. She got a job as an assistant to Louis Jouvet, a well-known actor and theater impresario, and went on tour with him and his company throughout South America. She was in Buenos Aires when the Germans invaded and occupied France in 1940. She decided to return to Paris in November 1941 and worked with her husband and the communist young women's group Union des Jeunes Filles de France (JFdeF) to print and distribute anti-Nazi materials and the underground newspaper Lettres Françaises. In March 1942, French police arrested her and Dudach, who was executed by the Gestapo in May. Charlotte Delbo was detained in transit camps near Paris for the rest of the year; then on January 24, 1943, she and 229 other Frenchwomen imprisoned for their resistance activities were put on a train for Auschwitz concentration camp. Only 49 of the women returned. They were held in Auschwitz, first at Birkenau and later the Raisko satellite camp, for about a year before being sent to Ravensbrück. Those who survived were released to the custody of the Swedish chapter of the International Red Cross in 1945. After recovering, Delbo returned to France and was faced with the daunting task of re-integrating herself into a world that could did not understand her wartime experiences. She wrote several books, including a trilogy of memoirs published as "Auschwitz and After" ("None of Us Will Return," "Useless Knowledge," and "The Measure of Our Days"). The play "Qui Rapportera Ces Paroles?" (Who Will Carry the Word?) is about Delbo's time at Birkenau. In later years, she abandoned Communism but her political views remained strongly left-wing. During France's war with Algeria she published "Les belles lettres," a collection of petitions protesting colonial French policy. She never remarried. During the 1960s, she worked for the United Nations and philosopher Henri Lefebvre.
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