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Jacqueline Mesnil-Amar (1909–1987)

Author of Maman, What are We Called Now?

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Jacqueline Mesnil-Amar was the pen name of a writer born to a wealthy, assimilated French Jewish family named Perquel. She had a privilege childhood in the Parisian suburb of Passy. In 1930, she married André Amar, a philosophy teacher, writer, and banker, and completed her studies in literature at the Sorbonne. The couple had a daughter in 1934. Their lives were shattered by the outbreak of World War II and the Nazi Occupation of France. In 1940, she followed her husband, demobilized from the French Army, to the Vichy zone. There they helped start a Zionist newspaper. She returned to Paris, while her husband joined the Organisation Juive de Combat (Jewish Combat Organization), the Jewish resistance network in the south of France. He was arrested in 1944 and sent to Auschwitz, from which he managed to escape. After the war, he co-founded the Service Central des Déportés Israélites (Central Service for Jewish Deportees), or SCDI. Jacqueline edited the SCDI publication and wrote articles for it. She became driven by her experiences with returning Holocaust survivors and displaced orphans and children to serve as their advocate and voice. Both she and her husband turned to Judaism, learned Hebrew, and became friends with prominent Jewish intellectuals. She wrote books on Jewish themes as well as articles for French journals, notably Les Cahiers du Sud and Nouveaux Cahiers, and lectured on Jewish writers, including Franz Kafka and Marcel Proust. In 1957, the diary of her desperate life in Paris during the war, together with some of her post-war articles, was published as Ceux qui ne dormant pas (Those Who Do Not Sleep); in 2015, it was published in English under the title Maman, What Are We Called Now? Among her other works was a 1976 memoir entitled Nous étions les juifs de l'oubli (We Were the Jews of Oblivion).
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