Dora Bruder

Dora Bruder

PATRICK MODIANO
Translated from the French by Joanna Kilmartin
Copyright Date: 1999
Edition: 1
Pages: 123
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt14jxvc8
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    Dora Bruder
    Book Description:

    Patrick Modiano opensDora Bruderby telling how in 1988 he stumbled across an ad in the personal columns of the New Year's Eve 1941 edition ofParis Soir. Placed by the parents of a 15-year-old Jewish girl, Dora Bruder, who had run away from her Catholic boarding school, the ad sets Modiano off on a quest to find out everything he can about Dora and why, at the height of German reprisals, she ran away on a bitterly cold day from the people hiding her. He finds only one other official mention of her name on a list of Jews deported from Paris to Auschwitz in September 1942.With no knowledge of Dora Bruder aside from these two records, Modiano continues to dig for fragments from Dora's past. What little he discovers in official records and through remaining family members, becomes a meditation on the immense losses of the peroid-lost people, lost stories, and lost history. Modiano delivers a moving account of the ten-year investigation that took him back to the sights and sounds of Paris under the Nazi Occupation and the paranoia of the Pétain regime as he tries to find connections to Dora. In his efforts to exhume her from the past, Modiano realizes that he must come to terms with the specters of his own troubled adolescence. The result, a montage of creative and historical material, is Modiano's personal rumination on loss, both memoir and memorial.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-96202-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[v])
  2. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  3. [EIGHT YEARS AGO, IN AN OLD COPY OF PARIS-SOIR DATED]
    (pp. 3-5)

    Eight years ago, in an old copy of paris-soir dated 31 December 1941, a heading on page 3 caught my eye: “From Day to Day.”¹ Below this, I read:

    Missing, a young girl, Dora Bruder, age 15, height 1 m 55, oval-shaped face, gray-brown eyes, gray sports jacket, maroon pullover, navy blue skirt and hat, brown gym shoes. Address all information to M. and Mme Bruder, 41 Boulevard Ornano, Paris.

    I had long been familiar with that area of the Boulevard Ornano. As a child, I would accompany my mother to the Saint-Ouen flea markets. We would get off the...

  4. [FROM DAY TO DAY. WITH THE PASSAGE OF TIME, I FIND,]
    (pp. 6-8)

    From day to day. with the passage of time, i find, perspectives become blurred, one winter merging into another. That of 1965 and that of 1942.

    In 1965, I knew nothing of Dora Bruder. But now, thirty years on, it seems to me that those long waits in the cafes at the Omano crossroads, those unvarying itineraries—the Rue du Mont-Cenis took me back to some hotel on the Butte Montmartre: the Roma or the Alsina or the Terrass, Rue Caulaincourt—and the fleeting impressions I have retained: snatches of conversation heard on a spring evening, beneath the trees in...

  5. [IT TAKES TIME FOR WHAT HAS BEEN ERASED TO RESURFACE.]
    (pp. 9-15)

    It takes time for what has been erased to resurface. Traces survive in registers, and nobody knows where these registers are hidden, and who has custody of them, and whether or not these custodians are willing to let you see them. Or perhaps they have quite simply forgotten that these registers exist.

    All it takes is a little patience.

    Thus, I came to learn that Dora Bruder and her parents were already living in the hotel on the Boulevard Ornano in 1937 and 1938. They had a room with kitchenette on the fifth floor, the level at which an iron...

  6. [ERNEST BRUDER, BORN VIENNA, AUSTRIA, 21 MAY 1899.]
    (pp. 16-19)

    Ernest bruder, born vienna, austria, 21 may 1899· His childhood would have been spent in that city’s Jewish quarter, Leopoldstadt. His own parents were almost certainly natives of Galicia or Bohemia or Moravia, having come, like the majority of Vienna’s Jews, from the eastern provinces of the Empire.

    I had turned twenty in Vienna, in 1965, also the year when I was frequenting the Clignancourt districts. I lived on the Taubenstummengasse, behind the Karlskirche. My first few nights were spent in a seedy hotel near the Western Station. I have memories of summer evenings spent in Sievering and Grinzing, and...

  7. [IN 1924, ERNEST BRUDER MARRIED A YOUNG WOMAN OF]
    (pp. 20-22)

    In 1924, ernest bruder married a young woman of seventeen, Cécile Burdej, born 17 April 1907 in Budapest. I don’t know where this marriage took place, nor do I know the names of their witnesses. How did they happen to meet? Cécile Burdej had arrived in Paris the year before, with her parents, her brother, and her four sisters. A Jewish family of Russian origin, they had probably settled in Budapest at the beginning of the century.

    Life in Budapest and Vienna being equally hard after the First World War, they had had to flee west yet again. They ended...

  8. [AND, AT THE PORTE DE CLIGNANCOURT, THE YEARS]
    (pp. 23-27)

    And, at the porte de clignancourt, the years slipped by till the outbreak of war. I know nothing about the Bruders during this time. Was Cécile already working as a “furrier’s seamstress,” or rather, as it says in the files, “salaried garment worker”? Her niece thinks that she was employed in a workshop near the Rue de Ruisseau, but she can’t be sure. Was Ernest Bruder still working as an unskilled laborer, if not at the Westinghouse factory in Freinville, then elsewhere, in some other suburb? Or had he too found work in a garment workshop in Paris? Next to...

  9. [OTHER SUMMER DAYS WERE SPENT IN CLIGNANCOURT.]
    (pp. 28-29)

    Other summer days were spent in clignancourt. Her parents would take Dora to the Cinéma Ornano 43. It was just across the street. Or did she go on her own? From a very young age, according to her cousin, she had been rebellious, independent, with an eye for the boys. The hotel room was far too cramped for three people.

    As a child, she would have played in the Square Clignancourt. At times, this part of town seemed like a village. In the evenings, the neighbors would place their chairs outside and sit on the sidewalk for a chat. Or...

  10. [ON 9 MAY 1940, AT THE AGE OF FOURTEEN, DORA BRUDER]
    (pp. 30-36)

    On 9 may 1940, at the age of fourteen, dora bruder was enrolled in the boarding school of the Saint-Coeur-de-Marie, run by the Sisters of the Christian Schools of Divine Mercy¹ at 60–62 Rue de Picpus in the 12th arrondissement.

    The school register contains the following entry:

    Name, last and first: Bruder, Dora

    Date and place of birth: 26 February 1926, Paris 12

    Parents: Ernest and Cécile BrudernéeBrudej

    Family status: legitimate

    Date and conditions of admission: 9 May 1940. Full boarder

    Date and reason for departure: 14 December 1941. Pupil has run away

    What were her parents’...

  11. [DORA SPENT THE SUMMER OF 1940 AT THE BOARDING]
    (pp. 37-37)

    Dora spent the summer of 1940 at the boarding school. On Sundays, she would certainly have gone to visit her parents, who were still living in the hotel room at 41 Boulevard Ornano. I look at the plan of the métro and try to retrace her route in my mind. The simplest, avoiding too many changes, is to take a train from Nation, a station fairly near the boarding school. Pont-de-Sèvres line. Change at Strasbourg-Saint-Denis. Porte de Clignancourt line. She would have got out at Simplon, just opposite the cinema and the hotel.

    Twenty years later, I often took the...

  12. [AUTUMN HAD COME. ON 2 OCTOBER, THE PARIS NEWSPAPERS]
    (pp. 38-44)

    Autumn had come. on 2 october, the paris newspapers published the decree obliging all Jews to register at police stations for a census. A declaration by the head of the family sufficed for all. To avoid long lines, those affected were asked to attend in alphabetical order, on the dates indicated in the table below…

    The letter B fell on 4 October. On that day, Ernest Bruder went to Clignancourt police station to fill in the census form. But he failed to register his daughter. Everybody reporting for the census was allotted a number, later attached to the “family life.”...

  13. [THUS WE FIND NEXT TO DORA BRUDER’S NAME IN THE]
    (pp. 45-48)

    Thus we find next to dora bruder’s name in the school register, under the heading “Date and reason for departure”: “14 December 1941. Pupil has run away.”

    It was a Sunday. I imagine that she would have taken advantage of the free day to visit her parents. That evening, she failed to return to the school.

    Those dying weeks of the year were the blackest, most claustrophobic period that Paris had experienced since the beginning of the Occupation. Between 8 and 14 December, in reprisal for two assassination attempts, the Germans ordered a curfew from six o’clock in the evening,...

  14. [FOR A LONG TIME, AFTER HER ESCAPE AND THE NOTICE]
    (pp. 49-55)

    For a long time, after her escape and the notice about the search for her that was printed inParis-Soir, I knew nothing about Dora Bruder. Then I learned that, eight months later, on 13 August 1942, she had been interned in the camp at Drancy. The dossier showed that she had come from Tourelles camp. On that very 13 August, indeed, three hundred Jewish women were transferred from Tourelles to Drancy.

    Tourelles prison “camp,” or rather internment center, occupied former colonial infantry barracks at 11 Boulevard Mortier, near the Porte des Lilas. It had been opened in October 1940...

  15. [BLACK MARIAS REMAINED MUCH THE SAME TILL THE]
    (pp. 56-59)

    Black marias remained much the same till the early sixties. The only time I ever found myself in one it was with my father, and I wouldn’t mention it now had not this episode taken on a symbolic character in my eyes.

    The circumstances were banal in the extreme. I was eighteen years old, still a minor. My parents, though separated, still lived in the same block, my father with a woman who had yellow hair the color of straw and was very high-strung, a sort of imitation Mylène Demongeot. And I with my mother. That day, on the landing,...

  16. [WHAT DID DORA BRUDER DO FIRST, I WONDER, AS]
    (pp. 60-61)

    What did dora bruder do first, I wonder, AS soon as she had made her escape on 14 December 1941. Perhaps she had decided not to return to the boarding school the instant she had arrived at the gate, and had spent the evening wandering the streets till curfew.

    Streets that still had countrified names: Les Meuniers, La Bèche-aux-Loups, Le Sentier des Merisiers. But at the top of the little tree-shaded street that ran alongside the perimeter wall of the Saint-Coeur-de-Marie there was a freight depot, and further on, if you take the Avenue Daumesnil, the Gare de Lyon. The...

  17. [THE POLICE BLOTTER AT THE CLIGNANCOURT STATION]
    (pp. 62-66)

    The police blotter at the clignancourt station has this entry for 27 December 1941 under columns headedDate and subject. Marital status. Summary:

    27 December 1941. Bruder Dora, born Paris 12th, 25/2/26, domiciled at 41 Boulevard Ornano. Interview with Bruder Ernest, age 42, father.

    The following figures are written in the margin, but I have no idea what they stand for: 7029 21/12.

    The superintendent at Clignancourt police station, 12 Rue Lambert, behind the Butte Montmartre, was called Siri. But Ernest Bruder probably went to the divisional station, 74 Rue du Mont-Cenis, next to the town hall, which was also...

  18. [ERNEST BRUDER WAS ARRESTED ON 19 MARCH 1942,]
    (pp. 67-68)

    Ernest bruder was arrested on 19 march 1942, or rather, that was the day he was interned at Draney. I’ve been unable to find any trace of the circumstances of his arrest, nor of the reasons for it. In what was called a “family file,” where data on each individual Jew were assembled for use at the Prefecture of Police, his entry reads:

    Bruder Ernest

    21.5.99—Vienna

    Jewish dossier no.: 49091

    Trade or profession: None

    French legionnaire, 2d class. 100% disabled. Gassed; pulmonary tuberculosis

    Central police register E56404

    Lower down, the file has been stamped Wanted, next to which somebody...

  19. [I DON’T KNOW WHETHER OR NOT DORA BRUDER LEARNED]
    (pp. 69-71)

    I don’t know whether or not dora bruder learned of her father’s arrest at once. I imagine not. By March, she had still not returned to 41 Boulevard Ornano after her escape in December. Or so it would seem from such traces of her as survive in the archives of the Prefecture of Police.

    Now that almost sixty years have passed, these archives will gradually reveal their secrets. All that remains of the building occupied by the Prefecture of Police during the Occupation is a huge spectral barracks beside the Seine. Whenever we evoke the past, it reminds us a...

  20. [FOR THE DATE OF 17 APRIL 1942, THE POLICE BLOTTER]
    (pp. 72-83)

    For the date of 17 april 1942, the police blotter at Clignancourt station has this entry under its usual headings,Date and subject. Marital status. Summary:

    17 April 1942. 20998 15/24. P. Minors. Case of Bruder Dora, age 16, disappeared following Interview 1917 has regained maternal domicile.

    I don’t know what the figures 20998 and 15/24 stand for. “P. Minors” must mean Protection of Minors. Interview 1917 is certainly the transcript of Ernest Bruder’s deposition, and the questions concerning Dora and himself put to him on 27 December 1941. This is the sole reference in the archives to Interview 1917....

  21. [TWO MONTHS AGO, IN THE ARCHIVES OF THE YIVO INSTITUTE]
    (pp. 84-90)

    Two months ago, in the archives of the yivo institute in New York, a friend of mine found the following note among the documentation relating to the former Union Générale des Israélites de France,¹ a body founded under the Occupation:

    3L/SBL/

    17 June 1942

    0032

    Memo to mlle salomon

    Dora Bruder was restored to her mother on the 15th of this month, courtesy of the Clignancourt police.

    In view of the fact that she has repeatedly run away, it would seem advisable to remand her to a juvenile home.

    The father being interned and the mother in a state of...

  22. [WHAT HAPPENED TO DORA, I WONDER, IN THE INTERVAL]
    (pp. 91-92)

    What happened to dora, I wonder, in the interval between 15 June, when she found herself in Clignancourt police station, and 17 June, the date of the “Memo for Mlle Salomon.” Had she been allowed to leave the police station with her mother?

    If she had been allowed to return to the Boulevard Ornano hotel with her mother—it was no distance, just down the Rue Hermel—it means that the social workers would have come for her three days later, after Mlle Salomon had made contact with the Quai de Gesvres.

    But I have a feeling that things were...

  23. [THE TOURELLES REGISTER FOR 1942 SURVIVES. ON ITS]
    (pp. 93-94)

    The tourelles register for 1942 survives. on its cover is one word: WOMEN. It listed the names of internees in order of arrival. These women had been arrested for acts of resistance, for being Communists and, up to August 1942, in the case of Jews, for having failed to comply with German decrees: Jews were forbidden to go out after eight o’clock at night, compelled to wear the yellow star, forbidden to cross the demarcation line into the Free Zone, forbidden to use the telephone, to possess a bicycle, a radio…

    The register has the following entry for 19 June...

  24. [ON THAT THURSDAY, 19 JUNE, THE DAY THAT DORA]
    (pp. 95-100)

    On that thursday, 19 june, the day that dora arrived at Tourelles, all the women were assembled on the barracks square after breakfast. Three German officers were present. Jewish women between the ages of eighteen and forty were ordered to line up, backs turned. One of the Germans had ready a complete list of these women and called out their names in the order written. The rest returned to their rooms. The sixty-six women thus segregated from their companions were locked up in a large, empty room without beds or chairs where they remained in isolation for three days, a...

  25. [TWO YEARS AGO, ON ONE OF THE BOOKSTALLS ALONG]
    (pp. 101-106)

    Two years ago, on one of the bookstalls along the Seine, I happened to find the last letter written by a man who was on the transport of 22 June with Claude Bloch, Josette Delimal, Tamara Isserlis, Hena, Jean Jausion’s girlfriend, Annette…

    The fact that the letter was for sale, like any other manuscript, suggests that the sender and his family had disappeared in their turn. A square of thin paper covered back and front in minuscule handwriting. It was written from Drancy camp by a certain Robert Tartakovsky. I’ve discovered that he was born in Odessa on 24 November...

  26. [TWICE IN APRIL 1966 I SPENT A SUNDAY IN THE EASTERN]
    (pp. 107-109)

    Twice in april 1966 I spent a sunday in the eastern districts of Paris, looking for some trace of Dora Bruder in the areas around the Saint-Coeur-de-Marie and Tourelles. I felt this was best done on a Sunday, when the town is deserted, at the lowest ebb of the tide.

    Nothing is left of the Saint-Coeur-de-Marie. A modern apartment block stands at the corner of the Rue de Picpus and the Rue de la Gare-de-Reuilly. The section that has replaced the school’s tree-shaded wall now displays the last odd numbers in the Rue de la Gare-de-Reuilly. Opposite, a little further...

  27. [IN A DIFFERENT PART OF PARIS, WHEN I WAS TWENTY, I]
    (pp. 110-113)

    In a different part of paris, when i was twenty, I remember having the same sensation of emptiness as I had had when confronted by the Tourelles wall, without knowing the reason why.

    I had a girlfriend who lived in various borrowed flats and country houses. I regularly took advantage of this to relieve their libraries of art books and numbered editions, which I then sold. One day, when we were by ourselves in a flat on the Rue du Regard, I stole an antique music box and also, after rifling the closets, several very smart suits, a few shirts,...

  28. [WHEN I WAS SEVENTEEN, TOURELLES HAD MEANT NO]
    (pp. 114-120)

    When I was seventeen, tourelles had meant no more than a name I had read. at the back of a book by Jean Genet,Miracle de la Rose. There, he lists the places where the book was written: La Santé, Tourelles Prison 1943. Shortly after Dora Bruder’s departure from Tourelles, he too had been imprisoned there, as a common criminal, and their paths may have crossed.Miracle de la Roseis not only impregnated with memories of the penal settlement at Mettray—one of those juvenile homes where they had wanted to send Dora—but also, I now realize, of...