The Good Life France Magazine

The Good Life France Magazine brings you the best of France - inspirational and exclusive features, fabulous photos, mouth-watering recipes, tips, guides, ideas and much more...

Published by the award winning team at The Good Life France

1 year ago

Issue No. 15

Discover the Drome, Nyons - the last Provencal frontier, Charente-Maritime, Burgundy, Paris gastronomy, Nice, secret Provence, recipes, a whole lot more. It's the next best thing to being in France...

So that’s what I would

So that’s what I would recreate: a living history of Antibes through the allegorical eyes of Bellevue. All summer long, Antibes revealed herself to me on two levels, past and present. Plaques, monuments and street signs – timeworn tributes that had faded into everyday life over the years we’d been coming here – shared their stories. And there, mounted above a lighting shop three blocks up Avenue Foch, the trunk road I’d taken more than a hundred times, was an unassuming marble plaque: Here lived Dr. Elie Victor Amedee Lévy, Captain; arrested May 4, 1942; died in deportation to Auschwitz; hero and martyr of the Résistance; died for France. That was the story I wanted to read in English, right there on l’Ilette peninsula. A fat drop of sweat ran down my calf and deposited itself on my ankle. Skimming was the only way. I flipped to the book’s midsection and hunched over its yellowed pages. A breeze kicked up. Instant airconditioning. I was doing the right thing. Some would say I’d been behaving oddly all summer. I biked around town with one eye on the road and the other scouring second-floor facades of buildings where plaques might appear. Friends began calling me a history-buff. Really? History was never, ever my thing. It always seemed a jumble of useless dates and wars – except, of course, when my grandmother told vibrant stories about the wagon train bringing my ancestors from Pennsylvania to Iowa. History only mattered to me when there was a story behind it. History was interesting only when it was alive. The story endured. As I continued to read on l’Ilette peninsula, I realized I’d forgotten the story’s details – even important ones. I’d forgotten, for instance, how Churchill’s surprise encounter with Lévy had begun. On that dark night in April 1942, while they huddled in the darkness of their clandestine work, Lévy launched a question to Churchill – before even bothering to introduce the diplomat loitering alongside them. Where, the doctor wondered, were the faked baptismal certificates for his two daughters? Churchill had promised these papers so that Lévy, a Jew, could avoid having his house – purchased in his daughters’ names – confiscated by the Germans. My cheeks were burning. The water bottle was almost dry. I’d continue reading elsewhere. But before leaving that eventful site, I lingered before the copper-green plaque. It was written in English and French, but as with so many translations, the two halves offered different information.

\the monument commemorated the landing of the H.M.S. Unbroken submarine, under Captain Peter Churchill, on April 21, 1942, and all those who took part in the operation. It was presented to Major Camille Rayon (another major Résistance player) by Lieutenant-Commander C.W. Buck Taylor (who steered the submarine that night) on May 23, 1992. The last line caught my eye. It spanned the centerline of the plaque, occupying both the English and French sides, and protruded from the stone’s face: En hommage au Docteur ELIE LEVY (LOUIS) qui dirigea cette operation, et mourut en Déportation directed this operation and died in deportation. I’d learned the story of the H.M.S. Unbroken through the eyes of Peter Churchill, a British secret service agent. But the collective memory of the local people filtered through a different lens. It was Lévy, an Antibois, who was the heart of this mission, not Churchill. There’s a whole other world occupying the sunny Côte d’Azur. It lives invisibly alongside the sandy beaches and glitzy shops. And it’s breathing, shallowly, appearing only to those who seek it. Jemma Hélène is the author of French Lessons Blog: In tribute to Dr Elie Lévy (Louis), who

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