When the Nazis invaded France, Jewish parents first ran, then hid, and finally entrusted their children to various organizations and churches to shelter their youngsters. This story is told through the eyes of some of those children.
Saratoga Jewish Community Arts and Temple Sinai, with a generous grant from the Jewish Federation of Northeastern New York, presents a Zoom discussion of the film Fanny’s Journey on January 10 at 7 PM.
Fanny’s Journey (Le Voyage de Fanny, a 2016 French and Belgian film) is based on the life of Fanny Ben-Ami and her two sisters. The story is true, but as a film, elements were fictionalized. Ben-Ami, 85 in 2016 when the film was released, was at first taken aback by the liberties taken in the film, but then reconciled that the film conveys the appropriate message. Fanny did not help eleven children to escape to Switzerland, as portrayed in the film; she traveled with 28 children.
In 1943 France, Fanny had barely turned 13 when her father was arrested in German occupied Paris. Fanny’s mother sent her and her younger sisters to the French free zone until it was no longer safe there, and then they went on to an Italian foster home. She and her younger sisters faced language barriers and Nazi persecution. The young children were again threatened and must once again be on the run. This time, the agency head was determined that they get to Switzerland, obtaining false passports for them, coercing the children to learn new names and backstories, securing them on a train to Switzerland, and then disappears, leaving thirteen year-old Fanny in charge.
Although still a child, Fanny was a natural leader. Her story is of an unusually resourceful child in a world of crazed adults. She said, “I had never wanted to be put in a position of responsibility, but I had no choice and I was angry. What had I done wrong? I hadn’t stolen, I hadn’t killed, was it a crime to be Jewish?”
The film is based on Fanny Ben Ami’s 2015 memoir. She said, “The film is in memory of the children who got out, those who didn’t, and the children who today are still being sacrificed by adults at war.”
When the war ended, Fanny learned her parents had died in Auschwitz and
Lublin. This, she says, was the beginning of her Shoah. The Swiss sent her back to France. Her sisters wound up in Israel and she, in turn, immigrated in 1955. In her later life, Fanny’s husband encouraged her to follow her passion of painting, which she continued to do.
“Director Lola Doillon and co-writer Anne Peyregne manage to bring an important period of history alive for the next generation,” says Community Arts Coordinator, Phyllis Wang, “even as the people who lived it are dying off. And the final scenes cannot help but provoke comparisons and discussions of what is now happening in current times to children at multiple national borders.”
How to Participate:
All the films in our virtual film discussion series can be viewed on various platforms (ex. Netflix, YouTube, Prime, etc.) you should watch the film prior to the discussion zoom meeting.
Registration required for Zoom discussion at firstname.lastname@example.org.