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Jacques Sierpinski : The Disappearance, Annette Zelman, summer 42


This is one of the most touching stories we have received. Jacques Sierpinski sends us this text.

La Disparition recounts in a photographic story the dazzling and tragic story of Annette Zelman, my father’s first cousin. In the troubled period of German occupation and state anti-Semitism, Annette, a 20-year-old Jewish girl, full of life, emancipated and artistic, decided to take classes at the Beaux-Arts in Paris. She frequented the artists and intellectuals of her time and met at the Café de Flore, Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre, Boris Vian, Yannick Bellon, the surrealists and Dadaists of the Réverbères movement… After a brief adventure with Jean Rouch, Annette met a young 24-year-old Dadaist poet from the Réverbères movement, Jean Jausion. They fell madly in love. The couple decided to get married and submitted an application to the town hall of the 10th arrondissement of Paris in May 1942. The young man’s parents formally opposed it and denounced Annette to the Gestapo. On May 22, 1942, she was arrested by the French police on the orders of Theodor Dannecker, head of the Gestapo and the Jewish question, then transferred to the depot of the Paris police headquarters. Reasons for this arrest according to Annette: homeless and without resources. Jean Jausion, informed, wrote to her daily and Annette replied describing her conditions of detention. On June 11, she was transferred to the Tourelles barracks, transformed into a detention center, for Jewish women. It is from there that she wrote a last, terrible letter to Jean, in which she said she no longer believes in her release. Doctor Jausion, learning of Annette’s arrest, sent a letter to the Gestapo to request her release because he had obtained an annulment of the marriage from his son Jean. He also involved the French ambassador to Germany, without success. Since that day, Annette no longer gave any sign of life.

She left on June 22, 1942 in the 1st convoy of women (3rd convoy, 1,000 people including 66 women) bound for Auschwitz.

The Zelman family had no more news of Annette until November 23, 1961, the date on which they received a certificate of disappearance from the Ministry of Veterans and War Victims. The same year, the family learned from Henri Amouroux’s book, La Vie des Français sous l’Occupation, that Doctor Hubert Jausion, not wanting his son to marry “the Jewish Zelman”, had asked the German authorities to do everything to prevent this marriage.

Annette reportedly survived three months in the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp before disappearing, a victim of National Socialist barbarity. 78 convoys left France carrying 73,853 men, women and children to their deaths, of whom only 2,190 survived. Taking advantage of a professional trip to Krakow eight years ago, I took the step of going to Auschwitz. It was then that I decided to undertake this photographic work, to take the opposite route and return in Annette’s footsteps, to collect the archives, the family photographs, to record the testimonies and memories of my cousin Michèle , Annette’s little sister and last representative of the Zelman family to have experienced this tragedy and this cursed period.

In memory of Annette and her fiancé Jean Jausion.

Jacques Sierpinski


Jacques Sierpinski : La Disparition, Annette Zelman, été 42

From Thursday March 7 to Sunday April 28, 2024.

Town hall of the 10th arrondissement
72, rue du Faubourg Saint-Martin
75010 Paris

Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Free admission.

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