The graphic designer and typographer has produced a colossal book that lists all the commemorative plaques from the 1939-1945 period in Paris. A shocking reliquary that invites you to revisit this time in history.
The book is the size of a Bible. It gathers photographs of more than a thousand commemorative plaques honoring missing persons, who were arrested by the Nazis, deported or who fought in Paris, especially at the time of the Liberation … Names most of which are nowadays unknown, but they speak of the events that the French capital has known in those dark hours when Nazism was active. Often tragic, they constitute a part of our collective memory, at once free and threatened by oblivion, alive and constantly eroded by the surrounding present. “These plates are there to fight forgetfulness. They challenge us. We are all dependent on an inheritance that does not belong to us and we are made up of the past of our ancestors, of those who preceded us and especially this period of the war which haunts us because it is also part of our present. To make this book was a form of deliverance. “, Says Philippe Apeloig.
It took no less than five years of investigation to draw up a complete inventory of the plates of this period that populate the streets of Paris. Philippe Apeloig, assisted by Léo Grunstein and a slew of young graduates in graphic studies, managed to map all the plates and take them in photography according to a very precise process. “I wanted the photographs not only to show the plates, but also some of the surrounding space,” explains Philippe Apeloig. It was necessary to find the right distance to reveal a little of the walls on which the plates are stuck – walls which say in which district of Paris the plate is located (in particular cut stone in the West of Paris, bricks or plaster more often to the east …) – while ensuring that the photograph gives the all the words on the plate. As such, the book Children of Paris 1939-1945 sings a real song.
“On May 10, 1942 in this place savagely shot by the Nazi bullets fell gloriously for France the F.T.P. Feferman Maurice, 21 years old “says one that can be found at 58 rue des Petites-Ecuries in the 10th arrondissement and reveals how much youth paid with their blood this episode of history. “Here has fallen gloriously for the Liberation of Paris the guardian of peace Suire Joseph,” says another. And then there are those who make a collective tribute, like all the plates that cover the Parisian schools and that the book chose to place at the end of each chapter corresponding to a district: “In memory of the students of this school deported from 1942 to 1944 because they were born Jewish, innocent victims of Nazi barbarism with the complicity of the Vichy government. They were exterminated in the death camps. Let’s never forget them.
“Replenish pieces of memory”
Let’s never forget, these plates, is the project of this amazing book that goes as far as to photograph the place where a plate disappeared and where remains only a disconcerting emptiness. Because made without a precise plan, without common rules, the plates form a scattered and heterogeneous matter which makes their beauty as much as their fragility. There are everywhere in the city: in private courtyards, under the subway and even at the top of the Eiffel Tower. There are some that appear, others get damaged, others disappear … “It’s as if the book had gathered something that was scattered. As if the memory was torn apart. This explosion is much stronger than a single monument to the dead that would imply a political theatricality certainly very boring. Philippe Apeloig added: “Replicating pieces of memory that are scattered and ensuring that the book, by bringing them together, becomes an object of memory, of consultation, which has its weight and which invites meditation… “.
Enfants de Paris 1939-1945
185 x 245 mm
Published by Gallimard Editions. 45 euros.
Meeting with Philippe Apeloig, around the book Enfants de Paris, 1939-1945
Thursday, March 14, 2019
17, rue Geoffroy l’Asnier, 75004 Paris https://billetterie.memorialdelashoah.org/en/evenement/history-of-commemorative-plates