Fred Johnston reads his poem, ‘Wall, Plaque, Book,’ from his collection The Oracle Room, published by Cinnamon Press (UK). The poem arose from a visit to the Marais area of Paris where there is a school that was raided twice by the Nazis, and the Jewish pupils removed to Drancy for deportation.
Johnston (born 1951) is an Irish poet, novelist, literary critic and musician. He is the founder and current director of the Western Writers’ Centre in Galway. He co-founded the Irish Writers’ Co-operative in 1974, and founded Galway’s annual Cúirt International Festival of Literature in 1986.
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At what other moment in history have the gates of the prison camps closed on so many innocents, at what other epoque have children been dragged away from their mothers and crammed into cattle trucks, as witnessed one sombre morning at the Gare d’Austerlitz? — Francois Mauriac
A plaque on the wall of a school in the 3rd arrondissement, Le Marais, commemorating the removal of children by Nazis in 1942-44. There are hundreds of these plaques in France. In 1995, Jacques Chirac, then President of the Republic, declared that France “did something irreparable” when it collaborated with the Nazis, and he apologized to the Jewish people.