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A remarkable documentation of the horrors of the German occupation of France, Read the Walls, by Siona Shimshi, Dalit Lahav and photographer Jachin Hirsch (Even Hoshen, Ra'anana), shows us a myriad of little plaques still attached to buildings in the various arrondissements of Paris.
Laconic but bitter, they honor the memory of men and women, boys and girls, who fell in action or in the front of firing squads, or who were deported to their deaths. Many, if not most, were Jews, some of them decorated officers of the French Resistance, who "died for France." The victims are in most cases listed by name. Many attest that the victim was shot in Paris. A few resisters were even shot by French police, probably the dreaded milice.
Despite a plethora of texts in French, Hebrew and English, this is a primarily visual book, the little stone plaques speaking for themselves and seen both in their environment and in close-up. The splendid and sometimes cleverly lit photographs by Hirsch are also an architectural document of the city and its Jewish sections today. They even survive a horrific layout necessitated by the regrettable decision to publish the extensive texts in three languages. This overloaded but still touching book would have been a knockout with just bigger photographs and translations of the plaque texts.
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