A little bit of detective work

We have just added a copy of Julien Unger’s Le sang et l’or : souvenirs de camps allemands (Liberation.c.383) to the Liberation collection. Written almost immediately after the author’s release from imprisonment, the text is notable for its detailed description of existence in a concentration camp. Julien Unger describes his experience as a Jew deported from France and how he managed to survive in Auschwitz-Birkenau and other Nazi camps. The author’s heartfelt printed dedication is 40 lines long, beginning “Je dédie ce témoignage à la mémoire d’une mère et à toutes les mères du monde …”  It is, of course, just one of many such prisoners’ accounts in the collection, which can usually be identified via the subject heading string World War, 1939-1945 — Prisoners and prisons, German.

Printed dedication

Printed dedication

This memoir was republished in 2007 by the Fondation pour la mémoire de La Shoah. The Fondation’s website comments –

À la valeur de ce témoignage s’ajoute la pertinence de l’analyse des méthodes de terreur déployées par les nazis pour asservir, traquer, spolier et mener à la mort les Juifs d’Europe. Véritable document pour l’historien, cet ouvrage dégage une force indéniable.

Interestingly no British library acquired this 2007 reprint, and the only other UK library which owns a copy of the original is the London Library. In describing the items in the Liberation collection we attempt to give as much bibliographical detail as possible, in order to suggest different ways in which the material can be exploited. Rather unusually for 20th century material, we describe in full both publisher and printer, including precise details of addresses where available, and exact dates of publication and printing. In an earlier blog post we discussed the resistance leader Pierre Brossolette. It is interesting to note in passing that the address of the printing house of this work, the Imprimerie moderne in Montrouge (Seine), had already been changed to the Avenue Pierre Brossolette by February 15th 1946.

Handwritten dedication

Handwritten dedication

The Library’s copy of Le sang et l’or has another of those moving handwritten dedications discussed in earlier blog posts. The author writes “À Madame Robert Blum, en souvenir de notre cher disparu mais vivant et inoubliable”. Establishing the identity of Robert Blum was not altogether straightforward, since a Google search under his name produced nothing of immediate interest. The catalogue of the Bibliothèque nationale lists a 1992 pamphlet of 59 pages by Jacqueline Marty, entitled Robert Blum 1888-1944, privately printed by the author and containing extracts from Le sang et l’or, but there is no copy in the UK.

I was just about to give up when a colleague noticed that our copy has a number of annotations in pencil referring to “le Colonel”, who on page 28 is described more fully as “lieutenant-colonel Robert B…” Repeating the Google search but inserting “lieutenant-colonel” brought up a digitised version of Olga Lengyel’s Five chimneys (1959.7.4037), a woman survivor’s true story of Auschwitz, in which brief mention is made of Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Blum, “Knight of the Legion of Honor and chief of the resistance movement in the Grenoble region”. The paragraph mentioning him sadly concludes that he “was killed”.

So this is altogether a moving and touching item. A mere twelve months after the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau on January 27th 1945, the author publishes his memoir and dedicates a copy to the widow of a friend who did not survive. She reads the text and marks up each passing reference to her husband. It was presumably she who also gave her copy of the book its elaborate binding, in quarter velum with marbled paper, a clear indication of how precious it was to her.

David Lowe and Sophie Dubillot

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s