Sixties revisited

E agora para desenjoar das minhas beatices todas dos últimos tempos, aqui vai uma história de prostitutas. (Se bem que o tema prostitutas também seja muito bíblico.) E é por histórias destas de costumes que a Vanity Fair continua a ser uma revista imperdível.

‘In Madam, a memoir she published in France in 1994, Fernande Grudet portrayed herself as an aristocrat, born in the château country of the Loire Valley, where her father was a local solon. She had been educated at a Visitandines convent, taking vows of austerity. She had also been a war heroine, a Resistance fighter who paid for that resistance with an internment at a concentration camp.

Lies, all lies, according to a 2010 French television documentary about Claude. Trying to see the entirety of this program is like trying to crack the Da Vinci Code. The production company that had made it is defunct, and I could not find it in any film archive. It was available, in snippets, on the Internet. It alleged to show proof that père Grudet actually ran a snack cart at the Angers train station, that little Fernande had never been at the convent. As for her time in the concentration camp, ostensibly Ravensbrück, the program explored a story that Claude is said to have told about how she saved the life of Charles de Gaulle’s niece while there (or vice versa) and submitted to an affair with a German doctor in order to survive. A historian in the documentary said that Claude probably made all of this up, and the idea that the madam was ever interned was dismissed as another example of Claude’s talent for self-mythologizing.

But, according to Patrick Terrail, the proprietor of Ma Maison, “she had a camp number tattooed on her wrist. I saw it.”

Taki concurred. “I saw the tattoo,” he said. “She showed it to me and Rubi. She was proud she had survived. We talked about the camp for hours. It was even more fascinating than the girls.” But which camp was it? The myth may have been Ravensbrück, but only Auschwitz used tattoos. Hence the Rashomon quality of Claude’s life. Taki then told me that Claude had been imprisoned not for her role in the French Resistance but for her faith. “She was Jewish,” he said. “I’m certain of that. She was horrified at the Jewish collaborators at the camp who herded their fellow Jews into the gas chambers. That was the greatest betrayal in her life.”’

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