Fighting deportation in a Paris backstreet, 1942-2010

I took these two photographs outside the Ecole Maternelle (nursery school) in the Rue Mercadet – a backstreet in the now very African district of Chateau Rouge, on the north-east side of Paris. Many of the families using this school are refugees, asylum seekers, or simply “sans papiers” (undocumented) – so living in constant fear of seizure and deportation under increasingly savage anti-foreigner laws.

One of the notices on the noticeboard says “Don’t be alone this summer” (presumably, so that the authorities can’t seize you without anyone knowing). Another advertises a strike in support of sans papiers workers. Another says:

During the summer holiday, don’t go out without:

* The ‘certificat de scholarité’ for each of your children [it proves they are registered pupils]
* Your immigration number (the number of your file at the préfecture)
* The RESF emergency telephone [a support organisation for foreigners]
* ABOVE ALL, DON’T TAKE YOUR PASSPORT! [without a passport, it’s difficult for the authorities to deport someone]

The marble plaque over the entrance says

To the memory of the pupils of this school deported between 1942 and 1944 because they were born Jewish; innocent victims of Nazi barbarism and the Vichy [collaborationist] government. More than 700 of these children from the 18th [arrondissement] were exterminated in the death camps. We will never forget them.
3rd April 2004

Why was the plaque only erected in 2004? Because, until that date, eminent collaborationists were still holding high office in the Parisian and national government.


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