Works of memory: the drawings of the children of Izieu, revealed in broad daylight

As part of the “In the BnF collections” programme, the National Library of France has teamed up with the Maison d’Izieu to present a selection of original letters and drawings by refugee children on the same site, from May 1943 until the raid on April 6, 1944 .

Indians and cowboys seen up close Lion attack in the jungle ; three oriental warriorsappeared near a airplane biplane in flight e a cannon battle; A sailor who got pinched by a crab discovered not far from a Attack of a polar bear on the ice floe… These images are the fruit of a boundless notion of innocence. With their bright colors, the drawings of children who have passed through the refugee children’s colony in Izieu breathe life and carelessness dear to Sabine Zlatin, director of the colony, and Gabrielle Perrier, young teacher. to pass on to them. Here, in Izieu, the “colony of refugee children from the Hérault” will take care of 105 children, mainly Jews, depending on the arrival and departure.


Today the house has become a place “where we wanted to make the absence of children noticeable,indicates Dominique Vidaud, the site manager. We fondly remember that the children who passed through Izieu found refuge here. The directors and educators did everything to make their lives comfortable. For most children, Izieu was therefore a place of peace where they could rebuild themselves: the letters full of hope and the drawings full of joy and colors express this benevolent environment. . With this unprecedented exhibition, seventeen original letters and drawings from the collections of the National Library of France (BnF), as well as three drawings and two letters by Georgy Halpern, made available to Serge and Beate Klarsfeld, allow us to approach the universe of these children and a Peek into their imaginations, learn about their bonds of friendship, their games, their desires… “Drawing is the common thread that guided this exhibition. The pieces that we show relate to the imagination, to the connections between children. The drawings and coloring are often permeated with allusions to films and children’s literature of the time. It seemed important to us to show them in their most obvious identity: we have the feeling that the drawings were just made.” says Stéphanie Boissard, Head of Research, Documentation and Archives at the Maison d’Izieu. The selection of the exhibited works shows the variety of themes, talents, but also banalities: “That’s what we noticed when we looked at these drawings!She explains. All of this relates to normality and the perception that the colony was a serene phase and letting them be children again, with all the freedom of expression in the drawing, in the desires … all that carefreeness of childhood that we gladly hope you had ” .

Place to the ORIGINALS.

Visitors could already admire these drawings in the refectory: this room, where 45 children from the colony ate their breakfast during the raid on April 6, 1944, houses copies of the works recovered by Sabine Zlatin. It was she who returned to Izieu three weeks after the raid to collect the last traces on the spot. “The year 2022 is truly extraordinary: For the first time since 1944, we are presenting these original documents that have never been shown to the public,”explains Loic Le Bail, Chief Curator, Department of Prints and Photography at the National Library of France. These documents are extremely fragile and show signs of alteration “that we didn’t want to restore because they are traces of history” he clarifies before adding: “Once documents like these three months are issued, we have to store them again for three years.”A rare opportunity to admire them.

Couleurs de l’insouciance : jusqu’au 6 juillet, à la Maison d’Izieu, à Izieu (Ain). 04 79 87 21 05. De 7 à 12 €.

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