He told me about his father, whose example, I sensed,
was still a model for him: his father had enlisted in the Foreign Legion in
1939, been one of the few survivors of his regiment in the Battle of the Somme,
escaped from prison camp, joined the Resistance in Nice, and been arrested
there in September 1943. He had died in the gas chamber at Auschwitz.
Summer vacation on the Côte Basque with my new family in a
sad little suburban house surrounded by a garden where only gravel grew. Serge
and I wrote to each other regularly. He corrected my mistakes in grammar. I got
annoyed and called him "professor." He got irritated and replied:
must broaden your experience, read, dip into everything that great men have
bequeathed us. Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, and Stendhal didn't write to make money;
they wrote for themselves and for you, too, so that you may become aware of who
you are. So you have your work cut out for you."
"I envy you for not having such commonplace work as I have.
You don't know how lucky you are. You know where you're going, but what's ahead
for me? I need lots of courage, and you aren't here to give it to me."
In the fall we got back together again, and we stayed together.
Serge made Paris, which he knew remarkably well, come alive for me. We never
stopped talking. For too long I had been imprisoned within myself; it was like
a deliverance. He brought history, art, the whole world of ideas into my life.
I had more time: I used to sleep ten hours a night; now I made do with six, as
When he realized how ignorant I was of my own country's
history, Serge, who had a history degree from the Sorbonne, undertook to teach
me. That was how I came into contact with the terrifying reality of Nazism.
I did not feel at all responsible for it as an individual, but insofar
as I was one tiny part of the German nation, I became aware of new obligations.
Was I tempted to stop being German? Serge himself had never thought of it. Not
for a minute: that would have been too easy, he said. It was exciting as well
as difficult to be a German after Nazism.
One day Serge told me how the
story of Hans and Sophie Scholl's short life had prevented him from hating the