Rue de la Rosière-d’Artois and Rue Crébillon

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Place de l’Édit de Nantes, Copyright Jibi44

Rue de la Rosière-d’Artois, a street in Nantes, was originally called Rue de la Corderie, then Rue de l’Épine. In 1822, it took its current name from the ship Rosière d’Artois, and a group of rosières who convened in 1777 to celebrate the visit of the Comte d’Artois (the future King Charles X), who came to watch the launching of the abovementioned ship.

rosière is an untranslatable word which refers to a girl rewarded for her virtuous reputation. According to legend, this tradition originated with Médrine, the sister of Saint Médard, in the late 5th century. Rosières were given rose wreaths.

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Landmarks include Place de l’Édit de Nantes (the square where an April 1598 edict of tolerance for Protestants was signed) and the 19th century Rosière mansion (now used as a hotel). The mansion is near the Museum of Natural History, the Museum Dobrée (a former palace converted into an archaeological museum), the former home of architect Georges Lafont, and Place Graslin. A Christian Brothers school and the Nantes Synagogue also used to be here.

My character Marie Zénobie Sternglass lived on Rosière–d’Artois until 1942, when she and her family were deported to Drancy. Upon her return to Nantes in December 1945, she’s very shocked and hurt to be received so coldly and indifferently by numerous former friends. One woman has the nerve to ask if she survived at her age by working as a prostitute or human guinea pig. She and her husband act as though Marie’s the rude one for not answering and displaying such shocked body language.

Marie reaches her breaking point when she discovers an even more hostile woman living in her old house and refusing to let her inside. When the woman says she threw the photographs and other mementos in the garbage, Marie loses control and uses strong language for the first time ever. Her friends have to physically restrain her from attacking the stranger.

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Copyright Kamel15

Rue Crébillon, created in 1770 and formerly known as Rue de Goyon and Rue de Varennes, is a luxury shopping street in Nantes. In 1828, it was named for playwright Prosper Jolyot de Crébillon (1674–1762). In 1852, it was one of the first Nantais streets to get gas lanterns. (Nantais is an adjective denoting a resident of Nantes. Nantaise is the feminine form.)

The untranslatable verb crébillonner (to drag while shopping) was coined after the street. To date, this is the only street which has spawned a French verb. The expression frisé(e) comme la rue Crébillon means “curly as Rue Crébillon.” Ironically, it refers to the street’s straightness.

Besides all the shops, the street is also home to the 4-star l’Hôtel de France, a former 18th century mansion. The hotel is about 20 meters from Théâtre Graslin.

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Copyright Pj44300

Marie gets an even bigger shock by her family’s former photography shop on Rue Crébillon, while she’s looking for any undeveloped negatives. After the war, many photographers did big business with survivors who’d pay anything for pictures of lost friends and family.

At the fictional Palomer Photography, Marie runs into Gaspard Diamondstein, her father’s old business partner and her family’s former neighbour. At first she’s unbelievably happy to finally be called by her French nickname, Marise, again, instead of Marika, Mariella, Mitzi, or Maruška, but her joy turns to shock when Gaspard tells her what happened to her father. Marie believed it could only be good news, and didn’t want to go across the street to Gaspard’s flat to hear it in private.

Marie does find one old family photo, though, and Gaspard invites her and all her friends into his flat for lunch. Marie is in such a daze, she doesn’t respond to the barking Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen or the fluffy Persian cat rubbing against her legs and purring. She also picks at the lunch Gaspard makes, and barely responds to his two surviving children, Gwenaël and Océane, when they come in. 

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L’Hôtel de la Duchesse-Anne and Hashomer Hatzair

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L’Hôtel de la Duchesse-Anne was a luxury hotel in Nantes, France, the city’s finest hotel for many years. The main façade is on Rue de Henri IV, and overlooks Place Duchesse-Anne (a city square) and the gorgeous Medieval Château des Ducs de Bretagne. It miraculously escaped the brutal bombardments during WWII. Much of the city was reduced to rubble, just like Budapest, but the grand hotel wasn’t among the destroyed buildings.

The hotel was founded in 1874, and in the 1930s, architect Ferdinand Ménard made some modifications to the building. Among these modifications was adding an Art Deco façade.

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Sadly, the roof of this beautiful historic hotel was destroyed by fire on 17 June 2004, and a legal battle over its fate ensued. It’s fallen into great disrepair and degradation, and planned demolition work slated for October 2015 wasn’t carried out. If the building is rehabilitated, it’ll probably be for luxury apartments, not a new hotel.

In December 1945, my characters spend a week by the Duchesse-Anne, while native Nantaise Marie Sternglass searches for word about her family. Sweet little Marie is finally pushed to her breaking point and has a bit of a mental breakdown when she finds strangers living in her old house and refusing to acknowledge her claim to the house or anything inside. She’s also deeply hurt by the cold, indifferent reception she gets from many people she considered friends just a few years ago.

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Hashomer Hatzair of Slonim, Poland, 1934, Courtesy Talma Lahav, Daughter of Bilha Podberevsky

Hashomer Hatzair (The Young Guard) is a Socialist–Zionist youth movement founded in Galicia in 1913. In the British Mandate of Palestine (i.e., pre-State Israel), this was also the name of the group’s political party. It was formed by the merger of Hashomer (The Guard), a Zionist scouting group, and Tz’irei Tzion (The Youth of Zion), a group studying Jewish history, Socialism, and Zionism.

The first members of the group made aliyah (moved to Israel) in 1919, and founded four kibbutzim. On 1 April 1927, these kibbutzim joined to form Kibbutz Artzi (Nationwide Kibbutz). As of 1998, they had 85 kibbutzim and 28,000 members.

Initially, it was strongly based on the principles of the Scout Movement (e.g., camping, hiking, self-reliance), and the German Wandervogel movement (which emphasised the creativity and independence of youth).

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Hashomer Hatzair of Pultusk, Poland, 30 May 1931

The group’s political party in pre-State Israel sought a binational solution, with full equality between Jewish and Arab Israelis. In 1936, they formed an urban political party, the Socialist League of Palestine (not to be confused with their Hashomer Hatzair Workers Party, founded in 1946). Hashomer Hatzair was the only political party in pre-State Israel to support Arab rights, accept Arab members as equals, and call for a binational state.

There were 70,000 members of the youth movement by 1939, mostly in Eastern Europe. During WWII, they fought against Nazi occupation and were involved in resistance and rescue efforts. After the war, they were among the first to start smuggling survivors into Israel. They also were active in the Haganah (underground army) and Palmach (shock troops) during the bitter fight to get the British to leave. Many of their kibbutzim were in the front lines during the War of Independence, and bore the brunt of Arab attacks. Kibbutz Yad Mordechai (named for the heroic leader of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising) and Kibbutz Negba blocked the Egyptians’ path to Tel-Aviv.

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Members of Kibbutz Gan Shmuel, Greater Tel-Aviv, ca. 1943, Source Gan-Shmuel archive via the PikiWiki – Israel free image collection project

My characters from Abony, Hungary, join Hashomer Hatzair in 1943, and receive training in farming, weapons, Hebrew, history, and other useful skills. They all desire to move to Israel and start new lives there, but many of them aren’t destined to live that long. For the select survivors, their passion to make aliyah becomes even more important.

Nantes, France

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Aerial view of Le Château des Ducs de Bretagne, image by Jibi44.

La Cathédral Saint-Pierre.

Nantes is France’s sixth-largest city, at about 900,000 people, and the biggest city in Northwestern France. It’s about 31 miles from the Atlantic Ocean. The name derives from the Namnetes, the Gauls who founded a town in the area about 70 BCE. After the city came under Roman rule in 56 BCE, the name became Condevincum, or Condevicnum. In the third century, the name changed to Portus Namnetum. Citizens of Nantes are known as Nantais. Its nickname is the Venice of the West.

The city is on the banks of the Loire River, where the Erdre and Sèvre Nantaise Rivers meet. Because of the convergence of all this water around land masses, the city historically contained many islands. Most of them have sadly been filled in since the early 20th century, but a few remain, such as L’Île Feydeau and L’Île de Nantes.

L’Église Saint-Clément, image by Claire POUTEAU.

Île Feydeau (Feydeau Island), image by Jibi44.

Nantes is the hometown of my sweet little Marie Zénobie Sternglass (later Sklar), one of the ensemble cast of my hiatused WIPs The Natural Splash of a Living Being and The Strongest Branches of Uprooted Trees, and in planned future books Sweet Miracles (late Forties-early Fifties Newark) and Aliyah After All These Years (2008). She also appears in my hiatused WIP Malchen and Pali and my handwritten magnum opus Cinnimin, first in 1954, and much later in 1997-98.

Marie is just the sweetest little thing. Even after everything she’s been through, she still remains sweet, naïve, innocent, hopeful. She owes her survival in large part to Dr. Caterina da Gama and Wolfram Engel, and she never forgets this. To sweet, naïve little Marie, it’s genuinely baffling why anyone would hate and abuse her angel Wolfram just because he was born gay. Wolfram becomes her surrogate father, even walking her up to the chupah on her wedding day and acting as her children’s grandfather.

One chapter of The Strongest Branches of Uprooted Trees takes place in Nantes in December 1945, after a long journey from Germany to Hungary, to Italy, and finally Marie’s belovèd France. Marie is eager to find her family and get back her family’s possessions from their old house, but it’s far from a happy homecoming. After finding some old family photos, getting back some things from a friend of her mother’s, and learning how her father died, she and her friends return to Paris.

City panorama from the port, image by Pepie34.

Fontaine de la Place Royale, Copyright Guillaume Piolle / CC-BY-3.0.

During the Nazi occupation, locals assassinated Lt. Col. Fritz Hotz, which resulted in the revenge killings of 48 civilian Nantais. Nantes was also bombed heavily by Americans on 16 and 23 August 1943.

Le Passage de la Pommeraye, image by Philippe Alès.

There are a lot of beautiful things to see and do in Nantes. The city is home to lots of beautiful old churches, the 13th century Château des Ducs de Bretagne, many historic public squares, art and history museums, many parks and gardens, the Jules Verne Museum, a natural history museum, a museum of Nantes history, the Thomas Dobrée archaeological museum, a planetarium, a naval museum, a sewing machine museum, a print and typography museum, many old houses and buildings, and an 18th century theatre and opera house.

Entrance to the Château des Ducs de Bretagne, image by Paravane, based on original image by Plindenbaum.

More information:

http://www.france.fr/en/regions-and-cities/nantes-former-capital-brittany

http://www.nantes.fr/home.html

http://en.nantes-tourisme.com/

http://www.chateau-nantes.fr/en/

http://www.nantesmetropole.fr/