RUE STE CATHERINE DURING THE 2nd WORLD WAR

Image

Location

The rue Sainte-Catherine has an east-west axis and is parallel of the Place des Terreaux, and therefore is in the historic center of Lyon, overlooking the Hôtel de Ville of the 1st arrondissement. This situation is relatively unusual because it is quite rare for a street with a bad reputation to be as close to the City Hall of a big city, to the richest shopping areas (rue Édouard-Herriot, rue de la République...), to the Opera Nouvel and to the Musée des beaux-arts de Lyon : this is a paradox indeed very representative of the spirit of the slopes of the Croix-Rousse quarter, which the last "flat" street before the slopes, the rue Sainte-Catherine, is the natural boundary, geographic alter ego of the Boulevard de la Croix-Rousse.

 

History

The street was first named rue de la Fontaine in the sixteenth century, as a source belonging to the Hospice de la Charité provided drinking water to the entire neighborhood, then rue de la Commission temporaire after 1793.

In 1680, a street and a place named Sainte-Catherine are attested, named after a treatment facility for orphans located on this square. There was indeed a hospital named St. Catherine Hospital, later replaced by the Adopted Daughters of Charity. The name of the street refers to St. Catherine of Alexandria, a saint much worshipped in the Middle Ages who died in 307 as martyr under Maximinus. The hospital was later occupied by the Duparc house.

The house named Le Dauphin, at No. 1, was owned by the Duke of Villeroy. In 1780, an ancient altar was found in the Hôtel des Quatre Nations, at No. 5, belonging to Jacques Imbert Colomès. At No. 9 to 13, the villa owned by Governor Philippianus had a household altar. The first silk mill in France was established in the street.

At the corner of the rue d'Algérie and the rue Saint-Marie-des-Terreaux, a statue of Catherine of Alexandria, carved in 1866 by Joseph-Hughes Fabisch to replace a seventeenth century work by Bridant, also recalls the memory of this hospital which depends the Hôpital de la Charité de Lyon. Over the centuries, several names were used (marché du Fillet, place du Fil, place Neuve-des-Carmes, rue du Forès) and another rue Sainte-Catherine is attested in 1831 in the 4th arrondissement (the current rue Saint-Charles-Francois-Lebrun). There was also a small rue Sainte-Catherine and a Grande rue Sainte-Catherine. On 4 August 1854, the Petite rue Sainte-Catherine became the rue Jean-François-Terme and the current rue Sainte-Catherine took its final name. The Place Sainte-Catherine was then included in the street of the same name. The No. 5 was, in 1868, the headquarters of the Fanfare Lyonnaise, led by Joseph Luigini. On 9 February 1943, the Germans arrested 86 people at the headquarters of the Union Générale des Juifs de France at No. 12.

Following the more restrictive measures taken by local authorities and the recent decision to renovate the neighborhood slopes (passage Thiaffait, montée de la Grande Côte...), it seems that the atmosphere of the rue Sainte-Catherine tends to evolve gradually to a relative calm and gentrification, since many bars are now closed and some of them are replaced by respectable pubs for middle-class youth, including the Shamrock. In addition, the inhabitants of the street complained about the presence of dealers.
Architecture and description

The street is short and wide to the west with a white building at No. 2, built around 1850. In the northern side, there are two big five-floor houses. After the No. 7, the street is more narrow and curved. The three to five-floor houses are old whose simple façades display some sculpted doors and archways.

The street is famous for its many bars, since its central position made it able to drain a large population which come from the Croix-Rousse as well as from the Presqu'île, from Saint-Jean and Saint-Paul quarters (by the bridge La Feuillée) and from the 6th arrondissement by the bridge Morand. The metro station "Hôtel de Ville" is served by A and C lines, and there are many buses until quite late, allowing the rue Sainte-Catherine to be much more active on night, and often even completely congested with people in the middle of the night. The street remains famous for its many bars and pubs (l'Abreuvoir, le Shamrock, le Perroquet Bourré, l'Albion, le Douala...), surrounded with kebabs and groceries shops. It is also known for its popular and festive atmosphere. There are also a mixed sauna and an hotel.

At 12, Rue Ste-Catherine

This site pays tribute to the 80 Jews deported first to the Camp in Drancy, and then to extermination camps. On 9 February 1943, the Guestapo arrested 86 people, including the two leaders of the Israelite general union. Two of them managed to escape on the way to the extermination camp. Only four people survived, and one of them, a little girl later was a witness at Klaus Barbie's trial.

The Israelite general union had premises at 12 rue Sainte Catherine. They were helping and hosting people, arriving in Lyon from other areas, without money.

Image
Image

French background

After the 1789 Revolution, France was the first European country to emancipate Jews, and despite periodic resurgences of anti-Semitism the country had Europe's second biggest Jewish community - 330,000 - by 1939. About half were recent refugees from elsewhere in Europe, convinced that they would be protected by France's commitments on political and religious asylum.

By the turn of the century, however, anti-Semitism was being encouraged by the anti-republican movement Action Française, which had a strong following in the Catholic Church, as well as in the army, civil service and the judiciary. The movement supported extremists who believed that Jews could never integrate into a Christian country and were potential traitors.

A virulent racist campaign intensified in 1936, when the Socialist Popular Front government was led by a Jewish prime minister, Léon Blum. His appointment added to the fears of those convinced that France was on the verge of a Bolshevik revolution, aided by Jews. These fears intensified, and dominated the French administration during the years of World War Two.

The lightning defeat of the French army by the Germans in June 1940 brought down the democratic Third Republic, which was replaced by a French state, headed by 84-year-old Maréchal Philippe Pétain, who had fought in World War One. He set up his capital at Vichy, a spa in the Auvergne. The Germans had divided France into occupied and non-occupied zones, leaving Pétain's administration in charge of about two-fifths of the country - including the cities of Lyon and Marseille.

Jewish Statute

Despite autonomy from German policies, Pétain brought in legislation setting up a Jewish Statute in October 1940. By then about 150,000 Jews had crossed what was known as the Demarcation Line to seek protection from Vichy in the south - only to find they were subjected to fierce discrimination along lines practised by the Germans in the north.

Jews were eventually banned from the professions, show business, teaching, the civil service and journalism. After an intense propaganda campaign, Jewish businesses were 'aryanised' by Vichy's Commission for Jewish Affairs and their property was confiscated. More than 40,000 refugee Jews were held in concentration camps under French control, and 3,000 died of poor treatment during the winters of 1940 and 1941. The writer Arthur Koestler, who was held at Le Vernet near the Spanish frontier, said conditions were worse than in the notorious German camp, Dachau.

During 1941 anti-Semitic legislation, applicable in both zones, was tightened. French police carried out the first mass arrests in Paris in May 1941 when 3,747 men were interned. Two more sweeps took place before the first deportation train provided by French state railways left for Germany under French guard on 12 March 1942.

On 16 July 1942, French police arrested 12,884 Jews, including 4,501 children and 5,802 women, in Paris during what became known as La Grande Rafle ('the big round-up'). Most were temporarily interned in a sports stadium, in conditions witnessed by a Paris lawyer, Georges Wellers.

'All those wretched people lived five horrifying days in the enormous interior filled with deafening noise, among the screams and cries of people who had gone mad, or the injured who tried to kill themselves', he recalled. Within days, detainees were being sent to Germany in cattle-wagons, and some became the first Jews to die in the gas chambers at Auschwitz.

Vichy crimes

Many historians consider that an even worse crime was committed in Vichy-controlled southern France, where the Germans had no say. In August 1942, gendarmes were sent to hunt down foreign refugees. Families were seized in their houses or captured after manhunts across the countryside. About 11,000 Jews were transported to Drancy in the Paris suburbs, the main transit centre for Auschwitz. Children as young as three were separated from their mothers - gendarmes used batons and hoses - before being sent to Germany under French guard, after weeks of maltreatment.

During 1942, officials sent 41,951 Jews to Germany, although the deportations came to a temporary halt when some religious leaders warned Vichy against possible public reaction. Afterwards, arrests were carried out more discreetly. In 1943 and 1944, the regime deported 31,899 people - the last train left in August 1944, as Allied troops entered Paris. Out of the total of 75,721 deportees, contained in a register drawn up by a Jewish organisation, fewer than 2,000 survived.

Revolt and aftermath

The number of dead would have been far higher if the Italian fascist leader, Benito Mussolini, had not ordered troops in France to defy German-French plans for mass round ups in Italian-occupied south-eastern France. Thousands were smuggled into Italy after Italian generals said that 'no country can ask Italy, cradle of Christianity and law, to be associated with these (Nazi) acts'.

After the Italian surrender in September 1943, arrests in the area restarted, but by then French public opinion had changed. Escape lines to Switzerland and Spain had been set up, and thousands of families risked death to shelter Jews. Since the war, Israel has given medals to 2,000 French people, including several priests, in recognition of this, and of the fact that about 250,000 Jews survived in France.

Post-war indifference to anti-Semitic persecution pushed the issue into the background until Serge Klarsfield, a Jewish lawyer whose Romanian father died in Germany, reawakened the national conscience. He tracked down the German chief of the Secret Service in Lyon, Klaus Barbie, who was hiding in Bolivia but was subsequently jailed for life in 1987. His case threw light on Vichy's complicity in the Holocaust.

Klarsfeld's efforts were frustrated by the Socialist president of France at this time, Francois Mitterrand, who had been an official at Vichy and was decorated by Pétain. It was not until 1992 that one of Barbie's French aides, Paul Touvier, who had been a minor figure in wartime France, was jailed for life for his crimes.

Facing facts

French courts, responding to Mitterrand's warnings that trials would cause civil unrest, blocked other prosecutions, including that of the Vichy police chief, René Bousquet, who organised the Paris and Vichy zone mass arrests. He was assassinated by a lone gunman in June 1993.

It was not until Mitterrand retired in 1995 that France began to face up to its responsibility in the persecution of Jews. When the new right-wing president, Jacques Chirac, came to power, he immediately condemned Vichy as a criminal regime and two years later the Catholic Church publicly asked for forgiveness for its failure to protect the Jews.

But the most significant step forward was the trial in 1997 of Maurice Papon for crimes concerning the deportation of Jews from Bordeaux. He had served as a cabinet minister after the war, before losing a 16-year legal battle to avoid trial. He was released from jail because of poor health, but his ten-year prison sentence has been interpreted as official recognition of French complicity in the Holocaust, although there are still those who continue to defend his actions.

Since the trial, France has opened up hidden archives and offered compensation to survivors - and ensured that schools, where history manuals used not to mention France's part in the deportations, now have compulsory lessons on Vichy persecution. While anti-Semitism is still a social problem in France, there is no official discrimination, and today's 600,000-strong Jewish community is represented at every level of the establishment, including in the Catholic Church, where the Archbishop of Paris is Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger.

In 1942, while on the run from the French police, Lustiger converted to Catholicism, but three years later was told that his mother had died in the Auschwitz gas chambers. It seems fitting that he presently occupies such an important position within French society.