Unforgettable afternoon with Ginette Kolinka, author of the book Retour à Birkenau

Unforgettable afternoon with Ginette Kolinka, author of the book Retour à Birkenau

On 19 December 2022, the students of 3ème and Terminale, their teachers and their parents enjoyed an unforgettable afternoon together with Ginette Kolinka, author of the book Retour à Birkenau (Return to Birkenau), adapted by the Acontratempo theatre company and performed in the Neander Church.

The audience was deeply moved by the remarkable performance of the actress, Capucine Derval, as the adaptation remained faithful to the original text. At the end of the performance, Ginette Kolinka, seated in the front row, joined Emily Lombi, the director, and Capucine Derval at the front of the stage to sing together the Song of the Swamps . The audience could sing together with them as they received the text at the entrance. A powerful moment. A tension was palpable in the room because we had before us a woman of a great age, who had managed to survive the Nazi hell, “by chance”, she said, and who for a long time had never been able to talk to anyone about, not even her own family. And there she was in front of us, emotional and glad to talk. Which she did for an hour, answering each of the students’ questions with her outspokenness. The students prepared their questions in advance with the help of their French and history teachers. And there she was in front of us, moved and happy to come and testify. Which she did for an hour, answering each of the students’ questions with her outspokenness. The students prepared their questions with the help of their French and history teachers. Excerpts from the book had been studied in class.

Impressed by Ginette Kolinka’s life, they asked her to describe what her daily life was like in Birkenau and what made it possible for her to return to normality in France after the war. They also asked her if she still felt hatred towards the Germans today.

To this question she answered with a message for the students, for all of us: the post-war generation is not to be held responsable for the past, moreover we need to accept others as they are, regardless of religious affiliation, cultural background, skin colour. And now that we have heard her story, she is counting on us to continue to carry on this message, so that what she experienced will never happen again. 

Ginette Kolinka honoured us with her very first visit to Germany, which touched us and made her testimony all the more powerful.

The entire audience was deeply impressed by Ginette Kolinka’s testimony and her person. A beautiful lesson in life.

All morning, on 20 December, a theatre workshop was offered to the students of 3e. The Acontratempo team challenged them to express their emotions using various techniques. Beforehand, however, they shared what they had experienced the day before. They felt in harmony with each other and could fully engage in the workshop.

These two days were particularly rich in strong emotions but also in insights. These thoughts will nourish the journey to Poland of the Terminale students and help them to have a better view, a different approach, in Birkenau.

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