The Silenced Walls
France, 88 min
In the Parisian suburb of Drancy lies an unadorned block of low-income housing. With some of the cheapest rents in the Paris region, it is the residence of some 500 impoverished retirees, recently homeless, and mentally disabled. On the surface everything seems normal enough, children improvise games beneath its stark façade. But what do the residents know of the site’s dark history? What would they say if they knew their home was haunted – by 80,000 ghosts? This documentary takes a look at the building that, in 1940, became the central internment camp for Jews during the Nazi occupation of France and is considered France’s biggest Shoah site. Nearly every Jew arrested in France came through its austere lodgings, most on their way to the death camps of Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. Known to Jews as the “antechamber of death,” it remains the most notorious Holocaust site in all of France, at once damned and sacred. But what does all this mean to the people who live there now? Is it possible to find happiness between the same walls that have born witness to such misery?
Through moving interviews with Holocaust survivors and fascinating archival footage from the 1940s, director Sabrina Van Tassel offers a compassionate look inside the walls of this housing project and raises important questions about the existence of this building. How could such a place still exist? And since it does exist, why didn’t it become a museum?
Sabrina Van Tassel
Director Sabrina Van Tassel Producer Joan Faggianelli Candice Souillac Valérie Montmartin Historical Consultant Serge Klarsfeld Editing Yann Leonarduzzi Original Music Olivier Adelen