No Place to Lay One’s Head by Françoise Frenkel
Some people have dreams of opening and running a bookshop. For Françoise Frenkel this was her dream She loved books when she was growing up. In No Place to Lay One’s Head (Pushkin Press) is Françoise’s memoir. A Jewish woman born in Poland opened her bookshop La Masion du Livre which was a French bookshop in Berlin in 1921. A dream come true. Her memoir was published in 1945 in Geneva to a small press but then was discovered in a flea market Nice in 2010.
Françoise was obsessed with books when she was growing up in Poland then after her studies she started as a bookseller before opening her own bookshop. The came Adolf Hitler and the birth of National Socialism. Soon Jews in Germany became a target and shops owned and run by Jews became a target. Then came Kristallnacht (shards of broken glass in the streets) when shops and property were targeted. In July 1939 in fear for her life she fled Berlin leaving behind her beloved French bookshop and headed for Paris. Then as the war engulfed France she had to leave Paris and then it was a case of moving from one safe house to another to escape the round-up of those Jews in Vichy France who fled to this part of France to seek safety. For Françoise she missed this by just moments. Now she needed to find somewhere to hide and then escape before she was arrested and then sent to a concentration camp.
There was of course those in Vichy France who would easily tell the authorities of her whereabouts but at the same time there was those who bravely hid those Jewish men, women and children knowing too well if caught they would be tortured and then killed.
It was June 1943 that with help Françoise managed to cross the border and arrived in Switzerland. She was safe. It was here she sought solace in writing No Place to Lay One’s Head and was published in September 1945. Only selling a small number of copies. Françoise Frenkel’s memoir was then discovered in a flea market in France in 2010 and translated into English. Though there is no mention of Françoise’s husband who was captured by the Nazis and was murdered at Auschwitz during 1942.
This is a truly heartbreaking memoir written just after she escaped France to neutral Switzerland. It is also an astonishing read and one I could not put down once I had started and after I had finished I wanted to know more about Françoise Frenkel. This is a book that cries out to be read and No Place to Lay One’s Head is highly recommended.
In the years that followed the war I can only hope that Françoise found the peace she craved. Françoise Frenkel died in Nice, France in January 1975.
Thank you Tabitha Pelly for the review copy of No Place to Lay One’s Head by Françoise Frenkel
No Place to Lay One’s Head by Françoise Frenkel was published by Pushkin Press and was published on 31st January 2018 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.