In “It’s me, François”, the friendship between the survivor of the camps Edith Bruck and the pope


In the orderly abundance of her Roman apartment, Edith Bruck stands upright, surrounded by a lifetime of reading and a few souvenirs hanging on the walls. Sitting at her table, she puts a little milk in her coffee and lights a long thin cigarette. At 91, the writer sometimes lets her face light up with a beautiful amused air.

But when her blue gaze crosses the living room, to cling to two seven-branch chandeliers placed one above the other in the library, her voice is wrapped in a particular tenderness. “The big one is mine. The little one was given to me by François. » This is how Edith Bruck speaks of the pope, as of an old acquaintance. And, from her eyes that have seen through the darkest of nights, she draws a smile as she recalls the beautiful incongruity of this belated friendship. “Una cosa stranissima”, she said, “one of the strangest things”.

His latest book translated from Italian, It’s me, Francois (Editions du Sous-Sol), has just been published in France. In this brief account of her meeting with the sovereign pontiff in February 2021 and the ties they have maintained since then, she recounts the happy collision, the sensitivity and the concern for the past between two humanities that nothing disposed to cross. On the one hand, an Argentine prelate who became pope, inhabited by the search for a dialogue between religions and by the value of forgiveness. On the other, the Jewish atheist, one of the last witnesses of the Holocaust, born in Hungary, in the forgotten retreat of a central Europe with mixed languages ​​and bloody borders, arrived in Italy in 1954, after years of wandering across a crumbling continent.

A long writing task

“At the origin of our meeting, there is a book”, recalls Edith Bruck. French toastpublished in 2021 (Babelio), was very successful in Italy. It retraces the abduction through the story of the ordinary existence led as a child by Edith Bruck, the last-born of a large and poor family. She recounts her deportation, the experience of the camps, at Auschwitz then at Bergen-Belsen, and the impossibility of rediscovering the course of her life among those who, even close friends, did not want to know or hear anything.

“He asked forgiveness for the martyrdom of the Jews. I told him that I appreciated his gesture, but that I could not be alone invested with the forgiveness of millions of dead. » Edith Bruck

“In an interview published in the Vatican daily, L’Osservatore Romano, after the publication of the book, I described the pope in these terms: “a man, in the noblest, highest sense of the term”. » Touched by her words, the pope asks to see her and a first interview takes place with Edith Bruck. “He asked forgiveness for the martyrdom of the Jews”, remembers the writer. She pauses. “I told him that I appreciated his gesture, but that I could not be alone invested with the forgiveness of millions of dead. »

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