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Une Fleur Au Chapeau

Analysis and contextual notes by D. Zisl Slepovitch.
All songs transcribed, translated, scored, arranged, and produced by Dmitri Zisl Slepovitch.

Biography

Henri G. (HVT-2096) was born in Poland in 1925, one of four children. He recalls moving with his family to Danzig when he was about five, then to Paris in 1932 due to an antisemitic attack on his father; forming lifelong friendships in his Jewish neighborhood; attending public school; learning Yiddish and German songs from his father; evacuation when war began in 1939, then returning home; evacuation with his family to Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne after German invasion in 1940; returning to Paris in early 1941; his father’s arrest in May; visiting him once in Pithiviers; his older brother traveling to the unoccupied zone using false papers; a non-Jewish family hiding his younger sister; visiting his girlfriend; obtaining false papers; traveling with his younger brother to join their older brother in Castres; the local rabbi placing them in a Joint program in Lautrec; writing to his girlfriend daily; forming a resistance unit with eight friends in 1943; receiving parachute drops from British and United States planes; expansion of their unit to approximately 400; a German attack in which eight of them were killed; requisitioning supplies from civilians; dynamiting an SS train; liberating Castres; punishing local collaborators; joining the French military; battles up to the crossing of the Rhine; demobilization in October 1945; learning his girlfriend, her family, and his parents had been deported and what that meant; seeking her in Alençon; her return to Paris; their marriage; futile attempts to get his parents’ apartment back (they did not survive); and his daughter’s birth. Mr. G. discusses his wife’s nightmares; silence about those who had been deported for many years after the war; and listening to his wife, but not asking her questions, not wanting to cause her pain.

Unedited Testimony

Une Fleur Au Chapeau (A Flower on The Hat)

Music and lyrics: possibly anonymous or William Lemit (first publication by him, 1938); arrangement: D. Zisl Slepovitch.

Henri G. (HVT-2096) was born in 1925 in Rawa Mazowiecka, Poland, 77km (48 miles) southwest of Warsaw. At the age of 5 or 6, he moved with his parents to Gdańsk (Danzig). Then, in 1932, due to constant antisemitic attacks by Hitler Youth, Henri’s father decided to move to Paris, where Henri lived until the war broke out. In his testimony, Henri tells a story of how he and his brother escaped Nazi-occupied Paris:

…I had food ration cards, the paper for traveling, the Petain insignia, a backpack… I was ready to go. Before leaving I emptied all the drawers of photos, my mother’s little furs, the eiderdown, my father's watch, diploma and military papers, and I made a package with an address in the Free Zone, and my friends sent it to me in the Free Zone where my older brother received it. The same friends, not Jewish, or some half-and-half, from the Platzle, sold the remaining canned food so I could have some bread and money for the trip. My little brother was with me, we went to the Gare d'Austerlitz, and I told him, "Sing like me. Sing 'Une fleur au chapeau.’” From far away you could see the soldiers separating families with suitcases: … you didn't need to be antisemitic to see that any family looking worried with a lot of suitcases was a group of Jews. We kept singing, looked straight ahead, and got on the train. The Germans were patrolling the train, "Papers, please." I told my little brother, who was 14, “Ok, you sleep, and leave everything to me." So, when the soldiers demanded the paper, I handed it over smiling, saying "Back to nature." With the Petain insignia, the uniform, the songs, it was clear that I was headed for the work [summer] camp. "Gut, Gut," they replied. We went to Dax, there were supposed to be contacts and people to help us, we didn't have money, and no one helped us. We were still in Occupied Territory there.

With this particular musical arrangement, the Zisl Slepovitch Ensemble not only performs the scout song remembered by the survivor, Henri G., but also attempts to convey the feigned carelessness of the two teenagers running for their lives from occupied Paris.

1. Vous qui nous regardez passer
Dans le soleil et sous l’orage
Peut-être que vous pensez
Que nous avons bien du courage
Pour ainsi nous harasser
A courir le long des routes
Vous ne savez ce que c’est
Vous n’aurez jamais sans doute…

REFRAIN:
Une fleur au chapeau
A la bouche une chanson
Un cœur joyeux et sincère
Et c’est tout ce qu’il faut
A nous filles et garçons
Pour aller au bout de la terre.

2. O comme nous serions heureux
Si nous pouvions la vie entière
Courir par les chemins ombreux
Ou sur les routes des familières
Depuis les sommets neigeux
Jusqu’au bord des mers profondes
A travers nos cris joyeux
Nous dirions au vaste monde…

REFRAIN.

3. Hélas il n’en est pas ainsi
Et notre tâche est plus aride
Mais il nous faut du cœur aussi
Il nous faut des bras solides
Pour combattre sans merci
La laideur et la paresse
A travers lutte et souci
Il nous faut garder sans cesse…

REFRAIN.

1. You who watch us marching
Under the sun or in the storm,
Perhaps you think
That we have a lot of courage
To exhaust us
As we are walking down the roads.
You don’t know what it is
You will probably never…

CHORUS:
A flower in a hat,
A song that we sing,
A joyful and sincere heart.
And that’s all it takes us, boys,
To travel to the end of earth.

2. Ah how happy we would be
If we could, our whole lives,
Be walking – either dusty trails
Or familiar roads,
From the snowy peaks
To the edge of deep seas.
And with our joyful song,
We would say to the whole wide world:

CHORUS.

3. Alas, this is not how it is,
And our task is hard.
You need a big heart,
As well as strong arms—
To fight without hesitation,
Without being mean and lazy.
Through all our struggles and worries
We must constantly keep…

CHORUS.