Thursday, January 08, 2015

Georges Wolinski z"l recalls his Tunis roots

With thanks: Ahuva

A la découverte du Maghreb - Retour de Georges... by Lezinlesautres A la découverte du Maghreb - Retour de Georges...

 As reported on Point of No Return, one of the victims of the Paris attack on the editorial offices of Charlie Hebdo was the cartoonist Georges Wolinski, who was born in Tunis 80 years ago.

He left for France in 1947 and became one of the country's best known cartoonists. A few years ago, Georges revisited his roots in this programme for French television.

 The programme (French) is mainly a visual tour of Tunisia's main landmarks and history, but it gives a few personal insights into Georges Wolinski's background. He was brought up together with his sister by his maternal grandparents, who owned a patisserie: his father, a Polish Jew, was murdered by a disgruntled ex-employee when Georges was a toddler. His mother, a Tunisian Jewess of Italian extraction, Lola Benbaron, was absent for much of his childhood, being treated in France for tuberculosis.

 His grandparents' patisserie, Chez les Negres, no longer exists. The house they used to rent on the beach at La Marsa is no longer there. Nor does much of what Georges remembers. But some places remain, like his childhood haunt Le Cafe Safsal.

The camel is still there, tethered to a well. It used to draw the water from the well for the customers. But today, the well is polluted and the camel stands as a reminder of how things used to be.

 Georges lived through the Nazi occupation of Tunisia: some 5,000 Jews were interned in labour camps. He witnessed the US and Allied invasion in 1943. While other children approached the GIs for chocolate, Georges was cleverer: "Johnny, do you have any comics?"  he asked. And so began his passion for cartoon strips.

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