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Saturday, May 07, 2005

Our Landlord

Our landlord stopped by yesterday. After our little problem with water damage (leaks from a poorly installed shower above us) we have seen him quite regularly. He apologized for being late, but he said he was tired because he just got back to Paris. He had just returned from Germany where he had been a guest of the German government for the commemoration of the liberation of the concentration camps.

About a year ago, he wrote us a letter -- which he does fairly often to conduct routine business -- and digressed by saying that it had been 60 or so years ago that day that the Gestapo had arrested him at 6:00am in the apartment we now occupied. We knew that he had been a career officer in the French army and that he had fought during World War II for the resistance. We did not know that, in fact, he was sent to a concentration camp for his involvement. This year he was back with 10,000 other German camp survivors. He reminisced a little and said it was painful to relive the memories but it was nice to meet up with a fellow inmate whom he hadn't seen in 20 years.

He loves Americans because he lived through WWII and knew the part we played in helping France. Our landlord was released from his camp the day after Hitler committed suicide. He said the doors were "just opened" that day. One of the first people he saw after his release was an American soldier, there to help.

He is -- and this is no exaggeration -- one of the nicest, most considerate and happiest people you will ever meet. After last summer's vacation he stopped by with a bottle of champagne to welcome us back and more specifically, to commemorate the 60th anniversary of D-Day, when the allied troops landed in Normandy.

When he gave us the champagne, I asked if he had a nice time at his country home, where he goes with his extended family every summer. He said, no, he did not go because his wife's health was just too fragile and she needed to be close to a hospital. I said that I was very sad for him since he couldn't be with his family but he looked at me with a big grin and laughed "Why? I'm old!" I have taken a life lesson from him. I can only imagine that at the age of 20 he was sitting in a work camp physically and emotionally beaten, fully believing that he wasn't going to make it home alive. Today, he is absolutely thrilled to be old. I hope I'll have the same attitude when I reach his age.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
10:21 PM

14 comments

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Comments:
THIS is precisely why I am so eager to experience living abroad... Americans have a very short history, comparitively speaking, and we're extremely spoiled by all the material things we take for granted. When you step outside your door and make the effort to immerse yourself in another culture as more than a "just passin' through" typical American tourist, just look at what you can learn, and how it can broaden your perspective. How wonderful that you got to know this particular proud fran├žais! You must feel very fortunate to have gotten to know him. C'est merveilleux!

# posted by Lisa : 11:30 PM  

That's a really great story, Auntie. When I at first read the title and saw "Landlord," I expected something negative to say the least!

He sounds like a fabulous person, and I always love meeting people like that. They make quite an impression on you!

# posted by Joe : 3:15 AM  

I can't believe he was arrested in the apartment you lived in!!! That's so eerie. It makes me think of your apartment differently. It's neat that you have someone so close to you that has lived through that part of history. I agree with Lisa---we totally take our freedom for granted.
CMAC

# posted by Anonymous : 3:16 AM  

As I read this story I was reminded of turning 40....people were commiserating that I was "over the hill". I looked each one in the eye, and said I will treasure each year that I grow older. Not that I survived the holocaust, but I beat cancer 17 years ago!!! So I am thrilled to be growing older. Your landlord has a wonderful outlook on life.

# posted by Sue : 3:49 AM  

What a lovely story. How brave he must have been and to be glad to be old. Definately a lesson there.

# posted by BohemianMama : 7:04 AM  

Hello Auntie M! Thanks for stopping by my humble abode ;0) Nice to meet new peeps! Coming from a military family, we have many who are grateful to be around still. I can't imagine what they went through...I do know a lot more goes on than what we hear in the news. I'll be curious to hear about this war in about 10 years and what "really" happened. Off to check out your trip to Egypt!

# posted by J&J'sMom : 2:59 PM  

What a lovely thing to post about your landlord. He brought you chamagne! What a gentleman.
Have a lazy, productive, indulgent day (whichever you choose!)

Kismet.blogs.com

~K!

# posted by Anonymous : 5:45 PM  

This is a wonderfully touching story. I think that your landlord really likes your family, likes you (you listen!)and is happy to see a wonderful family in place of his memories of his place. Reminds me of the book on your list, Wine and War.

Nice to hear a good landlord story - in these parts when that word is mentioned, it's usually means "oh-oh". Terry in SF

# posted by Anonymous : 5:47 PM  

I loved this story. My landlord here in Venice, CA, also very nice, is European -- English, actually. I think there's much to be said, and I'll generalize, for the European way of living and doing business. Not the socialist stuff, but the person-to-person stuff. My landlord's girlfriend threw a party for his 50th birthday at a sushi restaurant, everything paid for, and invited me. Then again, I don't have the typical tenant relationship, perhaps, because I always write a little note to both of them with my rent check. Just can't see dropping the check in the mail as if it's going straight to the bank with no human contact. Also, I live in a darling antique house in Venice Beach (trying to trade for Paris in July FYI!) and I'm careful to let my landlord know when there's a leak during rainy season or some other problem that might damage it. Perhaps, Terry in SF, regarding the notion that all landlords are evil, you get back what you give!

# posted by Amy Alkon : 6:05 PM  

Lisa, It is one of the reasons I like living abroad too. I've really met some interesting people from all over the world.
Joe, If you can believe it, he just stopped by and brought a bottle of champagne to celebrate Victory in Europe (VE) day -- May 8!! He is so thoughtful!
CMAC, It is a bit weird to think the Gestapo came to the apartment.
Sue, It certainly does put turning 40 years into perspective.
BM, I can't even imagine.
J&J, I'd guess that those families with loved ones in the military would appreciate each day more than the rest of us.
K, He really is a gentleman. That's a perfect word for him. Thanks for stopping by.
Terry, I think he kind of likes us too. I hope so, at least.
Amy, How nice that you write notes. It's a lost art. I can't believe you got invited to the 50th birthday party. The landlord must really like you!

# posted by Auntie M in Paris : 6:44 PM  

Hello Aunti M!

I have to say I think about the Resistance a great deal these days.

If your resistance succeeds, then you are called a freedom fighter in the resistance. If however you fail, then you are called an insurgent at best and a terrorist at worst. I am happy your landlord is remembered as a member of the resistance.

I am sad for others who have had war visited upon them and do not have much support ...

BTW Auntie M, I wrote to you once before, I am the mom in Palo Alto with the children at the French school there. I have started a blog, only two entries so far...

# posted by Moms' Style : 11:31 PM  

I absolutely love that story. Bless you for re-telling it. I learned so much in Germany about the war. It was so eye- opening...that is for sure.
Your blog rocks, Auntie...

# posted by Candygirl : 12:43 AM  

What a great story... that made me smile and tear a bit. What a wonderful friend you have made. And to be living in the apt he was arrested in... wow. I bet he has so many more wonderful stories to tell.

# posted by Flare : 1:32 PM  

what a lovely man ... and a sweet and encouraging story.

# posted by Becca : 3:12 AM  

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