Men Or Rats
In fear of the Nazis and their destruction of the Jews, Simonne Jameson's parents choose her out of their three children to go with the police commissioner who promised to protect her. The rest of the family fled to Bordeaux. Twelve-year-old Simonne was hidden in a rat infested cellar at the National Library in Paris. She was protected in the sense that the Nazis never found her, but she suffered in other ways. There was never enough food, and sometimes there was no food at all. Simonne was terribly lonely, but when she was visited it was usually by police officers who were not there to help her, but rather to rape her. Enduring these horrific conditions was only bearable because of the books stored in the cellar, which she read, and the rats that lived there too. The books gave her a passion for psychotherapy, art and more books and the treatment she received meant that when Simonne was released from the cellar in September 1944, she was determined to do what she could to stop child abuse. Today, Simonne Jameson was nominated for the Australian of the Year in 2006 and was awarded the Gold Medal of France for services to humanity. She is the Director of the Children's Rights Foundation and of Art Sans Frontieres Gallery, a related non-profit organisation. To buy this book, contact her directly to ensure that all profits are used to help other children who are suffering.
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It's not often I read a book that is so compelling I couldn't put down. The book "Men or Rats" by Simonne Levi-Jameson is an incredible autobiography of Dr. Simonne Levi-Jameson as a child during the holocaust.
Out of the Darkness
By Lexi Landsman
Australia Jewish News
June 8, 2007
SHE was only 12, but she can still recall the rotten smell of the wood, the musty dry air, the dust, the perpetual darkness and the rats.
More than six decades later, Dr Simonne Jameson, who now lives in Melbourne, still cannot shake the memories of her three years living in hiding in an underground cellar of the National Library in Paris during the Holocaust.
She tries to forget about the daily rapes, the small food rations, the loneliness and the unwavering fear.
Instead, she focuses on the books, which she says “kept my sanity and gave me a refuge from reality”.
Dr Jameson’s parents chose her out of their three children to send into hiding, after a police commissioner convinced them that he would “protect” her.
Her parents fled with her younger brother and older sister to Bordeaux to escape deportation, leaving young Simonne behind.
Within days of hiding in the rat-infested cellar, the rapes by pedophile police began and continued daily for three years.
“I remember the books and the rats,” she recalls. “The books kept me alive. They gave me an escape from the pain and abuse, and gave me some hope and optimism.”
Dr Jameson says she always had a feeling that she would survive and so she found solace in the philosophical books, which were kept in the cellar. A particular favourite was Candide by French philosopher Voltaire, which she credits as helping her survive.
It was during those three years of living in captivity that Dr Jameson discovered her passion for psychotherapy, art and books.
Since then, Dr Jameson, now 79, has taken that passion and become a renowned psychotherapist, child psychologist, art critic, philanthropist and author.
She vowed from the moment she left the confines of the cellar that she would dedicate her life to helping children of abuse. And in 64 years, Dr Jameson has gone far beyond her word.
In 1981, she founded the Children’s Rights Foundation (CRF), which provides free therapeutic services to disadvantaged families, and later the Arts Sans Frontieres, an art gallery where all profits go towards helping abused children.
In 2003, she released a memoir of her experiences called Men or Rats. The book will be made into a Hollywood film later this year. Directed by Mark Medoff (producer of Children of a Lesser God and City of Joy), the film will star Thomas Haden Church, Anna Paquin and Alfred Molina. The role of Dr Jameson has yet to be cast.
“It’s good that people will be able to know that you can survive anything. I hope that the film will send a positive message.”
DR Jameson was born in 1928 in France in the annex of the National Library, where her father worked.
Twelve years later the place of her birth would become her prison.
“I had a very rich life before the war. I met lots of authors at the library and I was always a positive, trusting person. I was always optimistic,” she recalls.
Dr Jameson slept between two bookshelves in the library on a metal military bed. She was fed a small ration of bread and water each day. Some days she went without any food at all. The only human contact she had was with the French police officers who sexually abused her. And apart from the abuse, she was also fearful of the rats.
“The rats were very big and I feared that they would attack me one day but they never did. I think in some way, the rats adopted me as one of their own.”
In her first few months in the cellar, Dr Jameson became critically ill. She recalls overhearing a conversation between the officers discussing what they would do with her dead body.
“I never thought about escaping,” she explains. “One of the officers had shown me a bar of soap and he said