At the Hour Between Dog and Wolf
This book is a fascinating psychological study of how—in the face of systemized terror—it can be not only possible but necessary to erase one’s own identity. Prior to 1941, young Danielle Marton lives a happy life with her parents in Paris. Her father is a professor and her mother a beauty who dotes on her only daughter. Then the Germans arrive. Like most others in the city, the Martons try to adjust to “occupied” life, but when Danielle’s father is shot in the streets, her mother whisks her away and installs her with a farming family in Vichy-controlled France. Danielle’s mother promises to return for her someday, but since she is Jewish, her chances are slim.
With her red hair and “Scottish” looks, Danielle can easily pass as the orphaned niece of Claude and Berthe, a devout Catholic couple. She no longer shops for pretty clothes; instead, she milks the cow and does other chores on the farm. She attends school, goes to church where she takes communion, and makes friends. The reader cannot help but hope that Danielle will adapt to her new life and stay safe, but that hope eventually turns to horror as Danielle fully embraces her new identity as Marie-Jeanne and internalizes the anti-Semitic rhetoric she constantly hears until she is indistinguishable from those who turn their backs on the persecuted Jews.
This book is a lesson in how hate infiltrates a community, turning neighbors into informers, cowing ordinary people into making the shoddiest of bargains—their souls for a morsel of bread and the promise of another day. Ison skillfully shows how a segment of the French population came to believe that the Nazis were their saviors.