Benjamin Schlevin

The French anti-Semitism forges a fairly curious picture, sometime as  the Jewish filthy usurer, sometimes as a wealthy banker, sometimes as intellectual dilettante, it must be present as a way of parasite greedy and unable to work with his hands, unable to live and die for an ideal.
In this dangerous nonsense, Benjamin Schlevin opposes a quiet strength, very simple reality. The environment in which he introduces us is little-known from French people, however represents a significant fraction of Judaism. These are the countless foreign Jewish workers who fled pogroms in Eastern Europe; yet so common during the interwar period, and sought an asylum in our country, better than asylum: a chance to live like men. These are workers, and these  work hard with their hands, they are beings sometimes raised by a passion of human brotherhood, and ready to sacrifice everything for their ideals. Jostled by police, fired and hauling, treated as pariahs, they still felt welcomed, accepted, they more or less vaguely recognized the depth of French liberty and they offered body and soul to France ...
Benjamin Schlevin is itself one of the "Jews of Belleville." Born in Brest-Litovsk in 1913, admitted to the École Normale of Teachers of Wilno (Vinius), he could not support the anti-Semitic atmosphere that poisoned Poland at that time; he fled and came to settle in France, country of human rights, freedom, and dignity. And as journeyman printer he earned his living. Yes, this academic intellectual, this writer with already an abundant literary work, worked as a laborer ...
In 1939, Schlevin engaged in the French army and campaigned in the infantry at “23 ème Regiment de Marche des Volontaires Etrangers”, after which it was taken in captivity until May 1945, in a camp in Bavaria. Again, we see the writer who testifies. No gap between him and the foreigners that he depicts, nor between him and the mass of the French population.  A full community of destiny, with exemplary value...
Belleville ... For us, the name called the image of the popular Paris of worker, with his suburban accent, his banter very French ...


Extract from the preface of the book "The Jews of Belleville" of
By Roger Benjamin Schlevin Ikor (Prix Goncourt 1955)