French resistance fighters from different backgrounds, they were deported to Ravensbrück, in Germany, the largest Nazi concentration camp for women. By chance, but also thanks to unfailing solidarity, they survived. Once released, the question that was both fundamental and complex arose: how to return to a normal life after such an experience?

This poignant documentary by Natacha Giler looks, through the testimonies of four Ravensbrück survivors, on this return of darkness and the immense difficulties encountered in the life afterward within their family, at work, in the street, everywhere. In a France that no longer wants to hear about past misfortunes, the words of a deportee are not expected, much less heard.

“When I came back, I was skinny, not skeletal. But what struck everyone was the look. A look from beyond the grave. We told my older sister: with a look like that, your little sister, in eight days she will be dead,” testifies Marie-Josée Chombart de Lauwe, who stayed in Ravensbrück between the ages of 20 and 22, in one of the many filmed archives dating from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, which also make this documentary rich.

Lucide, Marie-Claude Vaillant-Couturier (1912-1996), who will testify to the horrors of the camp at the Nuremberg trials (1945-1946), writes: “I believe that after the war, the world will suffer from a moral crisis. » Another lucid view, that of Gisèle Guillemot (1922-2013): “Our return to life will undoubtedly be that of solitude. » In fact, between deportees and their relatives, we do not understand each other. “I didn’t care about the restrictions. Queuing for sugar or coffee was out of the question. When I saw these queues, I thought of the endless calls from the camp. And my mother didn’t understand that,” recalls Gisèle Guillemot.

Indifference from former colleagues

Happy to return to work in her factory, Thérèse Menot (1923-2009) is confronted with the indifference of her former colleagues. Not a question, not a look. “I cried about it. » The ghosts often come up against the wall of silence, the “we too were unhappy with the restrictions”.

Still young girls in the camp, they enter as women into a patriarchal society that is not interested in historical reality. Starting a new life, having children? “We have all had problems in our lives as women,” summarizes one of the survivors. To avoid sinking into depression, some come together, like within the Ravensbrück Association, where fraternity and human warmth reign.

Being together feels good, but sometimes it’s not enough. What remains is the fight, the activism in favor of women’s rights as within the Union of French Women or the International Democratic Federation of Women. Survivors are fighting to be heard on behalf of everyone else.