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And the Omnie for Most Regrettable Omission From an Otherwise Excellent Film...
Posted Feb 15,2008

La Vie En Rose follows French singer Edith Piaf from her birth in 1915 to her death in 1963. There are extraordinary highs, like the huge success of her signature song, "La Vie En Rose." There are devastating lows, like the untimely death of the love of her life, boxer Marcel Cerdan. But there is nothing – rien -- about Piaf's greatest accomplishment: saving lives.

During World War II, when Germany occupied France, French citizens could not move around freely, either within their country or without. But the Germans made exceptions for musicians they loved—and no one was more beloved than Edith. In fact, as University of Wales history professor Julian Jackson writes in his book France: The Dark Years, the Germans loved Piaf so much they allowed her travel to Germany to sing for French prisoners of war.

During that visit, says Piaf's sister-in-law Christie Laume, the "Little Sparrow" gained permission to have her picture taken with the prisoners. Piaf returned to France with the photos of the prisoners and, with the help of some unknown Resistance members, quickly had the images enlarged and used for passports. Within weeks, Piaf returned to perform at the camp again, smuggling these passports to the prisoners.  Laume could not say exactly how the scheme was hatched, or how the passports were used. It seems Piaf took more than one secret to the grave with her.

That being said, Piaf did explain to Laume why she risked her life to save others.

"She said, 'It's nothing. It was the normal thing to do, and I was one who could do it,'" recalled Laume. "She was very human, and she had a big heart for the French people."

In the intervening years, some critics attacked Piaf for entertaining the German forces. Laume dismisses such criticism. "I know she was not with the Germans," Laume says. "She was with the French people."

-Amy McKeever

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