The first chapter of Jacques Lévi's "From Vichy to Jerusalem" sets the stage and outlines the historical context of his first 3 years of life. Soon after he is born, Walter and Hilde (his father and mother), refugees from Hitler's Germany, have to reckon with Germany's invasion of France and the inauguration of a collaborationist Vichy regime in Southern France. Fears quickly escalate as anti-Semitic Vichy laws go into effect. Jews who sought refuge in France from Germany are among the first to suffer; they are persecuted and interned in French camps, sending the Lévi family into hiding.
The family owes its survival to righteous individuals and families who kept their secret, who helped them live, and kept them safe. Jacques' story includes childhood memories of this time, fleshed out with the help of his parents' memories. He speaks of his growing understanding of the Holocaust history, against the backdrop of war and cruelty and terror in which his life unfolded. Even as he faces his emergent understanding of France's participation in the Holocaust, Jacques is quintessentially French for most (if not all) of his life. He retains his love of French culture and literature even after emigrating to Israel. Of events after coming out of hiding and the war's end, Jacques tells how his mother and father experienced a true liberation, the freedom from terror and the freedom to begin life anew, which they did in Lyon, France. Jacques is soon at an age when he can, from his own memories, detail his early school experiences, describing his friends and teachers (complete with class pictures). Jacques fills us in on his relationship with his Mom and Dad and their family friends. Those relations are sometimes tense, especially with his father, especially so as he makes decisions (or as decisions are urged upon him) about life after high school.
The tensions follow him through higher education at a prestigious school in Paris, and beyond. Nevertheless, it is through his schooling and school friendships that his awareness of the contradictions between being Jewish and being French slowly come into focus. It is then that he begins to reevaluate France, to find and appreciate his Jewish roots. This leads him to a wish to know more about Israel. This leads him to meeting his wife-to-be, her family and, to life in Israel. None of this is without tribulations, which Jacques confesses with great honesty. He takes us though these latter years to their denouement.