Jacques Fesch was living the American dream. Except he wasn’t living in America. He was living in France. His Belgian-born father was a bank president. The family was wealthy and lived in an exclusive district of Paris. Fancy vacations, private schools, luxury goods. That was his life. “He was living the perfect life!” said his peers.
Except that he wasn’t. His family life was “utterly wretched,” he reported later. “The father bears a heavy weight of responsibility,” said his wife of her father-in-law. They were “frightful parents” said a childhood friend of Jacques. A sensitive boy, he grew up in a negative atmosphere, with no love or respect shown by the parents to each other. Or to the children. His father, an atheist, was full of charm with others, but cynical and harsh with the family, particularly his son, Jacques. His mother was a defeated, depressed woman.
Jacques “absorbed all this into his psyche.” He became an atheist in his teens. Referring to his religious upbringing, he recalled, “It was as though I grew up in a stable.” At the age of seventeen he was expelled from a Jesuit High school. He married at twenty and had an infant daughter. The couple separated after two years of marriage and he then moved back home with his mother. His parents had divorced by this time. Jacques felt like a failure and was overwhelmed by a feeling of lassitude and despair.