French places of memory
As defined in Les lieux de mémoire (Places of memory), a collective work in three volumes edited by Pierre Nora between 1984 and 1992, a “place of memory” combines historical concepts and physical manifestations: a monument, a place or a symbol, concrete or ideal, which participates in the constitution of collective identity. Some of them reflect significant events of the past, often occurring in a dramatic context, of which the community wanted to preserve the memory.
The memory of the internment and deportation of Jews in France, which led 76,000 of them to their death, is preserved through several memorial sites in France.
67,000 Jews passed through the Drancy camp, a hub that sent them on to the extermination camps. 70,000 others were interned in camps in the provinces. Some of these camps disappeared from the landscape in the years following World War II, and sometimes much later (the camp of La Lande, for example, was razed in 1970). However, others have been restored to be transformed into places of memory.
Following are the principal sites.
The Shoah Memorial (PARIS)(cc)CarlosEspejo
The Shoah Memorial (Drancy, SEINE SAINT DENIS)©Bertrand Guay AFP
The Memorial of the Deportation (Paris)(cc)groume
The Memorial of Vernet-d’Ariège Internment Camp (Le Vernet, southwest France)(cc)thierry llansades
Camp des Milles Memorial Site (Les Milles, southern France)©civs
The Camp des Milles Memorial Site was inaugurated 10 September 2012 by Mr Jean-Marc Ayrault, Prime Minister. On the site of the former camp, it serves as both history museum and memorial site, while fulfilling its missions to inform, document, research and debate.
The Museum of Memory (Portet-sur-Garonne, southwest France)©civs
The memorial site, located in a former building of the Récébédou camp, was inaugurated in 2003. Its museum houses a permanent exhibition, a scale model of the camp and temporary exhibitions. It also allows on-site consultation of books about the internment camps.
Internment and Deportation Memorial of Compiègne - Royallieu camp (Compiègne, north of Paris)©Philippe Huguen AFP
The memorial was inaugurated on 23 February 2008. Three of the former camp buildings have been preserved and can be visited. Additionally, ten exhibition rooms trace the history of the camp during World War II. The site also includes a documentation centre and a scientific space that houses multiple archives.
Gurs internment camp (Gurs, southwest France)©Gaizka Iroz AFP
A national memorial was inaugurated there in 1994.
The Camp de Rivesaltes Memorial (Rivesaltes, southwest France)©Frederic Hedelin Only France
Erected on the grounds of one sector of the camp, the Camp de Rivesaltes Memorial opened in June 2015. Covering 4,000 square metres, it includes temporary and permanent exhibition spaces, an auditorium and several documentation centres.
The Departmental Archives of the Pyrénées Orientales have made the resources concerning internees accessible
Montluc Prison National Memorial (Lyon, eastern France)©Philippe Merle AFP
Mr François Fillon, Prime Minister, inaugurated the Memorial in 2010.
For more information (downloadable PDF brochure)
Site of the Former Natzweiler-Struthof Camp (Natzweiler, eastern France)(cc)Bram Cymet
The National Deportation Memorial, a 41 metre high monument designed by architect Bertrand Monnet, was erected in 1960 on the grounds of the former camp.
The Thil work camp, about 200 km to the north, was an annex of Struthof from May to September 1944. Located near a mine, it was concerned with the manufacture of military equipment. Several thousand forced labourers were interned there; 900 of them were deported abroad.
Just after the war, a memorial crypt was built on the site, commemorating, in particular, the existence of a crematorium.
MAISON D’IZIEU, MEMORIAL TO EXTERMINATED JEWISH CHILDREN (AIN)© Studio Erick Saillet
With the agreement of the deputy prefect, Pierre-Marcel Wiltzer, and in partnership with the Society for the Health of the Jewish Population (today Oeuvre de Secours aux Enfants/OSE), in May 1943 Sabine and Miron Zlatin opened a safe house for children in Izieu, a village in the Italian-occupied zone. More than a hundred children and some adults were thus provided with protective shelter from anti-Semitic persecution. On 6 April 1944, 44 children and 7 adult supervisors were arrested (by the Gestapo, on the orders of Klaus Barbie and soldiers of the Wehrmacht) and then deported. Only one of the supervisors would survive the ordeal.
The Memorial was officially opened on 24 April 1994 by the President of the Republic of the time, François Mitterand.
Along with the Vélodrome d’hiver indoor cycling track and the Gurs camp, the Maison des enfants d’Izieu is the third national site in memory of the victims of racist and anti-Semitic persecution and crimes against humanity, committed with the complicity of the Vichy government, and recognised by the President of the Republic’s decree of 3 February 1993.
For more information on places of memory associated with the internment and deportation of Jews from France between 1941 and 1944: