Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Shoah Memorial

"Shoah" is a Hebrew word meaning calamity or catastrophe and the Shoah Memorial is dedicated to the memory of all the Jews who died at the hands of the Nazis.  Today we visited the Shoah.

When you enter, the first thing you encounter are stone walls etched with the names of the 76,000 French deportees who died either en route to or within Nazi concentration camps.  Very sobering -- especially when quite a few of the victims had the last name Gross (Anne's maiden name).

Walls with the names of 76,000 French
Deportees who were killed during WWII

In the basement of the museum is a burial crypt covered with a black marble Star of David that measures about 10 feet across. An eternal flame burns at its center.  The ashes of the victims were collected from concentration camps all over Europe and buried here along with soil from Israel.

A room of files adjacent to this crypt area holds the original index cards created by the French Vichy Government when these people were first interned. The same files are still used to track down the whereabouts and the ultimate destiny of each French Jew that was deported. 

The Crypt and recovered ashes of the
French Jews who were killed in the Holocaust 

Especially moving were these portions of the walls from "Drancy", an infamous French detention center where Jews were assembled before being deported to concentration camps.  The walls contain graffiti left by the Jewish prisoners.  If you look closely, you may be able to make out the name Grunstein.  This graffiti was only discovered 4 years ago and by researching the index cards in the government files, the fate of many of these individuals has been determined (usually death in Auschwitz).

Stone tablet cut from a jail cell wall at the
 French Detention Center known as "Drancy" 

These displays are very important because for many years after the war, France denied any involvement, blaming all the deportations on the Germans. It was only in the year 1995, when President Jacques Chirac became the leader of France that France publicly admitted its responsibility in the deportation and death of thousands of Jews.

The museum also included a fascinating exhibit on Hollywood films produced during the time period.  Like this one:

Movie Poster

The main exhibition contained hundreds of photos, artifacts, and videos detailing the unique events of France and its people during the war, and the implementation of "The Final Solution."  In another room, visitors were watching video testimonials (in French) given by survivors of the Holocaust; these people were riveted to each of the many video screens there, crying at the horror of the stories being told.  It was a very emotional place.

As part of "The Final Solution", children and the elderly were considered particularly dispensable. One of the most heart wrenching displays of this whole memorial is a room with walls covered from top to bottom with photos of children who were slaughtered in this horrific catastrophe known as the Shoah.

Children slaughtered during the Shoah


  1. The Shoah Memorial is at 17 Geoffroy l'Asnier which is off rue de Rivoli between the Hotel de Ville and St. Paul metro stations. Here is the link to the website:

  2. Merci....
    I don't usually go by anonymous (David works for me), but couldn't quite figure out all the options without spending a lot of time.....