The city of Paris has acknowledged the plight of Jews in the multitude of memorials dedicated to the victims of the German concentration camps. Within the grounds of Pere Lachaise Cemetery each concentration camp is recognized on its own memorial.
AUSCHWITZ, the main camp, was located in Oświęcim in southern Poland to hold Polish political prisoners. The camp went on to become a major site of the Nazis’ Final Solution to the Jewish Question. Most of the Jews from all over German-occupied Europe who were sent to the camp were gassed on arrival. More than 1.3 million men, women and children died in the Auschwitz and Birkenau camps, the vast majority of whom were Jews.
Auschwitz was also known as Monowitz-Buna, Buna and Auschwitz III. The memorial consists of five emaciated figures in bronze bearing witness to the suffering and exhaustion of the deportees. A body carried in a wheelbarrow reminds us of the frightening mortality of this camp.
BIRKENAU This memorial is in the form of a column with the featureless silhouette of a human figure standing over an engraved plaque. Written in script are lines from the poet Paul Eluard: When we will no longer kill, they will be avenged … The only vow of justice has life as its echo.
BERGEN-BELSEN in northern Germany was an “exchange camp” where Jewish hostages were held with the intention of exchanging them for German prisoners of war held overseas.
The memorial represents the railway tracks leading to the gates of the camp. Between the ‘railway tracks’ are footprints in various sizes representing all age groups arriving at the camp. It was in this camp that the young Anne Franck died along with her sister.
1943 They suffered and hoped. You fight for your freedom.
1945 We broke their bodies never their minds.
BUCHENWALD near Weimar, Germany, was one of the first and the largest of the concentration camps within Germany’s 1937 borders. Many actual or suspected communists were among the first internees. All prisoners worked primarily as forced labor in local armaments factories.
The memorial expresses the horror and violence in the concentration camp system. Three emaciated prisoners define suffering, death, solidarity and resistance.
DACHAU, north of Munich in southern Germany, was a forced labor camp which imprisoned Jews, German and Austrian criminals, and eventually foreign nationals from countries that Germany occupied or invaded.
The two pillars forming a gateway are symbolic of the gates of Heaven. The red granite triangle represents the patch worn on political prisoners’ clothes.
A plaque to the left of the stairs is inscribed with a quotation by Edmond Michelet. We have surveyed abysses in ourselves and in others.
DRANCY was an internment camp run by the French located in a northeastern suburb of Paris. It was an assembly and detention camp for confining Jews who were later deported to the extermination camps.
The Memorial reads in translation Inscription engraved at Ninth Fort of Kaunas deported by Convoy 73. In memory of 878 Jews deported from Drancy May 15, 1944 to Kaunas (Lithuania) and Reval-Tallinn (Estonia). 22 returned in 1945.
FLOSSENBURG A map identifies the location of the camp which unlike other concentration camps was located in a remote area in the mountains of Bavaria. Quarries, arms and aviation factories surrounded it. Although the camp’s initial purpose was to exploit the forced labor of prisoners for the production of granite for Nazi architecture they eventually produced armaments for the war effort.
The imprint of a staircase of ten steep steps are visible at the base of the monument in addition to four blocks of cut stone.
MAUTHAUSEN This concentration camp was located on a hill above the market town of Mauthausen in Upper Austria. It was one of the first massive concentration camp complexes in Nazi Germany, and the last to be liberated by the Allies.
Seven blocks of were used to reproduce the monument. Stairs carved into the granite from the quarry of Mauthausen represent 186 uneven steps known as the staircase of death that prisoners had to mount with stones weighing more than 20 kilos on their backs. A bronze statue depicts an emaciated prisoner collapsing under the weight of his load.
NATZWEILER-STRUTHOF located in the Vosges Mountains in France was the only concentration camp established by the Nazis on French territory. Prisoners were mainly from the resistance movements in German-occupied territories. This labor and transit camp eventually became a place of execution.
This memorial is the form of a triangle. The red triangle identified political prisoners and the letter F was an indication to the Germans that the prisoner could speak French and could be called upon to translate. The bronze sculpture of an emaciated figure lies beneath a stone wall with the letters NN, acronym for Nacht und Nabel (a Nazi directive targeting political activists).
NEUENGAMME This camp was located near Hamburg in Northern Germany close to railway and metallurgy factories. With over 85 satellite camps the Neuengamme camp became the largest concentration camp in Northwest Germany. The memorial is created in white granite and the plaque reads in translation “under this stone is a bit of ash from the seven thousand French martyrs murdered by the Nazis at the Neuengamme Concentration Camp – they died for us to live free – their families and comrades, survivors have erected this monument to their memory November 13, 1949“
ORANIENBURG AND SACHSENHAUSEN Used primarily for political prisoners from 1936 to the end of the Third Reich in May 1945. The prisoners were also used as a workforce, with a large task force of prisoners from the camp sent to work in the nearby brickworks to meet Albert Speer’s vision of rebuilding Berlin. At the base of the monument, a symbolic barbed wire fence impales an emaciated prisoner.
RAVENSBRUCK was a camp exclusively for women from 1939 to 1945, located in northern Germany. The prisoners were used as slave labor. Two hands linked in captivity and solidarity emerge from roughly hewn stones one of which is engraved; Here lies the ashes of deported women martyrs of Nazi barbarism.