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Obj. ID: 43342
Comparative Material & Miscellaneous
  Mauthausen Monument in Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris, France

© Samuel D. Gruber, Photographer: Gruber, Samuel D., 2018

Who is Commemorated?

Victims of Mauthausen concentration camp

Description

The monument is located near a corner in section 97 of the cemetery in an area of other collective monuments. The tall granite architecture stands above many of the nearby tombs, but the design relates to other earlier monuments in Père Lachaise cemetery. The architecture and sculpture are two important parts that create a unified fact-inspired narrative. The stone setting is intended as an active element in the memorial's storytelling. The steep-stepped granite tower represents the infamous Stairs of Death at the Mauthausen granite quarry where prisoners were forced to climb carrying granite blocks weighing 25 kilos and more, and where they often plummeted to their deaths. The granite for the monument itself was brought from the quarry and stands like a holy relic, a witness to suffering.

The bronze sculpture by Gérard Choain attached to the stone represents an emaciated prisoner who carries a heavy stone to the top of the 186 Stairs of Death. While this explicitly recalls the life and death daily struggle of prisoners who worked in the quarry, the posture and profile of Choain's figure also has a distinguished artistic pedigree. Any Frenchman immediately sees the resemblance to Auguste Rodin's great statue of The Shade (also known as The Slave) of 1886. This was the figure used in triplicate atop Rodin's massive Gates of Hell, which in many other contexts has greatly influenced the imagery of Holocaust suffering and death. There is also a close connection to Michelangelo's unfinished Slaves (also known as The Prisoners) intended for the Tomb of Pope Julius II, and since 1909 on view at the Galleria dell'Accademia in Florence.

The stepped monument sits on a triangular stone base that evokes the triangles worn to identify and differentiate different groups of prisoners in the camps.

Inscription

On the bronze sculpture:

G. CHOAIN / M. 1958
M. HOHWILLER - FONDEUR - PARIS

On the right side of monument:

 MAUTHAUSEN

Camp
D’extermination
Hitlérien


12,500
Français
y furent
déportes
10,000
y furent
extermines

Les 186 marches
de l'escalier de
la carrière
furent le cal
vaire de ceux
qui devaient
sous les coups
des SS les gravir
en portant de
lourdes pierres.

Ce monument
perpétue leur
mémoire et leur
combat pour
l’Independence
Française.
SOUVENEZ VOUS

Translation: Mauthausen / Nazi extermination camp / 12500 French were deported there / 10000 were exterminated there / The 186 steps of the quarry staircase were the ordeal of those who, under the blows of the SS, had to climb them carrying heavy stones. / This monument perpetuates their memory and their struggle for French independence. / Remember!

On the left side of monument:

 MAUTHAUSEN
Camp
d'extermination
Hitlérien

180,000
hommes et femmes
y furent
emprisonés

154,000
sont morts tortures gazes
fusilles pendus


Pour que leur
sacrifice contri
bue a barrer à
jamais la route
à l’oppression
et à ouvrir à
l’humanité la
voie d’un avenir
meilleur dans
l’amitié et dans
la faix entre les
peuples
SOUVENEZ VOUS

Translation: Mauthausen / Nazi extermination camp / 180,000 men and women were imprisoned / 154,000 died tortured, gassed, shot, hanged / For their sacrifice helps to forever block the road to oppression / and to open humanity towards a better future in friendship and in / peace between peoples. / Remember!

On the base of the monument:

Les données statistiques gravées sur cette pierre en 1958
correspondent aux évaluations de l’époque, elles ont été
rectifiées parles travaux de la recherche historique.
Amicale de Mauthausen
Paris 2013 

Translation: The statistical data engraved on this stone in 1958 correspond to the evaluations of the time, they have been rectified by the work of historical research. / Mauthausen Association / Paris 2013

Commissioned by

Amicale de Mauthausen (Mauthausen Association).

9 image(s)

sub-set tree:

Name/Title
Mauthausen monument in Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris | Unknown
Object Detail
Monument Setting
Date
1958
Synagogue active dates
Reconstruction dates
Artist/ Maker
Choain, Gérard (sculptor)
(Unknown)
{"4132":"Choain (1906-1988) was a wounded veteran and a prisoner of war in German camps from 1939 to 1945. After the war he created several memorial sculptures."}
Origin
Historical Origin
Unknown
Community type
Unknown |
Congregation
Unknown
Location
France | Ile-de-France région | Paris
| Père Lachaise Cemetery
Site
Unknown
School/Style
Unknown|
Period
Unknown
Period Detail
Collection
Unknown |
Documentation / Research project
Unknown
Material/Technique
granite, bronze
Material Stucture
Material Decoration
Material Bonding
Material Inscription
Material Additions
Material Cloth
Material Lining
Tesserae Arrangement
Density
Colors
Construction material
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Condition
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Documented by CJA
Surveyed by CJA
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Condition of Building Fabric
Architectural Significance type
Historical significance: Event/Period
Historical significance: Collective Memory/Folklore
Historical significance: Person
Architectural Significance: Style
Architectural Significance: Artistic Decoration
Urban significance
Significance Rating
Languages of inscription
Type of grave
Unknown
0
Ornamentation
Custom
Contents
Codicology
Scribes
Script
Number of Lines
Ruling
Pricking
Quires
Catchwords
Hebrew Numeration
Blank Leaves
Direction/Location
Façade (main)
Endivances
Location of Torah Ark
Location of Apse
Location of Niche
Location of Reader's Desk
Location of Platform
Temp: Architecture Axis
Arrangement of Seats
Location of Women's Section
Direction Prayer
Direction Toward Jerusalem
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Signature
Colophon
Scribal Notes
Watermark
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Group
Group
Group
Group
Group
Trade Mark
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Decoration Program
Summary and Remarks
Suggested Reconsdivuction
History/Provenance

The monument is one of more than a dozen memorials erected in the Père Lachaise Cemetery commemorating victims of various Nazi concentration and death camps. These monuments have been erected by camp survivors, political organizations, and other associations beginning in 1949, when memorials to victims of Auschwitz-Birkenau (June) and the camp at Neuengamme (November) were dedicated.

The Mauthausen memorial monument was created by sculptor Gérard Choain (1906-1988), who himself was a wounded veteran and was a prisoner of war in German camps from 1939 to 1945. After the war, he created several memorial sculptures.

Most of the inmates and victims at Mauthausen were not Jewish and this is not a Holocaust Monument per se. Still, the memorial plays an important role in the development of Holocaust monuments and iconography. It is one of a group of works of the 1950s that focuses on the physical - even cadaverous - state of Holocaust victims, rather than idealizing them as healthy heroes and fighters. The inscriptions on the monument reflect the numbers of prisoners and victims believed at the time. Since then, research has provided more accurate information. An inscription added in 2003 on the base of the monument acknowledges that the numbers presented reflect the beliefs in 1958.

According to the U.S, Holocaust Memorial Museum, inmates and victims at Mauthausen included more than 37,000 non-Jewish Poles, nearly 23,000 Soviet civilians, between 6,200 and 8,650 Yugoslav civilians, approximately 6,300 Italians after September 1943 at least 4,000 Czechs and in 1944, 47 Allied military personnel (39 Dutchmen, 7 British soldiers, and 1 US soldier), all of them agents of the British Secret Operations Executive. In addition to French Resistance fighters, thousands of Spanish Republicans were also brought to Mauthausen. About 29,000 Jews are believed to have been held at Mauthausen, mostly in the latter years of the war.

The Mauthausen site was one of the first to be memorialized after World War II, and subsequently became the site for dozens of monuments. Ashes and relics from Mauthausen were also incorporated in many other monuments in other locations, such as the extreme modernist Monumento in onore dei caduti nei campi di sterminio nazisti located outside Cimitero Monumentale di Milano designed by the architectural firm BBPR (Lodovico Barbiano di Belgiojoso, Enrico Peressutti, Ernesto Nathan Rogers), one of whose founders, Gianluigi Banfi, was killed at Mauthausen. 

In France, a coalition of Resistance fighters, Jewish deportees, and other victims of Nazi crimes worked to create a public narrative of suffering and heroism balancing the themes of the Gaullist politics of memory of the 1950s with those of the political left. Meanwhile, the official Jewish Community began in the 1940s to place plaques in synagogues remembering Jewish victims under the heading "Morts pour la France," (Fallen for France), even though many victims died through the complicity of French authorities and police.

Main Surveys & Excavations
Bibliography

Gruber, Samuel D. “Paris: The Mauthausen Concentration Camp Monument at Père Lachaise Cemetery,” Samuel Gruber’s Jewish Art & Monuments. August 26, 2018, https://samgrubersjewishartmonuments.blogspot.com/2018/08/paris-mauthausen-concentration-camp.html (accessed December 22, 2021)

Nord, Philip. After the Deportation: Memory Battles in Postwar France (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020)
Short Name
Full Name
Volume
Page
Type
Documenter
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Author of description
Samuel D. Gruber | 2022
Architectural Drawings
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Computer Reconstruction
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Section Head
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Language Editor
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Donor
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Negative/Photo. No.