Who is Commemorated?
Victims of Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp
The monument is in section 97 of the cemetery in an area of other collective monuments. It is a large rectangular block of volcanic stone from which a wraithlike figure with an oversized head and no recognizable features appears to emerge. Most of the stone is left rough; only the emerging figure is smooth. The monument form recalls prehistoric carvings (albeit on a large scale) and rock installations. A bronze plaque at the base dedicates the memorial to victims of Auchwitz and Birkenau.
A further inscription, applied in a bronze script, incorporates two lines from the poem Légion (poème sur l’Affiche rouge) by Paul Eliard, that celebrated the resistance group of foreign fighters known as the Manouchian Group, who were among the few resisters who used direct violence against the Nazis and were this denounced and hunted by both German and their French government collaborators.
A bronze plaque at the base:
Camp Nazi d’Extermination
Victimes des persécutions antisemites
De l’occupant Allemand et du Gouvernement
Collaborateur de Vichy
76000 Juifs de France hommes, femmes,
Et enfants furent déportés a Auschwitz.
La plupart périrent dans les chambres a gaz.
Victimes de la répression policière
3000 résistants et patriotes connurent
a Auschwitz la souffrance et la morte.
Un peu de terre et de cendres d’Auschwitz
Perpétuent ici, le souvenir de leur martyre.
Translation: 1941-1945 / Auschwitz-Birkenau / Nazi Extermination Camp /Victims of anti-Semitic persecution / of the German occupier and the / Vichy Government collaborator / 76,000 Jews from France, men, women, and children were deported to Auschwitz. / Most perished in the gas chambers. / Victims of police repression / 3000 resistance fighters and patriots experienced / at Auschwitz suffering and death. / A bit of earth and ashes from Auschwitz / Perpetuate here, the memory of their martyrdom.
A further inscription:
Lorsqu'on ne tuera plus ils seront bien vengés
Le seul vœu de justice a pour écho la vie
Translation: When we stop killing they will be well avenged / The only wish for justice echoes life [two lines from a poem by Paul Eliard Légion (poème sur l’Affiche rouge)]
The dedication of the 97th division (section) of Père Lachaise Cemetery to the memory of deportees began in June 1946. The Amical d’Auschwitz arranged to have an urn of ashes brought back from the camp to Père Lechaise. The monument was erected three years later, designed by Françoise Solomon, who as a student at the National School of Fine Arts, joined the Resistance. She was arrested and deported to Auschwitz and Ravensbrück. Her memorial was unusual, though at that the time their few models to follow. Salmon carved a large rectangular block of volcanic stone from which a wraithlike figure with an oversized head appears to emerge.
The monument began a process of erecting memorials to deportees and then to other groups of victims that continues today. These monuments have been erected by camp survivors, political organizations, and other associations.
Monuments à la mémoire des déporté(e)s victimes des camps de concentration et d'extermination nazis, (Paris: Musée de la Résistance nationale, 2005)
Nord, Philip. After the Deportation: Memory Battles in Postwar France (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020)