A MONUMENT, dedicated to the memory of Jewish children deported from France between 1942 and 1944, is inaugurated on Thursday in the Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.
(photo credit: RINA BASSIST)
PARIS – Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo on Thursday inaugurated a monument dedicated to the memory of 11,450 Jewish children deported from France by the Nazis and their collaborators between 1942 and 1944.
Most of these children were exterminated in concentration camps. Some of those who survived, together with other Holocaust survivors and French Jewish leaders, were present at Thursday’s ceremony.
The monument, which was created by Spanish sculptor Casto Solano, features metal figures of children in various sizes.
Solano’s design was selected by a public committee that commended his work for its originality and the emotions it evokes.
The simplicity of the structure reflects steal-strong courage combined with the soft and transparent spirit of a child. The larger child figures stand behind the smaller ones, as if protecting them.
The monument is located in the historic Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris’s 20th arrondissement, where several other monuments stand in tribute to victims of wars and massacres.
Mayor of the 20th arrondissement Frederique Calandra explained that many of the deported children actually came from this neighborhood, which was also a central location for Jewish resistance against the Nazi regime.
Speaking with tears in her eyes, Calandra said at the ceremony that the municipality that she heads is committed “to combat daily all ideologies of exclusion, xenophobia, other extremists ideas and first and foremost antisemitism.
“Antisemitism is emerging anew nowadays,” she said. “It started emerging again in France in the 80s inside our schoolyards and in lost territories of the Republic, and we must absolutely face it and confront it. We must obviously be lucid about our past, but also about our present.”
In her address, Hidalgo referred specifically to the September attack on a Jewish family in the neighboring town of Seine-Saint-Denis and the murder of Sarah Halimi in April at her home in the 20th arrondissement.
“The increase of attacks against Jews these past few years cannot be ignored or minimized because they carry the sign of the same ancient, yet stubborn evil,” said Hidalgo.
“Though antisemitism is taking on new forms these days, we must combat it relentlessly.”
Speaking on behalf of the French Association for the Memory of Jewish Children, André Panczer commended the Paris Municipality, particularly the deputy mayor in charge of commemoration, Catherine Vieu-Charier, for their efforts in realizing the commemorative statue.
But Panczer also criticized the stance of French authorities on implementing an EU decision in 2002 to create a day in memory of the Holocaust and prevention of crimes against humanity.
“In 2009, France modified that day, turning it into a memorial day for genocide,” he said. “This term generates in the spirit of teachers and young students the banalization of the Holocaust. With this, the Shoah and the Final Solution have lost their particular antisemitic specificity. The work that we have been laboring on with teachers at schools and high schools would lose its essence if we do not explain the difference between genocides.”
Also in attendance at the ceremony was MK Stav Shaffir (Zionist Union), who arrived in Paris a day earlier to attend the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development Transparency Committee’s second meeting.
Shaffir told The Jerusalem Post that the ceremony and the erection of the statues were especially important “not only for all of us to work together, preserving the memory of what happened, but also so we can build our common future and learn.”
Chief Rabbi of France Haim Korsia could not attend the ceremony because it took place on the holiday of Shemini Atzeret.
The Paris Municipality told the Post that the date selected for the inauguration depended solely on the mayor’s calendar, and that the municipality does not consult any religious calendars when adjusting dates of events.