FRENCH CHILDREN OF THE HOLOCAUST

A memorial
Serge Klarsfeld  

 
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essential to identifying the victim, and would never release copies, not even to the Center for Contemporary Jewish Documentation(CDJC). The precious CDJC, created in 1943 by the Jewish community, is the institutional memory of the fate of France's Jews during the Holocaust.

Fortunately, the CDJC, acting quite illegally but with full legitimacy, seized and guarded the archives of the Jewish Affairs Service of the Gestapo in France. These archives did not include a copy of the Drancy register, but they did contain the carbon copies of most convoy lists, made at the time of the deportations. Without these documents, which have been made accessible to researchers, historians, journalists, and citizens, it would have been impossible to students, reconstruct exactly what happened to the Jews in France during the Second World War.

Other documents have been released over time, often as a result of our lawsuits. I won access to the archives of the trials of German criminals by French military courts; the records of the Vichy Interior Ministry's delegation in German-occupied France; and the archives of the Paris Prefecture of Police, the Ministry of Veterans and War Victims, and the camps of the Loiret region. Some documents are held by other institutions, including the Union Générale des Israelites de France(UGIF) archives at the YIVO Institute in New York, and many at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem. The archives at these institutions and elsewhere have been used to prepare a series of reference works on the fate of French Jews during the war.

The first of these works was the 1978 volume Le Mémorial de la Déportation des Juifs de France (published in English by the Klarsfeld Foundation in 1983 as The Memorial to the Jews Deported from France). That work contains name, birth date, nationality, and deportation convoy for each of the 75,700 Jews deported from France. It was the culmination of a lengthy research effort to restore to the victims their dignity by identifying each one. In fact, until we found and reconstructed all the convoy deportation lists to create the Memorial, there had been no agreement even on how many Jewish victims there were. Thirty-six years after the Final Solution was put in motion, this work thwarted efforts to conceal or minimize the work of the Nazi executioners and their Vichy accomplices.

The Mémorial had a profound impact. Despite some errors – for example, incorrect spellings – names were usually recognized by surviving members of a family. Many learned for the first time the details of the deportation and death of their vanished relatives from the book's histories of the convoys from Drancy and other French camps. In addition, the research helped document the crimes of Kurt Lischka, and Herbert Hagen, and Ernst Heinrichsohn, Gestapo leaders for France and the cities of Paris and Bordeaux, who were only then being tried and convicted by a German court in Cologne.

The publication of the Mémorial in 1978, listing the names of all Jews then known to have been deported to their deaths from France, generated an immense shock in the French Jewish community. Typed out from the original deportation lists, convoy by convoy, the names, addresses, and birth dates and places were like an electric current in mobilizing the community to confront its past. Now that the Mémorial has been out of print for more than five years, I am often
    
   

FRENCH CHILDREN OF THE HOLOCAUST

A memorial
Serge Klarsfeld

 
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