The Deportation Memorial is a solemn and meaningful monument dedicated to the 200,000 French people deported to Nazi concentration camps during World War II. Besides Jews, there were resistance fighters, dissidents, gays and gypsies also deported, many of whom never returned.
After you go down the steps to the memorial, you arrive in an austere “cell,” where you can see only the sky, walls and a bit of the Seine River through a spiked barrier and iron grate. The way in which the memorial conforms to the tip of the Ile de la Cite is nothing short of genius on the part of the architect, Georges-Henri Pingusson. You have to see it from a bank across the Seine to appreciate it because from that vantage point, you can see the iron grate of the memorial just above the water line of the Seine.
Inside the memorial there are fragments of poems and quotes that were written by men directly involved in the deportation or war etched in the walls. The inscription above the long narrow chamber with 200,000 shining crystals for each deportee reads: “Dedicated to the living memory of the 200,000 French deportees sleeping in the night and the fog, exterminated in the Nazi concentration camps.” At the far end of this chamber is the eternal flame of hope. At the exit to the chamber is the exhortation, “Forgive, but don’t forget.” This visit is not your typical sightseeing activity, but it is instead a sobering, thought-provoking and worthwhile experience.
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