First French concentration camp being converted into memorial


(JTA) – An abandoned train station in eastern France that during the Holocaust became the first concentration camp for Jews in that country is being rebuilt as a memorial museum.

The Pithiviers station in May 1941 saw the arrival of more than 3,500 Jews without French citizenship, whom authorities ordered to report to police stations in Paris following the Nazi invasion into France that month. The massive deportations of French from Paris and beyond – including in the infamous Vel D’Hiv deportations in July 1942 — began in earnest approximately a year after the deportation to Pithiviers of Jews without French passports, mainly from Poland and Czechoslovakia.

That was even before Jews were being murdered en masse in Auschwitz.

The Pithiviers station had remained unused for years after the Holocaust and therefore was not changed from when it was used as a gathering and dispatch point for Jews sent to be murdered in Eastern Europe, the France3 television channel reported last week in an article about the station’s transformation into a museum. The rails have also not been replaced.

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Schools in the region of Pithiviers have been bringing pupils for years to see the station, which is closed for the public. Last week, local authorities said they would devote hundreds of thousands of euros to preserving the place, setting up educational exhibitions on its walls and declaring it a historical monument. About one quarter of French Jews were murdered in the Holocaust.

Separately, a website devoted to the memory of 102,000 Dutch Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust won the prestigious European Design Awards last month, the Het Parool daily reported.

The Jewish Monument website, which went online in 2005, is designed as a memorial wall featuring the names of the victims. The website allows visitors to focus on one name or family, and to see it on a scale that provides a jarring visualization of the dimensions of the genocide against the Jews in the Netherlands.

About 75 percent of Dutch Jews were murdered in the Holocaust, the highest death rate in Nazi-occupied Western Europe.

A physical memorial monument with the names of the 102,000 victims of the Holocaust in the Netherlands is currently being built in Amsterdam.

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