Chirac opens new Holocaust shrine in Paris

25th January 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Jan 25 (AFP) - Two days ahead of the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, President Jacques Chirac on Tuesday inaugurated a new Holocaust memorial in Paris, including a "Wall of Names" that commemorates the tens of thousands of Jews deported to their deaths from France.

PARIS, Jan 25 (AFP) - Two days ahead of the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, President Jacques Chirac on Tuesday inaugurated a new Holocaust memorial in Paris, including a "Wall of Names" that commemorates the tens of thousands of Jews deported to their deaths from France.

In an address to dignitaries and survivors, the president described anti-Semitism as a "perversion that kills" and pledged French support for Israel - a country whose existence, he said, was justified by the suffering of Jews in World War Two.

"I want to say again that anti-Semitism has no place in France. Anti-Semitism is not a point of view. It is a perversion, a perversion that kills. It is a hatred whose roots go to the very depths of evil. No resurgence can be tolerated," he said.

France has seen a rise in recent years of insults and attacks on Jewish people and property - most of it attributed to young Muslim men angry about the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

On Israel - with which France has had strained relations because of the Palestinian issue - Chirac said that the Holocaust "would alone justify - if any justification were needed - the need for a state whose existence is a guarantee that it will never happen again."

Chirac won plaudits from Israel and Jewish organisations shortly after his election in 1995 when he became the first French leader to acknowledge the country's guilt in cooperating with the German extermination programme.

Most Jews deported from France were arrested by French police.

Situated in the historic Jewish quarter in the Marais district, the Holocaust Memorial is an expansion of two long-standing institutions: the Memorial to the Unknown Jewish Martyr and the Centre for Contemporary Jewish Documentation.

Described as "museum, place of memory and documentation centre," it is meant to become Europe's main reference point on the Jewish Holocaust - the equivalent of Yad Vashem in Jerusalem and the Holocaust Museum in Washington. It opens to the public on Thursday.

"(The memorial) will help in teaching a story that continues to haunt our everyday life, but it will also encourage reflection on tolerance, liberty and democracy by focussing on a crime that is unique in human history," according to its president Eric de Rothschild.

Lining the approach to the memorial is a newly built "Wall of Names" bearing the names and dates of birth of the 76,000 Jews - 11,000 of them children -deported from France between 1942 and 1944. Nearly all were killed, mostly at Auschwitz.

Six researchers took two years to compile the list, drawing on Gestapo secret police records as well as Jewish archives.

"When the last witness disappears, this wall of memory will continue to express the scale of the collective tragedy," said Serge Klarsfeld, president of the Association of Sons and Daughters of French Deportees.

Inside, the centrepiece remains the crypt which was built in 1956 to contain the ashes of unknown victims brought from Nazi death camps. Above this has been built 5,000 square metres (54,000 square feet) of exhibition spaces, offices, archives, multimedia areas and an auditorium.

In Berlin, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder attended a ceremony marking the start of German commemorations of the Auschwitz anniversary.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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