Chirac to unveil French exhibit at Auschwitz

26th January 2005, Comments 0 comments

AUSCHWITZ, Poland, Jan 26 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac will on Thursday inaugurate an exhibit in a renovated prisoner block at Auschwitz in honour of 80,000 French nationals who were deported to this death camp in southern Poland and others in Nazi-occupied Europe.

AUSCHWITZ, Poland, Jan 26 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac will on Thursday inaugurate an exhibit in a renovated prisoner block at Auschwitz in honour of 80,000 French nationals who were deported to this death camp in southern Poland and others in Nazi-occupied Europe.

Human silhouettes dance on the repainted, plain white walls of prisoner block 20, now called the French pavilion and dedicated to preserving the memory of the 80.000 deportees from France, 76,000 of whom were Jewish.

Only 2,500, or three percent, of them survived.

The exhibit which the French president will inaugurate on the day the world marks the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by the Red Army, illustrates the fate of French deportees by focussing on five personal stories.

They include Sarah and Hersch Beznos, a couple who fled pogroms in tsarist Russia with their four daughters and eked out a living by running a bric-a-brac shop in Paris; and Jean Lemberger, a communist activist and Jew, originally from Poland.

The exhibition also tells the story of Georgy Halpern, born in 1935 in Austria to Polish parents and brought to France after the Anschluss. Georgy died in the gas chambers of Auschwitz, aged eight-and-a-half. His parents survived the war.

The fate of Pierre Masse, senator, lawyer and infantry captain in World War One, whose acts of bravery earned him the Legion of Honour, is also recounted in the exhibit. From a Jewish family originally from Strasbourg, he died on his arrival at Auschwitz in 1942.

Charlotte Delbo, communist activist and resistance fighter, was one of just 49 women to survive Auschwitz. Her story also features in the exhibition, which recounts the tragic destinies of the highlighted French deportees in captioned photos.

On the walls of one of the seven rooms of the pavilion are the photographs of some 2,000 Jewish children who were deported from France, just a fraction of the 11,000 youngsters who were sent to almost inevitable death.

The exhibit also catalogues the tragic fates of deportees from France to other Nazi camps, such as the ones in Kaunas, Lithuania, and Sobibor, near the Polish border with Ukraine.

An electronic directory allows visitors to search for information on loved ones believed to have died in the Nazi death camp, but the list is incomplete, because some 75 percent of those who were sent to Auschwitz were never registered, and instead sent straight to the gas chambers upon their arrival.

The French pavilion was inaugurated in 1978, and the first exhibit to grace its walls illustrated acts of French resistance against the Nazi occupiers.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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