'Never forget': Chirac at Nazi death camp

4th November 2005, Comments 0 comments

NATZWILLER, France, Nov 3 (AFP) - French president Jacques Chirac called on young people Thursday never to forget the Nazi atrocities of World War II, as he opened a memorial on the site of the only death camp built on French soil.

NATZWILLER, France, Nov 3 (AFP) - French president Jacques Chirac called on young people Thursday never to forget the Nazi atrocities of World War II, as he opened a memorial on the site of the only death camp built on French soil.

"A message to young people: Never forget the victims of the darkest chapters of mankind's history," he told a ceremony at the former Nazi concentration camp of Natzweiler-Struthof, in France's eastern Alsace region, annexed by Germany during the war.

"Use the strength of the law against those who would deny the horror of what happened," Chirac urged. "Fight tirelessly against those who advocate hatred, racism, anti-Semitism and intolerance. It is your honour and duty to the victims, and in the name of the future."

Chirac earlier inaugurated a memorial centre to European resistance fighters who were sent to their deaths during World War II, in the presence of defence minister Michèle Alliot-Marie and wartime deportees.

"This European Centre for Deported Resistance Fighters symbolises the rejection of silence and forgetfulness," Chirac said as he opened the memorial.

The French president said he was in Struthof to "pay the nation's homage to the victims of Nazi madness."

Some 22,000 men and women perished at the camp between May 1941 and November 1944, when it was liberated by US forces. Most of the victims were members of the resistance and political deportees.

"Right here, thousands of admirable men and women suffered the same martyrdom," Chirac said.

In the memorial's logbook, he wrote the words: "To remember always, in order to know how to take a stand and resist when the essential is at stake."

Barely visible from the outside, the memorial centre is built around a vast underground storage room, dug out by camp labourers from 1943 to 1945 and only unearthed when construction work began at the site two years ago.

Visitors are taken on an interactive tour of the 14 Nazi concentration camps set up in Europe during the war, including Auschwitz in Poland, Bergen-Belsen in Germany and Mauthausen in Austria.

Further inside, film clips shot surreptitiously inside the Struthof camp are projected alongside Nazi propaganda footage, while a poem written by a deportee echoes in three languages around the dimly lit underground chamber.

Hundreds of press cuttings, drawings and witness accounts -- original material as well as documents from museums and image banks -- retrace the rise of fascism and Nazism in the 1920s, and the growth of resistance movements in France and elsewhere in Europe.

French architect Pierre-Louis Faloci intended the play on light and shadow as a reference to Adolf Hitler's 'Nacht und Nebel', or 'Night and Fog' decree in 1941, which led to the disappearance of countless political prisoners.

The centre was four-fifths financed by the French defence ministry, with the rest provided by European Union subsidies.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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