Resistance fighter memorial opens at Struthof

2nd November 2005, Comments 0 comments

STRASBOURG, Nov 1 (AFP) - A new memorial to European resistance fighters who were deported to their deaths during World War II will be opened on Thursday on the site of the only Nazi concentration camp on French soil.

STRASBOURG, Nov 1 (AFP) - A new memorial to European resistance fighters who were deported to their deaths during World War II will be opened on Thursday on the site of the only Nazi concentration camp on French soil.

French president Jacques Chirac will inaugurate the centre, built just metres from the former Struthof death camp, in the town of Natzwiller in the eastern French region of Alsace, which was annexed by Germany during the war.

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.

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

"In line with the wishes of survivors, it was designed as a simple, square building intended to convey information and emotion, not as a flashy structure" said the centre's director Valérie Drechsler.

Visitors are first 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 or Mauthausen in Austria.

Further inside, film clips shot under cover inside the Struthof camp are projected alongside Nazi propaganda footage, as 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.

Emerging from the centre back into the light, the visitor finds himself in front of the gates of Struthof.

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 European Centre for Deported Resistance Fighters 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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