Map charts France’s Jewish children lost to Nazis
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It is one of the darkest periods in French history. During the Second World War around 76,000 Jews were deported from France and sent to almost certain death at Nazi extermination camps.
Among them were more than 11,400 children, often separated from their families to be transported east towards the horrors of Auschwitz.
Now, a new interactive map available online has charted the location of every child deported from France between July 1942 and August 1944.
The map shows a series of red circles scattered across the country, from Paris to Marseille, varying in size depending on the number of children deported. With the exception of Corsica, at least one red circle is present in every department in France.
Users can zoom in on towns and cities to see the exact location where each child was arrested and taken away for deportation.
Enter an address and the map will show the locations of deportees arrested nearby, along with their names and ages.
The map is the creation of French historian Jean-Luc Pinol, based on data collected by Holocaust documenter and former Nazi hunter Serge Klarsfeld.
It is part of an exhibit on display outside the “Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers”, located in Paris’s 3rd arrondissement, from where 577 Jewish children were deported by the Nazis.
A virtual exhibition has also been made available for free online.
Out of the history books
The idea behind the map was to bring the Holocaust out of the realm of the history books and show that “it took place where people lived, where they still live,” Klarsfield told French daily Le Monde.
But it can also be used as an important tool for teachers and researchers, illustrating, for example, the large number of deportations of children from Paris - 6,184 in total - and particularly from the city’s slum areas.
When highlighted to show the specific locations and names of deported children, the map acts as a “memorial”, Pinol told Le Monde.
“Once we take a step back to encompass an entire city, it becomes an analysis of urban history,” he said.
The fate of France’s Jews during World War II has long been a sensitive issue in the country, where for decades after the war officials kept quiet over the role played by the Nazi-allied Vichy regime during the Holocaust.
Far from being passive bystanders, French police and officials carried out the vast majority of round-ups of Jews for deportation during the Second World War.
One of the most notorious incidents was the “Vel' d'Hiv Round-up” of 1942, when some 13,152 Jews, most of them women and children, were arrested and brought to the Vélodrome d'Hiver cycle track in Paris, before being transported to internment camps in France and finally to the gas chambers of Auschwitz.
In 1995, Jacques Chirac became the first French president to officially apologise for the complicit role French police and administrators played in the deportation of Jews during the war.