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Holocaust Memorials at Père Lachaise - Part 2: Repressed Memory (1954-1971)

This is the second of a four-part series on the Holocaust memorials at Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.

Stage 2: Repressed Memory (1954-1971)
The second stage, Repressed Memory, was defined by President Charles de Gaulle’s goal to “mark a clean break with the past and herald a new beginning.”[1] It was during this period when a myth – the “Gaullist myth” – about occupied France was created. McNeill discusses four central beliefs within the Gaullist Myth of Repressed Memory:
  1. There was minimal collaboration – only a few insignificant dissenters who did not accurately represent French general opinion
  2. There was an extreme sense of French national unity/patriotism
  3. An elite force of Résistance fighters protected France
  4. Charles de Gaulle was the “personification of the Résistance”[2]
These myths were critical in feeding into the Repressed Memory stage of France’s Vichy Syndrome as they tended not only to minimize Vichy’s power over the French, but set up the French with a very skewed reality. It should also be noted that while de Gaulle’s intentions may have been somewhat politically selfish, he did help a totally demoralized France rediscover her national pride. This myth is reflected in the four monuments inaugurated at Père Lachaise during the Repressed Memory stage – Ravensbrück (1955), Mauthausen (1958), Buchenwald-Dora (1964), and Oranienburg-Sachsenhausen (1970).
Ravensbrück Memorial, Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris
(photo by Jennifer Boyer-Switala)
Émile Morlaix sculpted the Memorial to the Deportees of Ravensbrück out of granite.[3] It is composed of two bound hands, and engraved on its stone base are the words, "Here lies the ashes of the women deported, martyrs of Nazi barbarism 1939 - 1945."
Gérard Choain sculpted the bronze deportee on the Mauthausen Memorial. This emaciated deportee is trying to carry his heavy stone load to the top of the 186 stairs of the memorial. [4] The granite staircase was excavated from the quarry at Mauthausen where many worked and died as slave laborers. 
Mauthausen Memorial, Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris
(photo by Jennifer Boyer-Switala)
The right side of the memorial reads:
Nazi extermination camp
12500 French were deported there
10000 were exterminated there
Their plight was carrying heavy stones up the 186 steps of the 
staircase while under the blows of the SS.
This monument perpetuates their memory and their struggle for French independence.
And the left side reads:
Nazi extermination camp
180,000 men and women were imprisoned
154,000 died tortured, gassed, shot, hanged
For their sacrifice helps to forever block the road to oppression
and to open humanity towards a better future in friendship and in
peace between peoples
Bronze sculpture on the Mauthausen Memorial,
Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris (photo by Jennifer Boyer-Switala)
The Buchenwald-Dora Memorial is the work of French artist and résistant, Louis Bancel. The bronze sculpture depicts three skeletal deportees. Each deportee symbolizes a specific aspect of the camps. 
Buchenwald-Dora Memorial, Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris
(photo by Jennifer Boyer-Switala)
The collapsed man who appears to be near death symbolizes suffering, the man supporting his comrade represents solidarity, and the man standing in front of his tormentors symbolizes strength and dignity. [5] A quote from French author and résistant Louis Aragon reads, "Let this always show how man had to fall and how courage and devotion maintain his name of man."
Representations of suffering, solidarity, and strength & dignity,
Buchenwald Memorial, Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris
(photo by Jennifer Boyer-Switala)
The final memorial inaugurated during the Repressed Memory stage of the Vichy Syndrome is that of Oranienburg-Sachsenhausen. Jean Baptiste-Leducq sculpted this memorial out of hammered copper. [6]  It portrays a deportee engulfed in barbed wire and flames. The base plate reads, "100,000 died in this Nazi concentration camp."
Oranienburg-Sachsenhausen Memorial, Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris
(photo by Jennifer Boyer-Switala)
Rousso states that "Among the vast areas of amnesia...French anti-Semitism ranks among the most important."[7]  This is apparent in the memorials discussed here. Based on the fact that none of the artists who created the memorials were Jewish, as well as the text on each, it is clear that the Résistance is represented and memorialized. What is noticeably absent is the mention of the Jewish victims and any national responsibility. When considering national memory in conjunction with these memorials, they are a fitting representation of the Repressed Memory phase. The heroic deeds of the Résistance are magnified as is the blame on the Nazi occupiers. With de Gaulle at the helm, the French seemed content to believe in his mythical version of history. This view would change, however, with de Gaulle's death. 
Tune in next time for The Broken Mirror phase...

[1] Tony McNeill. The Vichy Syndrome: Coming to Terms with Les Années Noirs.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Mairie de Paris, Musée de la Résistance National, et al. “Monuments à la Mémoire des Déporté(e)s: Cimetière du Père Lachaise,” 13.
[4] Ibid, 14-15.
[5] Ibid, 16.
[6] Ibid, 19.
[7] Henry Rousso. The Vichy Syndrome: History and Memory of France Since 1944, 104.


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