Survivors keep Holocaust memory in France alive
A new exhibition has opened at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Paris, paying homage to survivors and to witnesses.
The curator, writer Léa Veinstein, said: “This is especially important this year, the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the camps in 1945, because soon there will be no eyewitnesses left.
“We need to explore how to transmit the message, the memory of what happened.”
The La Voix des Témoins exhibition focuses on the voices of survivors, recounting their experiences in recordings and videos, as well as in their writings and achievements after the war.
Among those featured are two Nobel Prize winners – Elie Wiesel and Imre Kertész – as well as politician Simone Veil and writers and authors Primo Levi, Marceline Loridan-Ivens, Samuel Pisar and Aharon Appelfeld.
“We wanted to make these voices heard again, and that is at the heart of the exhibition: the experience of listening to their voices in these recordings,” said Ms Veinstein.
“We made audio portraits of seven people who subsequently entered the collective memory.
“Other, less famous, voices are also explored, however, via the history of the recordings.
“We trace the history of the recordings, look at the chronology, who were the first, who spoke out and who didn’t, who we listened to and who we didn’t…”
The exhibition includes manuscripts, expert analysis, films and videos, and Ms Veinstein said: “We also filmed some of today’s leading historians about the Holocaust in order to put the voices into perspective because, of course, historians write history.”
The exhibition also looks at Simone Veil’s burial in the Panthéon in 2018, and the ways that the third and fourth generations are taking up the story – in comic strips and video installations, for example – to demonstrate the myriad ways the history can be told.
The exhibition runs until January 2021 and there will be special events and a cycle of live talks from survivors.
“It will be one of the last chances to hear survivors speak,” said Ms Veinstein.
“People will have a chance to understand exactly what happened, and how traces of the Holocaust are still with us.”
The exhibition includes an interview with Serge Klarsfeld, who has brought many Nazis to justice. Ms Veinstein said: “We talked to him about what’s happening right now all over Europe: the growth in extreme right-wing views, the hatred of ‘the other’, the intolerance towards people of other faiths.
“He says the vital struggle now is to protect democracy, which is the last rampart against intolerance.”
The exhibition demonstrates, she added, how fast and how far persecution can move.
“The witness accounts remind us that the individual stories were all very personal, very intimate, unique. People often didn’t really know why they were being persecuted.
“We have to remember just how far intolerance can go.”
The exhibition is free and is based at Mémorial de la Shoah, in Paris’s Marais district.
There are guided tours. For details, see tinyurl.com/ShoahParis.
See also: Horrors of France’s concentration camp