France’s capital is a treasure trove of hidden museums. Join la muséophile, or Gemma King as she’s known in the real world, as she takes us to her best picks when it comes to Paris museums. This week we take a sombre trip to Mémorial de la Shoah where memories of the Holocaust remain very real.
There’s no denying that France has a long and varied history; I’m constantly learning a new chapter of its story.
But sadly French history isn’t all revolutions, empires, and left-wing student rebellions in the Paris streets.
For there is no sugar coating the role French forces played in collaborating with their Nazi occupiers during the Second World War.
Mémorial de la Shoah: a tough time for France
Between 1940 and 1944, the valiant Resistance movement notwithstanding, French forces under Nazi instruction were complicit in the persecution, arrest, and eventual death of over 77,000 French Jewish people. Not to mention thousands of Roma and other minorities.
The Holocaust, or la Shoah, remains arguably the darkest period in French (and global) history. And the chilling stone plaques outside Paris’ schools and homes – marking where Jewish men, women, and children were rounded up to be sent to Concentration Camps – are a harrowing reminder of the reality and ubiquity of such events in Occupied France.
Mémorial de la Shoah: pain lives on
70 years on, the scars of the Holocaust are still very real. Which is one of the reasons the understated, tranquil Mémorial de la Shoah (Holocaust Memorial Museum), located in the historically Jewish quarter of the Marais, is such an important Paris museum.
The memorial is wrought from smooth stone and opens onto a sedate, sculptured courtyard engraved with the names of those lost.
The museum’s interior is lowly lit and very quiet, filled with information about, and commemoration of, the victims of the atrocities.
Like most, I was already aware of the key facts of the Holocaust. I didn’t visit so much to learn as to reflect.
And this is what the Mémorial de la Shoah does best: evokes the horrifying spectre of the Shoah without spectacle, violence or sensationalism, but with honesty, openness, and respect.
Le Mémorial de la Shoah
Opening hours: Sunday – Wednesday & Friday 10.00am – 6.00pm; Thursday 10.00am – 10.00pm; Saturday – closed.
Address: 17 rue Geoffroy l’Asnier, 75004 Paris
Métro: Saint Paul/Pont Marie
What were your thoughts & feelings upon visiting Mémorial de la Shoah? Do you have any personal stories about the Holocaust? Share your comments and experiences with us below.
© Gemma King
This article was first published on Les musées de Paris and republished here with permission.