Dedicated to the remembrance of the approximately 200,000 people that were deported from France between 1941-1944, the Memorial to the Martyrs of the Deportation invites visitors to learn, reflect, and remember. Even if you’re not a big fan of history, it’s an important thing to see while you’re in Paris, and it’s sure to make you think.
On the very eastern point of Ile de la Cité, just behind Notre Dame de Paris, this monument is actually quite easy to miss if you don’t know it’s there. Hidden behind a wall of bushes and a metal fence that extends all the way from the Pont Saint-Louis to the bridge leading to the Rive Gauche, the memorial doesn’t look like much at first sight. But walk through the small green square, down the steps, and into the crypt for an educational and emotional experience.
The monument’s deliberately austere architecture (designed by Georges-Henri Pingusson) and the pedagogical presentations tell the moving story of those who suffered from the Nazi’s policies at the hands of the Vichy Regime. Resistance fighters, Jews, political opponents, men, women, and children – they were all caught up in a terrible whirlwind during the Second World War.
Le Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation stands also as a reminder, encouraging us to take a hard look at our past actions so that we don’t repeat them and remain vigilant in the future. As the great German playwright Bertolt Brecht wrote, “The belly is still fertile from which the foul beast sprang.”