Inaugurated in 2005 by French President Jacques Chirac and celebrated French politician and Holocaust survivor Simone Veil, the Mémorial de la Shoah was created with one purpose: understanding the past to illuminate the future.
Europe’s largest center for information on the Holocaust, the Paris Holocaust Memorial educates visitors in order to fight against racism and intolerance. The museum-memorial offers guided tours, exhibitions, events, and training, as well as educational materials so that visitors, teachers, and students can better understand the history of the genocide of the Jews during World War II. Since 2005, the memorial also offers presentations and pedagogical activities teaching the history of the Armenian genocide and the genocide of the Tutsi in Rwanda.
The very first impression when you enter the museum is striking. In the center of the courtyard stands a bronze cylinder which evokes the chimneys of the concentration camps, bearing the names of the Warsaw Ghetto and the main concentration camps. Along the courtyard walls, seven bas-reliefs by artist Arbit Blatas represent the camps and scenes of persecution faced by the Jews.
On your way to enter the interior of the memorial, you’ll walk by the Wall of Names, a passageway made of several walls engraved with the names of the 76,000 Jewish men, women, and children deported from France from 1942-1944. Inside the museum, just below the courtyard’s circular memorial, lies the crypt. Here, a large, black marble Star of David serves as the symbolic tomb for the six million Jews without graves.
Along an outside wall of the memorial, in a publicly-accessible area, there stands a glimmer of hope in the dark history of the Holocaust; the Wall of the Righteous pays tribute to those in France who risked their lives to save persecuted Jews.
Displaying photographs, original records, posters, and private correspondences, the permanent exhibition describes both collective history and individual destinies. From time to time, temporary exhibitions covering a variety of topics related to the Holocaust are also held in the museum.
The museum and exhibitions are free to enter.