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October 8, 2015 10:19 am

Paris to Unveil Memorial for Infant Victims of the Holocaust

avatar by Harold Levy & Robert Boublil

The gates of the Auschwitz death camp. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The gates of the Auschwitz death camp. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

On Friday, October 9, a commemorative plaque will be unveiled in a small city park called “Les Jardins des Rosiers,” which is located in the Marais district of Paris.

The plaque contains the names of 101 infants of the fourth arrondissement in Paris, who were arrested by French police of the Vichy Regime and handed over to the Nazis for extermination — simply because they were born Jewish.

They were all too young to attend school. (If they had been old enough, their names would already have been placed on plaques at the schools they attended at the time of their arrest.)

The youngest was 27 days old.

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The five lines at the top of the plaque set out their common fate:

Arrested by the police of the Vichy government, accomplice of the Nazi occupation forces, more than 11,000 children were deported from France and murdered  in Auschwitz because they were born Jewish. More than 500 of these children used to live in the fourth arrondissement. Among them, 101 were so young that they didn’t have a chance to go to school.

These lines are followed by a message to passersby, who will pause to glimpse into the ugly past:

Passerby, read their names. Your memory is their only tombstone. We must never forget them.

This is the latest plaque installed under a program initiated by former students of a school on Rue de Tlemcen in Paris, to pay respect to their friends who did not come back.

Calling themselves “Comité Tlemcen,” they installed their first plaque outside of a school in April 1997, and inspired the growth of similar committees elsewhere in Paris.

Finding the names of the children who were taken away was no easy task.

The Comité poured through school records and then cross-checked these names with extraordinary, painstaking research into the deportation of 76,000 Jews from France, which had been conducted by famed Nazi hunters Serge and Beate Klarsfeld.

The Comité uses the plaque campaign as an opportunity to educate students about the truth of the Holocaust, and to ensure that “les enfants” will never be forgotten.

The location of the latest installation is significant, as Jews have inhabited the Marais district for hundreds of years and many of its residents were deported to the concentration camps.

The garden is named in honor of Joseph Migneret, the principal of a school in the area, who was recognized as “Righteous Among the Nations” for his efforts to save Jews, including his students.

The plaque is being installed in front of the former site of a popular restaurant called “Chez Jo Goldenberg” — the target of an infamous terrorist attack on August 9, 1982.

The timing of the installation is significant because of recent violent incidents against Jews, which once again have French Jews worried about the security of  their children.

Three “enfants caches” (hidden children who were saved from the Holocaust) representing various organizations will be present at the ceremony to be led by Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris.

André Panczer managed to find his way to Switzerland after a difficult and perilous passage, where, separated from his parents, he avoided the fate of so many of his fellow students.

Rachel Jedinak, an orphan of the Shoah who has been honored by the French government for her unceasing efforts to combat racial hatred, says she finds it “unbelievable” that in France, after what happened in the war, “the same human being could fear for the second time in a lifetime that one could be killed just for the reason of being Jewish.”

Régine Lippe says she plans to speak about the horrors perpetrated by the Nazis and the French Vichy government on the 1.5 million Jewish children assassinated in Europe during the war, among them the 101 children named on the list. She says that 70 years after the Shoah, she would not have imagined fearing again for her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

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