PARIS (Apr. 11)
The names of 76,000 Jews deported from France to perish in Nazi death camps were solemnly intoned on Yom Hashoah by teams of volunteer readers to silent crowds gathered in the Square of the Jewish Martyrs on the banks of the Seine.
The reading began Wednesday evening and ended Thursday night.
It was the first ceremony of its kind in France to commemorate the remembrance day of Holocaust victims. It was organized by Rabbi Daniel Farhi, religious leader of a Liberal (Reform) congregation in Paris.
The marathon readers included the rabbi and 95 members of his congregation and of Nazihunter Serge Klarsfeld’s Association of the Sons and Daughters of Jewish Deportees from France.
Six candles flickered through the night, symbolizing the 6 million Jews who died in the Holocaust.
The Martyrs Square is the site of the Vel d’Hiv roundup in 1942, when French police handed over some 8,000 Jewish prisoners to the Nazis to be loaded into boxcars for deportation.
The ceremony took place under a large blue-and-white tent. Passersby were welcomed to enter and examine documents, letters and photographs of some of the deportees.
People came, stayed for a while and left, clearly moved by the seemingly endless litany of names. It was a most effective way to counter the revisionists, the neo-Nazis and others who claim the Holocaust never occurred.
“It is essential to show the young generation what the Nazi occupation here was really like,” one of the organizers of the reading explained.
“If we don’t do it, we leave the stage to the revisionists. To read about the Holocaust is one thing. But to come here and hear the names of those deported makes you understand that they were real people, alive before they were killed.
“People walk away from here able to envision what happened in our community,” he said.