PARIS (Apr. 5)
A “Memory Train” left Paris for Auschwitz early Sunday with 750 people aboard making a pilgrimage back into time.
They are mainly members of the postwar generation, including some teen-agers, determined that the Holocaust will be remembered by the future builders of Europe.
The trip was organized by French Nazi-hunter Serge Klarsfeld. The train departed on the 50th anniversary of the first deportation of Jews from France. It was to arrive 25 hours later in Oswiecim, the city in southeastern Poland nearest the death camp site.
A plaque will be affixed to the spot where the deportees were unloaded and the notorious Dr. Josef Mengele decided who would go directly to the gas chambers and who would be used as slave labor.
The first cattlecars with Jews left Paris on April 5, 1942. From then until 1944, the trains left regularly. Close to 80,000 Jews were deported from France, including 11,000 children, some under 6 years old. Fewer than 2,500 survived.
The Jews were rounded up for the Gestapo by French gendarmes, who guarded them while they waited to be put into the boxcars.
One of the main staging areas was not some remote spot but the populous Paris suburb of Drancy, where Jews from all over France were herded into a camp commanded by an SS officer, Alois Brunner.
Brunner escaped justice after the war and lives in Syria under the protection of the Damascus government.
On the return trip to Paris, the Memory Train will stop at Strasbourg in eastern France, seat of the European Parliament. The pilgrims will march to the Parliament with the message that the future of Europe cannot be divorced from its past.