A few days ago, we received an e-mail from the noted expert in French genealogy, Earl F. Charvet, thanking us for the post about the Consistoire de Paris. He then went on to tell about research he had done at the Mémorial de la Shoah which is described as "the largest research centre on the history of the genocide of the Jews during the Second World War". We found what he wrote to be so powerful that we asked permission to put it up here on the blog. He very kindly not only assented, but sent the photo above.
I would like to add a mention about the archive at the Mémorial de la Shoah in the 4th arrondissement of Paris, just in case you have not worked there. In May, I spent a couple of days doing research in their library. Everyone on the staff was extremely helpful to me.
On this occasion, I was looking for any information about the 83-year-old French grandfather of an American living in Tucson. Upon entering the courtyard of the memorial, I immediately found his name etched into the walls among the 76,000 victims of the Holocaust from France so I knew more information would lie ahead. Within 90-minutes in the research library, I found that her grandfather first had been sent to the internment camp in Drancy (two miles south of today’s Roissy-Charles De Gaulle Airport), kept there several months, then loaded in a convoy (boxcar) a few days after the infamous « Rafle du Vel' d'Hiv » (Vel' d'Hiv Round-Up/Raid, 16-17 July 1942), and sent to Auschwitz.
I was stunned to find that unlike nearly all of the first French victims who were inhumanely shipped from Drancy - arriving dead at Auschwitz due to suffocation and lack of food or water in their convoys - her elderly grandfather had arrived there alive due to an unusual circumstance. Amazingly, the archive had microfilms of actual records showing him "checked-in" to Drancy, a list of everyone in the convoy in which he was transported, and most surprisingly, the German receiving records from Auschwitz that recorded his arrival. Other records showed he had died in the gas chambers only days later.
Beyond this soul shaking evidence, the library has a massive collection of digitized photos of the Nazi occupation of France searchable on their computers. I was particularly interested in photos of Drancy, and found hundreds. Scores of propaganda pictures by Nazi photographers of supposed daily life showed a shockingly twisted normalcy. The victims were caged inside of a barbed wire complex of ultra-modern apartment buildings and towers, originally part of a development called « Les Muettes » suggesting “quiet places,” which had the horrifying double-meaning of “mute women,” the irony of which could not have been missed by anyone. I was riveted to my computer screen, looking at photos for hours on end. Archivists graciously printed a few photos that I found particularly relevant to my research which I took with me at the end of the day.
The strikingly modern Mémorial de la Shoah opened in January 2005. It has handsome, informative displays about ordinary life before and during the Nazi occupation, and about the Shoah on several floors that are worth a visit in-and-of-themselves for anyone. The bookstore contains all types of works for sale in several languages.
Another place for researchers...
Mémorial de la Shoah
17, rue Geoffroy l'Asnier
Téléphone: (+33) 1 42 77 44 72
Métro: Saint Paul or Hôtel de Ville
Mémorial de la Shoah: Guide to archive sources in France (English):
After receiving Mr. Charvet's message, we decided to visit the Mémorial de la Shoah and to look at the databases. The research room and library are on the fourth floor and are free to use. In addition to the collection of photos Mr. Charvet mentions, one can search on separate data bases:
- Those named on the Wall of Remembrance
- Those Who Fought in the Résistance
- Companies and Associations owned by the victims
- Posters and Public Notices put up during the war
- From every departmental archive in the country, any and all documents relating to the victims and/or to the process of their rounding up and murder
Where possible, for every person, as much information is given and may include:
- Full name
- Family members
- Date of birth
- Place of birth
- Where interned and when
- Address before internment
We are most grateful for this contribution. Thank you, Mr. Charvet.
©2009 Anne Morddel