Human Rights, France

Eighteen students, faculty and staff from SMU and Dallas are traveling to France during spring break 2014 to study the role that country played in the Holocaust, when Nazi-occupied France deported 76,000 Jews to be murdered in or en route to extermination camps.

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Three cities in France

An update from Forrest, a sophomore:

Paris. Strasbourg. Lyon. All world-class cities. All located near sites of atrocities against the Jews of France during the Second World War.

Paris. The site of the Drancy Deportation Center. Here French Jews were brought before they were deported on the train. Out of the country, out of sight.

Now people live here. The barracks built for the deportees are now suburban flats for families on the outskirts of Paris. At the center of the barracks/apartment buildings/homes is a reminder of the past that memorializes the plight of people brought here – a single boxcar.

Lyon. Near this beautiful city located very close to Switzerland is the very small and quaint village of Izieu, and the Memorial des Enfants Juifs Extermines. Possibly one of the most heinous crimes against the Jews of France, numerous orphans were deported from this home for orphans here on the orders of the infamous Klaus Barbie.

A simple museum and the house where the children lived commemorate the orphans and the adults who looked after them.

Strasbourg. Near it is the site of Natzweiller/Struthof camp. Formerly a ski resort, now a very well preserved concentration camp that is heavily visited by French and German schoolchildren.

It is another famous “rock quarry” camp, were death rates approached 50 percent. Built on the side of the hill, people interned here faced brutal days in the quarry, having to walk up and down the hillside all day. In addition, some Jews at this camp were selected for experimentation, and their corpses were transferred into the town of Lyon to the medical school for preservation after the people subject to these experiments died.

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