A 2018 CNN poll found that more than 20% of France’s population between the ages of 18 and 34 have never heard of the Holocaust. These results are not only shocking, but disconcerting given that, in the famous words of George Santayama, “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” The same CNN study also found that 67% of Europeans polled believe that commemorating the Holocaust helps ensure that such atrocities will not happen again. The striking combination of the fading memory of the Holocaust and the recognized importance of commemorating the Holocaust, demonstrates the vital role memorials can play in combatting hate, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, and the mechanisms that underlie genocide. 

I am deeply appreciative of the Davis Foundation for supporting my study of World War II (WWII) memorials in France and Germany with a Project for Peace grant during the summer of 2019.  This support gave me the opportunity to travel to memorials to meet with curators, interview visitors, and make personal observations about the most effective ways memorials can contribute to the promotion of peace. During my Project for Peace, I focused on two different types of memorials: (1) more elaborate and complex memorials which include exhibits and have become centers for remembering WWII, and (2) monument-memorials which serve as markers or reminders of a historical event. Both types of memorials can serve the important dual purposes of transmitting the memory and lessons of WWII and of promoting peace in contemporary society.

Based on my research of memorials across France and Germany, I have created this guide. Its purpose is to encourage memorials to create an experience where visitors are inspired to actively remember, to better understand and to address the root causes of the tragedy being memorialized. One goal is to have memorials invite its visitors to extend these learnings to the modern-day context and use their knowledge of a particular history to ask: how did this happen, what should we do differently, and how can individuals play a role in promoting peace? A more meaningful engagement with memorials will translate into vigilance and resistance against racism, anti-Semitism, and injusticein the visitor’s society. 

The guide is divided into two parts: the first focuses on more complex and elaborate memorials which include exhibits and the second part focuses on monument-memorials. 

Part 1: 

The more elaborate memorials are centers of study which attract interested visitors who want to engage and learn about the commemorated event through an exhibit. Many of these types of memorials are not centrally located in a city and, as a result, require planning to visit. Through my study of memorials across France and Germany, I have identified thirteen elements that help more complex memorials contribute to the promotion of peace and prevention of conflict. These elements, which are outlined below, invite willing visitors to engage more meaningfully with the commemorated history and help connect that history to contemporary society. Allowing visitors to engage more profoundly with history and making history relevant to today, promotes self-reflection and may increase the likelihood that visitors will recognize and resist intolerances that exist today. Under each identified element are examples of memorials that effectively accomplish that specific element. Memorials may not be able to incorporate all of these elements, however, strategically incorporating even a few of them will render a visit to the memorial more impactful. 

The 13 elements are organized into two groups: elements one through eight are related to the physical installation of a memorial and elements nine through thirteen represent possible ways for a memorial to make the commemorated history relevant to the present. Changes to a memorial’s physical installation (elements one to eight) require more time and resources to enact than changes to presentation suggested by elements nine to thirteen. 

Physical Installation

1. Physical design:

The design of a memorial plays a significant role in the visitor’s experience. Thoughtful design can allow the visitor to more meaningfully engage with the commemorated history, evoke emotion, help confront history, and allow visitors to grieve the lives lost. 

  • One memorial that has thoughtfully considered its design is the Mémorial du Camp de Rivesaltes, a memorial of a French internment camp (picture below). Today, all that is left of the camp are the barracks that prisoners were forced to live in.  The memorial, built below ground level, allows the visitor’s focus to remain on the remnants of the camp. The light pink color and rough texture of the exterior allows the memorial building to blend naturally into its surrounding, again allowing the visitor to focus on the barracks. Had a more imposing memorial been created, the building may have distracted the visitor from what remains of the camp. Today, many of the barracks in which prisoners lived have eroded and, as a result, only fragments of the barracks remain. The memorial has chosen not to restore or maintain the barracks. As a result, the barracks continue to degrade, making it increasingly difficult for the visitor to imagine the living conditions that those detained were forced to endure. Yet, the architecture, layout, and dim lighting of the memorial are reminiscent of the somber mood and difficult circumstances that prisoners had to tolerate. Within the permanent exhibit, there is a deliberate lack of seating; the architect did not want the visitor to have the opportunity to feel comfortable or at ease while learning about the discomfort and pain of those who were detained.  
The Mémorial du Camp de Rivesaltes.
The Mémorial du Camp de Rivesaltes.
  • The Site-Mémorial du Camp des Milles, a former factory that the French government used as a WWII internment camp, is France’s only internment camp that is still publicly accessible and entirely intact. Those creating the memorial took advantage of the fact that the camp’s structure is still intact by designing the memorial inside the factory building itself. Visitors walk through the very spaces where those imprisoned were detained, which allows visitors to more concretely understand the conditions that detainees were forced to endure. The curators seek to recreate the reality of internment by subjecting visitors to some of the same conditions as those detained. The memorial is devoid of a heating or cooling system. Consequently, visitors experience the same temperature as the prisoners did: sweltering heat if they visit in the summer, and frigid, drafty conditions if they visit in the winter. The memorial goes even further by having the visitor share the same experience as some of those who were deported. On the chemin des déportés (path of the deportees) visitors retrace the steps that deportees took as they walked from the camp to the convoys destined for Auschwitz-Birkenau. Walking along the path, they momentarily assume the position of a deportee who walked the same steps during WWII. This shared experience allows visitors to more deeply connect with the history commemorated.

2.Temporary exhibits:

Temporary exhibits may encourage individuals who have already visited the memorial to return to the site. Moreover, temporary exhibits give memorials the opportunity to widen their audience by collaborating with other memorials or organizations to develop a special exhibit. The content within temporary exhibits gives memorials the opportunity to make history more relevant to contemporary society and to expand the history that is commemorated. 

  • The temporary exhibit from April to November 2019at the Mémorial de la Shoah in Paris is dedicated to the 1994 Tutsi genocide in Rwanda. Similarly, the Centre de la mémoire d’Oradour-sur-Glane’s temporary exhibit from June 2019 to April 2020 is dedicated to the Rwandan genocide. Discussing a more recent genocide allows the memorial to show that genocides continued after the Holocaust. A visitor may identify commonalities between the temporary and permanent exhibits; for example, the economic difficulties, the violence, and the use of propaganda rooted in stereotypes before the Holocaust and the Rwandan genocide. Recognition that there exists similarities in the development of these two genocides may make visitors more vigilant to such factors. 
  • The NS-Dokumentationszentrum München (NS Documentation Center Munich) proposed “The City Without. Jews Foreigners Muslims Refugees” as its temporary exhibit from May to November 2019. This exhibit uses contemporary events and events that occurred between 1933 and 1945 to show how extreme political ideology can result in the exclusion of different groups. The use of historical and current events links the present day with the past and may encourage the visitor to resist against intolerance resulting from political polarization. 

3. Survivor testimony:

The opportunity to speak directly to WWII survivors is becoming increasingly rare. Soon, it will be impossible. The death of survivors is, unfortunately, inevitable, but many memorials have recognized the importance of preserving and sharing their stories. Sharing stories of survivors is a compelling way to help visitors understand the atrocities of WWII. Moreover, survivor testimony often elicits a personal reaction in the willing visitor, which may lead them to recognize the importance of resisting intolerance to prevent such atrocities from happening again. 

  • The KZ-Gedenkstätte Dachau (Dachau concentration camp memorial) and the KZ-Gedenkstätte Buchenwald (Buchenwald concentration camp memorial) have integrated personal testimony into their audio guides; at each new point in the tour, the visitor has the opportunity to listen to the story of a survivor or to excerpts of recovered journals belonging to individuals who died at the camp. At the Stiftung Denkmal für die ermordeten Juden Europas (Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe) in Berlin survivors take part in narrating the audio guide, sharing both historical facts and personal stories. 
  • Located between the panels of the exhibit at the Mémorial du Camp de Rivesaltesare many upright screens, each of which shares the story of an individual who was imprisoned (picture below). This creates numerous spaces entirely dedicated to survivors. Moreover, the physical construction of the panels—as floor-length and elongated with respect to the other panels in the exhibit—embody its description of a person, as though the panel were the person standing there.
The upright panels which each share the story of a survivor at Mémorial du Camp de Rivesaltes.
The upright panels which each share the story of a survivor at Mémorial du Camp de Rivesaltes. 
  • Survivor testimony can take many forms. The Centre d’histoire de la résistance et de la déportation uses footage from the 1987 trial of Klaus Barbie, the head of the Nazi Gestapo in Lyon, France, to share survivor testimony. The use of survivor testimony from the trial allows the memorial to simultaneously present the historical atrocities committed during WWII and how Nazi perpetrators were (and were not) held responsible for their actions. 

4. Audio guides:

Audio guides can increase the accessibility of a memorial by translating the exhibit into many different languages. Moreover, they can highlight important points, substantiate display panels, help visitors understand what they are seeing in a more meaningful way, and help maintain the visitor’s interest.Although audio guides can help orient and guide visitors through an exhibit, curators must be careful not to create a guide that rushes visitors and limits the visitor’s ability to freely explore.    

  • Audio guides can also be used to share the stories of survivors. Many of the German memorials studied in this Project for Peace, such as the KZ-Gedenkstätte Dachau (Dachau concentration camp memorial), the KZ-Gedenkstätte Buchenwald (Buchenwald concentration camp memorial) and the NS-Dokumentationszentrum München (NS Documentation Center Munich), have integrated survivor testimony into their audio guides. The Topographie des Terrors (Topography of Terror) in Berlin incorporates into their audio guide excerpts of speeches given by Nazi political figures during WWII. 
  • The audio guide at the NS-Dokumentationszentrum München (NS Documentation Center Munich) offers visitors different options for how to interact with the memorial: there is an option specialized for children visiting the exhibit, an option to focus particularly on anti-Semitism, and an option to focus on the main panels of the exhibit. 
  • WWII survivors participate in the narration of the audio guide of the Stiftung Denkmal für die ermordeten Juden Europas (Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe), sharing both personal stories and explaining historical events. The parts of the audio guide narrated by a narrator who is not a survivor is in the form of a conversation, and less like a recitation of facts. The narrator addresses visitors with sentences such as, “after taking time to view the images, we will continue at the last panel in the room.” This conversational approach allows the visitor to absorb the information of display panels at their own pace. 

5. Primary documents/objects:

It is important that memorials support statements and description with primary sources such as pictures, videos, official documents, letters, objects and other artifacts. Such sources serve as proof of the events described and allow memorials to establish credibility. It is the extraordinary evil and horrors of the tragedies that occurred during WWII that make it necessary for memorials to establish such credibility. 

  • The KZ-Gedenkstätte Buchenwald (Buchenwald concentration camp memorial) uses objects found at concentration camp to tell stories of survivors and share historical information. For example, the memorial uses the stripped uniform belonging to the prisoner number 6204 to present the story of that individual. 
  • Photos depicting the horrors that occurred during WWII areshocking. Many of the memorials in Germany, such as the KZ-Gedenkstätte Dachau (Dachau concentration camp memorial), the KZ-Gedenkstätte Buchenwald (Buchenwald concentration camp memorial) and the Topographie des Terrors (Topography of Terror), as well as the Centre de la mémoire d’Oradour-sur-Glane in France incorporate such pictures in their exhibits. The horrific pictures depict the brutality, mass violence, and horror that occurred. Some visitors may feel overwhelmed by the violence and cruelty depicted in such pictures, while for others the images may elicit an emotional response that allows these visitors to sympathize with the victims. 

6. Explaining the factors that led to WWII/historical context of WWII:

It is important that memorials show that WWII broke out as a result of the combination of many factors rather than spontaneously due to mere chance. Explaining the social, political, and economic factors that lead to WWII makes the visitor aware of these factors and may increase the likelihood that the visitor will recognize them in their own society. 

  • The exhibit at the Mémorial de Caen begins with the “failure of peace:” events beginning in 1918 that contributed to the start of WWII. The design of exhibit mimics the historical reality that it describes: the “failures of peace” section is designed such that visitors descend around a circular white sphere (symbolizing the Earth) as they read the description of the events that led to WWII. Significantly, the visitor physically spirals downwards, just as Europe did in the years leading to WWII. 

7. Resistance:

WWII memorials commemorate atrocities committed by the perpetrators. However, there were also people who, at the risk of their own lives, attempted to help individuals targeted by perpetrators. Memorials can provide examples of those who resisted intolerance to show that it is possible to stand up to and prevent injustice. The contrast between the acts of hate and acts of justice suggests to visitors that they have a choice: to accept or to reject intolerance. It may also motivate visitors to act against injustices in their own societies. 

  • The exhibit at the SiteMémorial du Camp des Milles ends with “le mur des actes justes” (the wall of righteous acts). This wall describes dozens of acts of resistance or acts against intolerance by everyday people during four genocides of the 20thcentury. The acts of resistance described range from organizing a counter-exhibition “to protest the Nazi exhibition defaming modern art;” to “sheltering and saving a young gypsy girl;” to providing fake documents; and to developing resistance networks.For visitors, resisting injustice might seem like a daunting task that requires extraordinary capabilities. However, the wall of righteous actsshows real examples of actions of resistance performed by everyday people. By presenting a wide range of actions of resistance, the exhibit explains that a refusal to accept injustice, whether it is through a small act or a larger act, is meaningful.Including less dramatic acts of resistance in the set of examples demonstrates that even small acts can make a large difference. Moreover, the wall shows visitors that it is possible to stand up and resist mass evil.
Le mur des actes justes (the wall of righteous acts) at the Site-Mémorial du Camp des Milles.
Le mur des actes justes (the wall of righteous acts) at the Site-Mémorial du Camp des Milles. 

8. Key words:

Memorials can draw general themes from the specific history commemorated (i.e. resistance, identity, stereotypes). Incorporating more general themes allows memorials to teach visitors the definition of such phenomena. Moreover, it provides visitors with concrete examples, making them more likely to recognize the occurrence of such phenomena in their own society. 

  • The background of the information panels at the Mémorial National de la Prison de Montluc have watermarks of words such as “exclusion,” “persecution,” and “hatred” (picture below). The words on each panel are directly related to the history being described: for example, the background of the panel explaining how the prison was used to imprison Jewish people before their deportation includes the words “persecution” and “hatred.” Such words which are displayed on all the exhibit’s panels also underscore for visitors the dominant feelings and beliefs during WWII, putting them more squarely in that time period.
Example of the information panels at the Mémorial National de la Prison de Montluc.
Example of the information panels at the Mémorial National de la Prison de Montluc.

Making the commemorated history relevant to the present

9. Events:

Memorials can organize events such as commemorative ceremonies, conferences, book readings, and meetings with survivors. Such events encourage visitors who have already visited to return to the site, provide an additional method of transmitting history, help ensure that history is not forgotten, and can attract new visitors. 

  • The Mémorial de Caen has organized numerous events that contribute to the promotion of peace today. For example, on June 6, 2004 (the 60thanniversary of D-Day), French President Chirac and the German Chancellor Schröder symbolically met at the memorial as a gesture of peace and reconciliation among the two countries (picture below).It was the first time Germany had been represented at a D-Day commemoration, symbolizing a new relationship between the two countries.
Image of French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder embracing at the Mémorial de Caen.
Image of French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder embracing at the Mémorial de Caen.
  • On July 21, 2019, the Centre d’histoire de la résistance et de la déportation in Lyon, France organized a commemorative ceremony for the victims of racist and anti-Semitic crimes by the French Vichy government during WWII.The ceremony began by honoring the Jews from Lyon who had been deported to Nazi death camps; one by one, hundreds of names were read aloud. After the reading of names, Jean-Baptiste d’Ivry spoke about his grandfather, Albert Routier, a consulate who provided forged documents to save families from deportation and who was named Righteous Among Nations in 2016 for his altruistic actions. The event served as an opportunity to honor the victims who were deported, transmit the memory of WWII and share the story of an individual who resisted the intolerance of the time.

10. Social media:

Social media is a powerful communication tool that memorials can utilize for publicity, to connect with younger populations and to help educate the public on the commemorated history. This increases awareness of the memorial’s existence and likely drives attendance. Memorials can also use social media to combat the intolerance spawned online by hate groups. 

  • The Site-Mémorial du Camp des Milles uses its social media platforms to advertise upcoming events, to disseminate the stories of survivors, and to share pictures. Significantly, the memorial also uses its social media platforms to respond to and condemn contemporary events of intolerance (picture below). This allows the memorial to relate the history of the camp to contemporary society. 
Screenshot of a tweet sent out by the Site-Mémorial du Camp des Milles condemning an act of intolerance and hatred.
Screenshot of a tweet sent out by the Site-Mémorial du Camp des Milles condemning an act of intolerance and hatred.

11. Encouraging self-reflection:

Inviting willing visitors to reflect on their society and on their personal thoughts and actions may lead to the recognition of stereotypes, prejudices, hatred and discrimination. Making an individual aware of such influences is the first step towards combating such intolerances. Awareness of intolerances combined with a memorial’s explanation of the history of the Holocaust—which was rooted in intolerance—may translateinto vigilance and resistance and, consequently, may contribute to the promotion of peace.  

  • After describing the history of Le Camp des Milles, a French WWII internment camp, the Site-Mémorial du Camp des Milles attempts to educatevisitors on the individual and collective processes that give rise to racism and genocide. It also draws on scientific research on individual and collective behavior to educate visitors on the capacity of people to fight against these forces. The exhibit asks visitors questions such as how would you act if this was happening today? 
  • The permanent exhibit at the Mémorial du Camp de Rivesaltes, which describes the history of the French internment camp of Rivesaltes, ends with a panel titled “Camps: A question asked in the 21st-century.” The panel invites visitors to reflect on the treatment of refugees around the world in contemporary society. 

12. Guided Tours:

Guided tours of an exhibit provide the opportunity to substantiate what is displayed on information panels and to make connections to contemporary times.They are also potential opportunities for these sites to make more immediate changes to their programming; altering guided tours is likely faster to implement than changing an exhibit’s display material.   

  • The exhibit of the Mémorial du débarquement et de la libération de Provence highlights the diversity within the French troops that participated in the landing and ultimate liberation of Provence: soldiers from Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Martinique, Guadeloupe, New Caledonia, Polynesia, and New Hebrides fought to liberate the south of France. Adding to what was written on the exhibit panels, the tour guide discusses how people from these diverse backgrounds are often viewed in today’s society as the “other” and face intolerances. The tour guide reminds the group that we are all technically the “other” to someone and that is in part to the “other” that the south of France owes its freedom.
  • The Mémorial de Caen ends with a description of how the European Union was created post-WWII as a way to help promote peace and prosperity in a devastated continent. The tour guide, as well as an immersive video, highlight that the countries that make up Europe are united by a shared history. They also emphasize the important role that the European Union plays in the maintenance of peace and the fragility of the European Union today. 

13. Pedagogic curriculum/activities for students and professionals:

Memorials can develop pedagogic activities as a way to help contribute to the promotion of peace. There are a wide range of possible activities, which gives memorials the opportunity to make history more relevant to contemporary society and to expand the history that is commemorated. These activities may also encourage individuals who have already visited the memorial to return to the site and can help promote awareness about the memorial’s existence.

  • In 2017, the Mémorial de la Shoah de Drancy welcomed 359 different school groups to its memorial for day-long visits. During the first half of the day, the studentslearned about the history of the Camp de Drancy, an internment and deportation camp in Paris’ suburbs. Drancy was the principal departure point to Nazi camps such as Auschwitz-Birkenau for those (mainly Jews) being deported from France; during WWII, 67,400 Jews from all over France went through Drancy before being sent East. Teaching children about the camp’s history serves to transmit memory of the Holocaust and, consequently, helps combat the current fading memory of the Holocaust. During the second half of the day, the memorial has designed interactive pedagogic activities related to contemporary society such as the one titled, “deconstructing racist and anti-Semitic prejudices in our everyday life and in the past.” Such activities help educate students on the intolerances that exist within contemporary society and may translate into vigilance and resistance to these intolerances. Teachers were also present during the visits to the memorial and, consequently, the activities simultaneously informed the students and teachers on the history of the site and on contemporary society. The Mémorial de la Shoah de Drancy also offers pedagogic activities for professionals and other adults. One particular pedagogic curriculum was designed for adults who hold positions of power in society, such as police officers, members of the army, and elected officials. While teaching about the site’s history, the purpose of the activity is to educate about obedience, authority, conformity, and passivity. The memorial’s goal is to raise awareness of such phenomena in order to lead adults toreact if they are confronted with such behavior.

It is my hope that, by incorporating a select number of these 13 elements, memorials can help ensure that our past is not forgotten and can also inform our present. That is, a memorial must be more than a static commemoration of historical event, but a dynamic source of information and memory that enables us to not only learn about our past but also learn from it. A more informed and vigilant population will promote peace and avoid the repetition of past mistakes. For a list and description of all memorials visited, please see the end of this guide. 

Part 2: 

This section of the guide will focus on smaller monument-memorials that serve as markers and reminders of a historical event (pictures below). While these monument-memorials are less complex than the memorials discussed in the first part of this guide, they are generally more accessible. Frequently this type of monument-memorial is integrated into French and German cities and, consequently, is readily in sight to individuals and visible every day without planning or travel. While visitors may have to travel purposefully to the more elaborate memorials, individuals can unintentionally encounter monument-memorials. Due to the accessibility of these memorials, they are important tools that, if utilized effectively, can help combat the fading memory of the Holocaust discussed in the introduction of the guide and can help promote a better understanding of the mistakes of the past. 

Currently, the large majority of these monument-memorials serve to commemorate an event or honor the victims of WWII. However, many do not provide any historical context and, as a result, risk missing an opportunity to educate passersby on the atrocities, intolerances, and persecutions that occurred during WWII. These basic memorial-monuments served an important purpose in commemorating victims and heroes when the events were fresh in the populations mind, but now as the memory of the Holocaust and WWII has faded and generations unaffected by WWII populate cities, these monument-memorials, without greater context, fail to take advantage of the opportunity to educate the passersby to the success and failures of the past. A pedestrian walking by a monument-memorial may be attracted by its design and to what is engraved, but the lack of context surrounding these memorials may make it difficult for individuals to understand the memorial’s larger historical significance. Enhancing monument-memorials so that they serve both commemorative and pedagogic functions can help combat the fading memory of the Holocaust and promote a better understanding of the factors that enabled this tragic time in history. During my Project for Peace, I identified two monument-memorials that could serve as models.

First is the Stèle à la mémoire des 44 enfants juifs d’Izieu (Plaque in memory of the 44 Jewish children of Izieu), located in the heart of Lyon, France. This monument-memorial explains and situates the event that it commemorates in its historical context (pictures below). The memorial itself consists of a stone engraved with the names of the 44 children and 5 adults of the Maison d’Izieu, a children’s home, who were arrested and deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Surrounding the engraved stone are two panels describing the Maison d’Izieu, the historical context in which they were deported, the details of the deportation and the post-war efforts to hunt down Klaus Barbie, the Nazi official who ordered their arrest and deportation. In addition to this description, the panels include images of the children. This monument-memorial is particularly effective because cosmopolitans commuting to work or tourists walking by the heavily frequented square in which the monument is located can learn about the Holocaust while going about their everyday lives.

Stèle à la mémoire des 44 enfants juifs d'Izieu (Plaque in memory of the 44 Jewish children of Izieu). Lyon, France.
Stèle à la mémoire des 44 enfants juifs d’Izieu (Plaque in memory of the 44 Jewish children of Izieu). Lyon, France.
First panel beside the Stèle à la mémoire des 44 enfants juifs d'Izieu (Plaque in memory of the 44 Jewish children of Izieu).
First panel beside the Stèle à la mémoire des 44 enfants juifs d’Izieu (Plaque in memory of the 44 Jewish children of Izieu). 
Second panel beside the Stèle à la mémoire des 44 enfants juifs d'Izieu (Plaque in memory of the 44 Jewish children of Izieu).
Second panel beside the Stèle à la mémoire des 44 enfants juifs d’Izieu (Plaque in memory of the 44 Jewish children of Izieu). 

The second monument-memorial that can serve as a model to enhance the function of other monument-memorials is the Denkmal für die zur NS-Zeit verfolgten Homosexuellen (Memorial to the Homosexuals Persecuted under the National Socialist Regime) in Berlin, Germany (pictures below). The memorial itself is made of concrete. Beside the memorial is a panel that provides a brief summary of the persecution of homosexuals by the Nazi Party and the history of exclusion of homosexual victims from WWII commemorations.Significantly, the panel also relates Germany’s history of LGBTQ intolerance to the present moment, stating that “because of its history, Germany has a special responsibility to actively oppose the violation of gay men’s and lesbians’ human rights. In many parts of the world, people continue to be persecuted for their sexuality, homosexual love remains illegal and a kiss can be dangerous.”By situating the persecution of homosexuals in Nazi Germany in both its larger historical context and contemporary society, this monument-memorial serves as a reminder that while WWII may have ended, intolerance and hatred did not. Moreover, it reminds the viewer of their responsibility in combating intolerance and promoting peace. The larger number of memorials that serve as such reminders, the larger effort we can make to the promotion of peace. 

Denkmal für die zur NS-Zeit verfolgten Homosexuellen (Memorial to the Homosexuals Persecuted under the National Socialist Regime). Berlin, Germany.
Denkmal für die zur NS-Zeit verfolgten Homosexuellen (Memorial to the Homosexuals Persecuted under the National Socialist Regime). Berlin, Germany.
Panel beside the Denkmal für die zur NS-Zeit verfolgten Homosexuellen (Memorial to the Homosexuals Persecuted under the National Socialist Regime).
Panel beside the Denkmal für die zur NS-Zeit verfolgten Homosexuellen (Memorial to the Homosexuals Persecuted under the National Socialist Regime).

List of memorials with exhibits visited (listed alphabetically):

• Anne Frank Zentrum in Berlin, Germany: While educating its visitors on the story of Anne Frank, the memorial simultaneously examines democracy, equal rights, freedom and social responsibility. 

• Centre d’histoire de la résistance et de la déportation in Lyon, France: Located the proclaimed “Capital of the French Resistance” during WWII, this memorial educates its visitors on the resistance networks throughout France and on the deportation of thousands of Jews to Nazi concentration camps by the French government.

• Centre de la mémoire d’Oradour-sur-Glane in Oradour-Sur-Glane, France: On June 10, 1944, a German Waffen-SS company brutally massacred all 642 inhabitants of the village of Oradour-sur-Glane and destroyed the town. The town was not rebuilt and is in the same state that the Nazis left it. Visitors to the Centre de la mémoire d’Oradour-sur-Glanenot only learn about the massacre but are also able to see firsthand the atrocities that took place by walking through what remains of the village.

• Gedenkstätte Deutscher Widerstand (German Resistance Memorial Center) in Berlin, France: This memorial is dedicated to the Germans who resisted the Nazis. The memorial’s stated goal is “to show how individual persons and groups took action against the National Socialist dictatorship from 1933 to 1945 and made use of what freedom of action they had.”

• Haus der Wannsee-Konferenz Gedenk-und Bildungsstätte (House of the Wannsee Conference Educational and Memorial Site) in Wannsee (Berlin), Germany: On January 20, 1942 top Nazi officials gathered for the Wannsee Conference where they decided how the “Final Solution to the Jewish Question” would be implemented. This memorial, which is located inside of the lakeside villa where the conference occurred, presents the history of anti-Semitism in Germany, the exclusion of Jews, and the organized murder of millions of European Jews in German-controlled territories.

• Jüdisches Museum Berlin (Jewish Museum Berlin) in Berlin, Germany: As the largest Jewish museum in Europe, the museum’s stated goal is “to study and present Jewish life in Berlin and Germany.”

• KZ-Gedenkstätte Buchenwald (Buchenwald concentration camp memorial) in Weimar, Germany: The Nazis detained over 240,000 prisoners at the Buchenwald concentration camp in Weimar, Germany between 1937 and 1945. Nearly 54,000 documented deaths were recorded (although historians believe that actual death toll is significantly larger). The memorial shares the camp’s history, the stories of those who survived imprisonment and the role that nearby inhabitants played during WWII. 

• KZ-Gedenkstätte Dachau (Dachau concentration camp memorial) in Dachau, Germany: Dachau, which opened in 1933, was the first Nazi concentration camp. Initially political prisoners were imprisoned; however, as WWII progressed, Jews and individuals who were captured in the countries that Germany invaded were also detained. There were 32,000 deaths documented at Dachau, but there were thousands more that were undocumented. The memorial shares the camp’s history, the stories of those who survived imprisonment and the role that nearby inhabitants played during WWII.

• Mémorial de Caen in Caen, France: Visitors to this memorial can learn about the history of WWII, particularly of D-Day (the Allied landing in Normandy) and the Battle for Caen. 

• Mémorial de Falaise-La Guerre des Civils in Falaise, France:This memorial is entirely dedicated to the daily lives of the civilians living in Normandy during WWII.

Mémorial de l’internement et de la déportation du Camp de Royallieu in Compiègne, France: Opened in 1941 by the Nazis, Le Camp de Royallieu was an internment and deportation camp located 50 miles North of Paris. Nazis used the camp to detain Jews and prisoners of war. Approximately 40,000 people were deported from the camp to Nazi extermination camps. Today, the memorial transmits the camp’s history, educates visitors on the atrocities that occurred at Nazi concentration camps and honors those who were deported from the camp.   

• Mémorial de la Shoah de Drancy in Drancy, France: From 1941 to 1943, Le Camp de Drancy was used by the French Vichy government and Nazis to detain and deport 67,400 Jews (men, women and children) to concentration camps in the East.  Located in the suburbs of Paris,the memorial shares the history of the Drancy internment and deportation camp.

• Mémorial de la Shoah in Paris, France: Located in the heart of Paris, the memorial’s stated mission is to “preserve and transmit the memory of the Holocaust to subsequent generations by reckoning with issues of genocide and crimes against humanity.” This memorial focuses particularly on the history of Jews and anti-Semitism in France.  

• Mémorial du Camp de Rivesaltes in Salses-le-Château, France: During WWII, the French government imprisoned in the Camp de Rivesaltes gypsies, Jews and Spanish refugees who were fleeing Francisco Franco. Over 2,400 Jews were deported to Nazi concentration camp. The French government continued to use the camp even after WWII had ended; from 1962 to 1964, the camp detained Harkis, Algerian Muslims who supported France during the Algerian War of Independence. This memorial seeks to transmit the memory of the Camp de Rivesaltes.  

Mémorial du débarquement et de la libération de Provence in Toulon, France: This memorial is dedicated to preserving and transmitting the history of the Allied landing in Provence (the south of France) during the summer of 1944.

• Mémorial National de la Prison de Montluc in Lyon, France: When Nazi troops invaded Lyon, France in 1942, the Gestapo (the Nazi police) used the Montluc prison to detain and interrogate Jews and members of the French resistance who were awaiting deportation to concentration camps.It is estimated that Klaus Barbie, the Gestapo Commander of Lyon in charge of the prison and who was nicknamed as the “Butcher of Lyon,” was directly responsible for the deaths nearly 14,000 people. In 1983, Barbie was convicted of crimes against humanity. The memorial shares the prison’s history, paying special attention to the individuals who were imprisoned. 

• Musée de la Résistance en Alta Rocca in Zonza, Corsica (France): This museum presents the history of the Italian and German occupation of Corsica, the resistance on the island and the island’s liberation.

• Musée-Mémorial de la Bataille de Normandie in Bayeux, France: This memorial commemorates the military operations of the Allied landing in Normandy during the summer of 1944.

• NS-Dokumentationszentrum München (NS Documentation Center Munich) in Munich, Germany: Dedicated to the history of National Socialism, this museum-memorial focuses on the consequences and lessons that can be learned from the Nazi Regime. It also focuses on Munich’s role in the creation and rise to power of the Nazi party.   

• Site-Mémorial du Camp des Milles in Aix-en-Provence, France: In 1939, the French government requisitioned a tile factory called Le Camp des Milles for use as an interment and deportation camp. Over 10,000 prisoners were detained and the camp and more than 2,000 Jews were deported. Today, Le Camp des Milles is the last publicly accessible French WWII internment camp. The memorial at the camp is much more than just a place to memorialize WWII atrocities, but also a place to understand how such acts could occur and how to prevent them from occurring again. While remembering the crimes committed against the Jews and others at the Camp during WWII and honoring those who risked their lives to save those detained, the memorial takes a multidisciplinary approach to studying genocide. The memorial considers the psychological, economic, and social factors that lead to such horrors, with the goal of increasing vigilance and responsibility against racism, fanaticism and anti-Semitism.

• Stiftung Denkmal für die ermordeten Juden Europas (Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe) in Berlin, Germany: Beneath the physical memorial, which consists of 2,711 concrete slabs built on top of a slope, is an underground information center which serves as a “place of contemplation, a place of remembrance and warning.” The information center presents the history of the Final Solution and short biographies of the victims of the Holocaust.

• Topographie des Terrors (Topography of Terror) in Berlin, Germany:Located on the site where the building of the Nazi police once stood, this museum educates its visitors on the “central institutions of the SS and police during the Third Reich and the crimes that they committed throughout Europe.”