Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation Opens

The Mémorial de la Déportation is a memorial to the 200,000 people deported from Vichy France to the Nazi concentration camps during the Second World War.

It is in Paris, France on the site of a former morgue, underground behind Notre Dame on Ile de la Cite. It was designed by French modernist architect, writer, teacher, and town planner Georges-Henri Pingusson and opened in 1962.

Pingusson intended that its long and narrow subterranean space convey a feeling of claustrophobia.

In the year of its opening, a brochure produced by the French survivors' group "Reseau de souvenir" described the memorial as a crypt, "hollowed out of the sacred isle, the cradle of our nation, which incarnates the soul of France -- a place where its spirit dwells."

Fragments of two poems by French poet and French Resistance member Robert Desnos are inscribed on the walls. The first consists of the last stanza of a poem written by Desnos, himself a deportee, pseudonymously and published "underground" in Paris, on Bastille Day 1942, "The Heart that Hated War."

I have dreamt so very much of you, I have walked so much, Loved your shadow so much, That nothing more is left to me of you. All that remains to me is to be the shadow among shadows To be a hundred times more of a shadow than the shadow To be the shadow that will come and come again into your sunny life.

A circular plaque on the floor of the underground chamber is inscribed: "They descended into the mouth of the earth and they did not return." Along both walls of the narrow chamber are 200,000 crystals with light shining through meant to symbolize each of the deportees who died in the concentration camps.

A "flame of eternal hope" burns and The Tomb of the Unknown Deportee bears the inscription: "Dedicated to the living memory of the 200,000 French deportees sleeping in the night and the fog, exterminated in the Nazi concentration camps."

At the exit to the chamber is the injunction, engraved, found at all sites memorializing the victims of the Nazis: "Forgive but never forget."

This sober tribute to the 200,000 Jews, Communists, homosexuals and résistants deported to concentration camps from France in World War II stands on the eastern tip of the island. A blind staircase descends to river level, where simple chambers are lined with tiny lights and the walls are inscribed with verse. A barred window looks out at the Seine.