The Third Monument

of the French people in Mauthausen

 

A long and meticulous work comes to an end which makes it possible to give access to a thorough and comprehensive record of cases of the French people who have been deported to Mauthausen and who have, at some time, stayed at the camp. Tribute has to be paid to all those who – some of them have died along the way, therefore having no knowledge of the conclusions of this complex and exacting task – those who have worked within their “Amicale”, years on end, collecting existing registers, authenticating each name, reference number and trace. Not only did the task consist in thesaurizing facts and elements but also in making sense of them : each list holds in store a number of enigmas which the survivors only are able to decypher. Merely by confronting their own awareness – one inexpressible to historians – with computer scientists’s experience can we ensure whether our work has reached its aim.

A third monument : it ranks behind the French monument in Mauthausen which was erected on one of the terraces where the SS confinement area was situated, besides, it was the first one to be built among the national Austrian monuments (1949) ; it also comes next to the monument in the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris (1958). Immaterial as it is, and though an authentic memorial, laden with both a symbolic and emotional potential which goes far beyond a mere documentary interest and which was meant, undoubtedly, to be more precious than granite to each family’s heart, among those who have had to partake in this moment of history. A memorial as well which would actually feed a global memory, together with the knowledge of Mauthausen in the present times and in the years ahead of us.

Better than any book in so far as it is within reach for anyone, wherever one is ; virtual, yet made concrete, knowledgeable and interactive, this thesaurus of information is made accessible on line, and each and everyone can either peruse it or simply flock through it at will – it responds to the inquiries of individual families, the concerns of researchers, the curiosity of teachers or students and the quest of those people with a moral desire to know. The individual file for each deportee traces back his/her route since his/her first place of detention. In the long run and progressively each stage will be accompanied and illustrated by sound and visual elements to inform about the background where one was placed. It will be as carefully documented as possible, yet liable to be amended or completed if need be – unsusceptible though to suffer from any undesirable break-ins.

In favour of a global memorial of the detainees of Mauthausen, on the scale of the European continent – and even beyond! – the French initiative is but a first stone. Far from obliterating it, it appeals to this major human reality : the fraternal bond between the French deportees and all their comrades who were torn out of other territories – together with, as far as the French Amicale is concerned, a particular salute to the Spaniards, almost all of them having been deported from the French territory, and where, for the large majority of those who have survived, they could only come back to establilsh themselves. Regarding the ones and the others, their history will have been written under different circumstances and at different rythms, and the task has not yet been completed. There is no history of the camps which is not the history of the people. One day, we will have at our disposal a complete panorama of the massive deportations achieved by the Nazis in the entire space they dominated. Mauthausen (the railway station, the fortress, the network of satellite camps), was one of the terminals of this geography of servitude and death.

Daniel SIMON
President, Amicale de Mauthausen