Izieu, place of commemoration
Every year, three commemorations open to the general public are held at the Maison d’Izieu.
• Every 6th April, the association commemorates the raid of 1944 by a ceremony in tribute to the deported children and adults.
This very simple occasion gathers a large number of people around former residents of the children’s home (association members, State and local authority representatives, etc.). This ceremony is conducted with the close involvement of younger generations. School children read the Izieu children’s letters and join in the roll call of their names standing next to those who, as children, were taken in at the home. Each year, educational work by one or two classes is displayed on this occasion.
The Maison d’Izieu is a place of national remembrance.
Along with the former Vélodrome d’Hiver and the Gurs internment camp, the Maison d’Izieu is one of three national locations commemorating the victims of racial and anti-Semitic persecutions, and crimes against humanity committed with the complicity of the French State and recognised by Presidential Decree of 3rd February 1993.
Two ceremonies are organised by the French State.
• The National Deportation Day, on the last Sunday of April
• The National Day of Remembrance of Victims of Racist and Anti-Semitic Persecutions by the French State and of Tribute to the Righteous Among Nations of France, held on the first Sunday after the 16th July, in memory of the Vel’ d’Hiv raid of 16th July 1942.
The plaques and steles on the Izieu site and in its immediate vicinity provide visual evidence of the successive stages in the remembrance development process.
• The plaques mounted on the facade of the house
In 1946, a first plaque was installed on the right-hand side of the house during the 7th April commemoration. This recalls the story of the raid and the deportation of the children and adult helpers. It gives the name and age of each deported child and adult:
« On Holy Thursday 6th April 1944, 44 children from the Maison d’Izieu were arrested by the Germans with their helpers, then deported on 15th April 1944. Forty-one children and five of their helpers were exterminated in the gas chambers at Ausschwitz <sic>. The director of the home and two boys were executed by firing squad in the fortress of Revel. »
The name of Fritz Loebman, which had been omitted in 1946, was added to this plaque at the Izieu museum memorial inauguration in 1994.
The names of the deported children and adults are read in front of this plaque during the commemorations in April of each year.
In 1990, after the association bought the house, a second plaque was installed to the left of the main entrance at the initiative of Sabine Zlatin.
The engraved text evokes the history of the place and the life of the home before the raid:
« Here, under the name of ’home for refugee children from Hérault’, Sabine Zlatin, Red Cross nurse, Hérault social worker, and Miron Zlatin, agricultural engineer, founded on 10th April 1943 the ’Maison d’Izieu’ for sheltering Jewish children.»
In 1994, a third plaque was installed between the two doors of the house. It recalls the inauguration of the memorial by French President François Mitterrand on Sunday 24th April 1994.
• The national stele
Erected in 1994, the national stele symbolises the French Republic’s tribute to “the victims of racial and anti-Semitic persecutions, and crimes against humanity committed with the complicity of the French State”, who were recognised by Presidential Decree of 3rd February 1993.
Located at the side of the communal road running along the memorial site, it displays the inscription:
«Here, the Gestapo arrested and deported 44 children and 7 adults because they were born Jewish; 50 were exterminated at Auschwitz and Reval. The Republic pays tribute to the victims of racial and anti-Semitic persecutions, and crimes against humanity committed with the complicity of the Vichy government, the so-called ’government of the French State’ (1940-1944). Let us never forget.»
The commemoration ceremony on the national day of remembrance for the victims of racial and anti-Semitic persecutions of the French State and of tribute to the Righteous among Nations of France is held in front of this stele.
• The Brégnier-Cordon monument
The monument in Brégnier-Cordon, a village located beneath the commune of Izieu, was erected for the 7th April 1946 commemoration, like the first plaque on the house itself. At the initiative of Sabine Zlatin, its construction was possible thanks to contributions from local inhabitants and financing provided by the communes.
This obelisk is located at the La Bruyère crossroads, where the road starts to climb up to the village of Izieu. Its base is decorated with a bas-relief designed by Sabine Zlatin; this represents two children’s faces in front of a star of David threatened by a dagger surmounted by a swastika. It features several inscriptions.
On the right-hand side of the monument:
« Passer by…. Meditate and do not forget the martyrdom of these innocents – Let the places where they lived be forever sacred to you.»
Beneath the bas-relief, extracts from John Donne’s Meditation XVII, selected by Sabine Zlatin:
« No man is an island, entire of itself…any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. »
On the left-hand side of the monument, the original text was:
« In memory of the 43 children of the Izieu home, of their director and five helpers arrested by the Germans on 6th April 1944 and exterminated in the camps or executed by firing squad in German prisons.»
After the Klaus Barbie trial, this text was replaced by a new inscription:
« In memory of the 44 children of the Maison d’Izieu, of their director and 5 adult helpers arrested by the Nazi criminal Klaus Barbie on 6th April 1944, deported and exterminated in the camps or executed by firing squad because they were Jewish. Klaus Barbie, responsible for the deportation, was sentenced to life imprisonment by the Lyon Criminal Court on 3rd July 1987.»
Since 1946, ceremonies commemorating the 6th April 1944 raid start with a halt at the foot of this Brégnier-Cordon monument. The commune places flowers around the monument not only for every Republican ceremony (8th May, 14th July, 11th November), but also for the Toussaint (All Souls) festivities, thereby signifying that the memory of those who disappeared is linked to that of the deceased in the commune.