The Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation is a memorial to the 200,000 people deported from Vichy to the Nazi concentration camps during World War II. Designed by French modernist architect Georges-Henri Pingusson and opened in 1962, it’s located on the site of a former morgue, underground behind Notre Dame on Île de la Cité.
Fragments of two poems by French poet and French Resistance member Robert Desnos are inscribed on the walls. A circular plaque on the floor of the underground chamber says: ‘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 symbolise 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 from the crypt the admonition that is found at all sites memorialising the victims of the Nazis is engraved: ‘Forgive but never forget.’