On July 10th of 2017, FIU Honors students of France: Art, War, and Human Rights were led on an educational tour of le Mémorial National de la prison de Montluc. Following their experience at le Mémorial National de la prison de Montluc, students shared their voices and opinions through photographs and personal reflections.
Walking the streets of this beautiful city with such an important person must never be forgotten. Meeting Claude Bloch, an 88-year-old Holocaust survivor, where he was imprisoned was impactful but also an honor. Throughout his story, he points out how at various different moments from when he was arrested, his mother saved his life over and over again, which made me think of how many times my mother has told me something and I have not listened. He is reminded every day of his past by the tattoo he was given to dehumanize him and for us to pass on his story and to never forget is to give him back what they took from him. #NeverForget
Creak. Shut. I’ve been arrested. You may be able to lock up my body, but not my soul; not my belief. Question me. I will resist. Beat me. Drown me. I will resist. You will never know what I do or the names of those like me. Take me to a camp. I will resist. Force me to work in you factories. I will resist and sabotage. I will always resist and fight oppression. I may not survive to tell them but let future generations know that when the Nazis came, there were those who resisted their oppression. There were those who stood up for liberté, égalité, and fraternité. That some refused to let them win. Vive La Résistance! Vive La France!
There are over 100,000 characters in languages all over the world, but somehow only five of them had the power to strip away a person’s humanity. Just like this photo, victims were considered bodies without a face, identity, and soul. They were just a number. Made to feel like cows in a slaughter house, people were tortured and executed because of who they were and what they believed in. But when the personal stories are heard, numbers become faces and faces become realization-realization that if we don’t continue listening, remembering, and repeating these stories, that people behind them will be forgotten. History will repeat itself and more innocent people will lose their humanity due to the ignorance of society and their thirst for power.
It is necessary to recognize and acknowledge the actualities of our world in order to learn from and prevent the evils of the past from repeating themselves. It may not always be the easiest thing and some may complain that it ruins a moment, but I believe that it serves to make you appreciate what has happened up until this point. Montluc Prison was the Nazi Gestapo holding point for all those who were to be tortured, overworked, or condemned to death by the Nazis, including Jean Moulin. So, I appreciate the fact that I am here and able to stand in this place, in this city and learn about the impactful events that many endured for families, for their lives, and for their country.
Originally used for military prisoners, the building was quickly used by the Vichy Regime and Nazis to collect Jews, Resistance fighters, and others to await deportation to various labor and death camps. The murals painted upon the walls today are not original from the 40s but later painted by women incarcerated in the 90s. The message however is still relevant: trying to hold on to the ones we love in times of despair and hopelessness. The mural calls out the deep human fear we all share of losing our loved ones and shows that resilience and how the strength of faith, love, and hope are never extinguished.
FIU Honors France 2017 Student Gallery from le Mémorial National de la prison de Montluc
Isabella Marie Garcia