Serge Klarsfeld’s most startling opus, published in 1978, is a paperbound book, nearly the size of the Manhattan telephone directory, called the « Memorial to the Jews deported from France ». It is a listing of more than 80,000 names of Jews deported to the East or killed in France. Each entry includes name, birth date and birth place. The deportees from the main transit camp at Drancy alone came from 37 countries, ranging from France (22,193) and Poland (14,459) to the United States (10) and Tahiti (1). The oldest was 93, the youngest newborn.
It is only by the slenderest chance that the lists of names of the deportees survived. Each passenger list for the convoys sent to the East was typed in four copies. Two went with the convoys and were destroyed, as was the copy kept at the transit camp. But the Germans allowed the Jewish community council in Paris to keep a copy. By the time the Germans fled the city in 1944, the defunct council was forgotten. So were the copies of the lists. When Serge found them in a crate in a French Jewish archive not far from his office, they were faded and crumbling. With a few young volunteers, the Klarsfelds put each page in a plastic folder before attempting to transcribe the names. Sometimes the names were all but illegible, but the team refused to lose a single one.
‘These were people who had no graves’, explains Serge. ‘This is the only memorial they may ever have. It shows that they did exist. That is one reason why we have done this. The other is to have a record for trials of Nazi perpetrators. Nazi supporters like to scoff at the figure of six million. Here, from the French side, is the proof.’
From Peter Hellman(s profile of Serge and Beate Klarsfeld in The New York Times Magazine, Nov. 4, 1979