The history of the CDJC

The Centre de documentation Juive Contemporaine (CDJC, Contemporary Jewish Documentation Center) was clandestinely created in France to document the persecution of the country’s Jews during the Second World War. It is a key component of the Shoah Memorial.

The CDJC — Centre de documentation juive contemporaine, or Contemporary Jewish Documentation Center — was the seed from which the Shoah Memorial eventually grew. Its founders’ determination to document the genocide of Europe’s Jews during the war is still one of the main missions of the Shoah Memorial, a museum, documentation center and memorial at the same time.

The foundation of the CDJC dates back to April 28, 1943, when industrialist Isaac Schneersohn clandestinely brought together around 40 Jewish activists and community leaders in his Grenoble apartment to discuss the idea of creating an archive.

The goal was to set up an organization that would collect evidence on the persecution of the Jews in order to bear witness and demand justice after the war. A few years later, they achieved their aim when Nuremberg trial prosecutors relied on documents from the CDJC archives.

THE ARCHIVES’ WEIGHT AT THE NUREMBERG AND BARBIE TRIALS

In September 1943, the Germans invaded the zone in which Grenoble was located —occupied until then by Italy — stopping the work the group had been doing since meeting in Schneersohn’s apartment. They resumed after D-Day, when he and his team reached Paris to recover the files the Vichy government and the Nazi occupiers left behind.

The CDJC group got their hands on the precious archives of the Commissariat Général aux Questions Juives (General Commissariat for Jewish Affairs, or CGQJ, the German embassy and general staff, the Vichy government’s general delegation and, most important of all, the Gestapo’s anti-Jewish section, one of the few recovered in Europe.

After the war, the documentation center created its own publishing company and, in 1946, Le Monde Juif, the first Holocaust history journal.

French prosecutors at the Nuremberg trial relied on the CDJC’s archives to build their case. In recognition for its work, the documentation center was then allowed access to the trial’s records.

Before the historic 1987 trial of former Lyon Gestapo chief Klaus Barbie, the CDJC produced a major piece of evidence allowing him to be charged with crimes against humanity: the Izieu telex.

FROM DOCUMENTATION CENTER TO PLACE OF REMEMBRANCE

In 1950, Schneersohn decided to give the CDJC a new dimension by creating a tomb-memorial honoring Holocaust victims. The cornerstone was laid in 1953. On February 24, 1957, ashes from the extermination camps and the Warsaw Ghetto were solemnly deposited in the memorial’s crypt.

After building an extension, the new Shoah Memorial opened in 2005, finishing the work Schneersohn had begun by giving the documentation center a beautiful new home, offering researchers more spacious reading rooms and creating new places of mediation such as the museum, temporary exhibition spaces, auditorium and multimedia center. The Wall of Names, on which the names of all the Jews deported from France are engraved, echoes the memorial tomb of the 1950s.