Vel d'Hiv, Paris Remembers

Trip Start Sep 15, 2005
1
105
175
Trip End Mar 05, 2014


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Flag of France  , Île-de-France,
Thursday, March 4, 2010

I wrote recently about having read and recommended reading Sarah's Key. It turns out that the new spring edition of the  In Paris magazine (a Paris)--that every homeowner in Paris receives in the mail from the city also features a cover-page story on the La Rafle de Vel d'hiv--the Round-up of the Vel d'Hiv (Velodrome d'Hiver) in a four-page spread that includes the only existing photograph of the buses outside the cycling stadium, interviews with survivors, and the story of the making of a movie on the subject. The headline of the article is "From History to Film, the Round-up of the Vel d'hiv," whereby the Parisians are exhorted to remember. The historian Annette Wieviorka speaks of how 'doors opened' and how concierges, school friends, and even restaurateurs saved many, and how some French police looked the other way. But of course, there were also those school friends and concierges who helped the Vichy, and the fact that it was the French police who made the arrests instead of Nazis shocked the community.

The Vel d'hiv was a particularly horrific round-up. Prior round-ups had usually been for men, so many men had gone into hiding when the French police came knocking. On just those two fateful days of the Vel'd'hiv round-up in July of 1942, more than 13.000 Jews were rounded up, of which 8100 Jews were families ( 1129 men, 2916 women and 4115 children) who were arrested and holed up for days in the Velodrome in disastrous conditions with no food, water or sanitary provisions prior to being deported to camps. Mothers with small children were sent to a camp in Beaune-la-Rolande.  A few days after the deportation, all the mothers were torn from their children and sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau--the children were left behind  for two more weeks before being sent to their deaths.

Prior to WWII, 270,000 Jewish residents lived in Paris. During the war, about half escaped the Nazis. Many were hidden by neighbors or were helped to escape.The French cinematographer believes that the story has to be told now as the youngest survivors are now n their 80s, and in twenty years, no more witnesses will be alive.Unlike Sarah's Key, which is a fictional account of the events, the movie La Rafle is the story of an actual 11 year old boy who survived the round-up. It is also a testament to the Parisians who did not look the other way. It's so easy sometimes to think of the villains, and I admit to being guilty of often harboring harsh judgements of complicity when I think about some of the elderly in this neighborhood, but we do well to remember that there were also many, if not more Parisians who actually helped their Jewish neighbors.

Unfortunately the French movie 'La Rafle' opens the day we leave, but I'm glad to see there's a French movie on the subject. There are also three current French books on the Vel d'hiv, one of which is written expressly for children. If you can read French, click below to open the issue. See pages 6-10, and click below that for their online bonus

» Lire ŕParis en version interactive
» Lire les bonus du numéro 34

One of the bonus articles also discusses the Memorial de la Shoah.
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