Los Angeles Times

France remembers Holocaust roundup

- By Angela Charlton and Jade Le Deley Charlton and Le Deley write for the Associated Press.

PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday decried his Nazi-collaborat­or predecesso­rs and rising antisemiti­sm, vowing to stamp out Holocaust denial as he paid homage to thousands of French children who were sent to death camps 80 years ago because they were Jewish.

House by house, French police rounded up 13,000 people on two terrifying days in July 1942, wresting children from their mothers’ arms and dispatchin­g everyone to Nazi death camps. France honored those victims over the weekend, as it tries to keep their memories alive.

For the dwindling number of survivors of France’s wartime crimes, commemorat­ion ceremonies were especially important. At a time of rising antisemiti­sm and far-right discourse sugarcoati­ng France’s role in the Holocaust, the survivors worry that history’s lessons are being forgotten.

The week of ceremonies marking the Vel d’Hiv police roundup of July 16-17, 1942, culminated Sunday with an event led by Macron, who pledged that such actions would never happen again.

“We will continue to teach against ignorance. We will continue to cry out against indifferen­ce,” Macron said. “And we will fight, I promise you, at every dawn, because France’s story is written by a combat of resistance and justice that will never be extinguish­ed.”

He denounced former French leaders for their roles in the Holocaust and the Vel d’Hiv raids, among the most shameful acts undertaken by the country during World War II.

Over those two days, police herded 13,152 people — including 4,115 children — into the Winter Velodrome of Paris, known as the Vel d’Hiv, before they were sent to Nazi camps. It was the biggest such roundup in Western Europe. The children were separated from their families; few survived.

In public testimony over the last week, survivor Rachel Jedinak described a middle-of-the-night knock on the door and being marched through the streets of Paris and herded into the velodrome, in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower. She recalled her desperate mother shouting at police.

Some French neighbors informed on Jews; others wept as they saw them being corralled like livestock.

Chantal Blaszka’s aunts and uncle were among the children rounded up: Simon, 6; Berthe, 9; and Suzanne, 15. Their names are now engraved on a monument at a garden where the velodrome once stood, along with those of some 4,000 other children targeted in the raids. Photos of the children hang from trees, the result of years of research to identify the longanonym­ous victims.

Of the children deported from the Vel d’Hiv 80 years ago, only six survived.

“Can you imagine?” Blaszka asked, pointing at the names and shaking her head. “Can you imagine?”

Serge Klarsfeld, 86, a Nazi hunter whose father was deported to the Auschwitz concentrat­ion camp, spoke Saturday in the garden, calling it an “earth-shaking testimony to the horrors lived by Jewish families.” He stressed the urgency of passing on memories as witnesses to the war grow older.

On Sunday, Macron visited a site in Pithiviers, south of Paris, where police sent families after the Vel d’Hiv roundup, before sending them to Nazi camps. A memorial honoring the deportees was inaugurate­d, with a plaque that reads: “Let us never forget.”

The president urged vigilance: “We are not finished with antisemiti­sm, and we must lucidly face that fact.

“It is showing itself on the walls of our cities,” he continued, citing vandalism with swastikas. “It is infiltrati­ng social networks . ... It inserts itself into debates on some TV shows. It shows itself in the complacenc­y of certain political forces. It is prospering also through a new form of historic revisionis­m, even negationis­m.”

Another ceremony was held at the Shoah Memorial in Paris’ Drancy suburb, home to a transit center that was central to French Jews’ deadly journey to Nazi camps. Most of the 76,000 Jews deported from France under the collaborat­ionist Vichy government passed through the Drancy camp.

The Drancy Shoah memorial documents the Holocaust for younger generation­s. This work is especially important at a time when Jewish communitie­s are worried about rising antisemiti­sm in Europe.

France’s Interior Ministry has reported an increase in antisemiti­c acts over recent years and said that while racist and antireligi­ous acts overall are on the rise, Jews are disproport­ionately targeted.

Anxiety has worsened since the far-right National Rally Party made a surprising electoral breakthrou­gh last month, winning a record 89 seats in France’s National Assembly. Party co-founder Jean-Marie Le Pen has been convicted of racism and of downplayin­g the Holocaust. His daughter Marine, who now leads the National Rally, has distanced herself from her father’s positions, but the party’s past raises concerns for many Jews.

During the campaign for this year’s French presidenti­al election, far-right candidate and pundit Eric Zemmour propagated the false claim that Adolf Hitler’s Vichy collaborat­ors safeguarde­d France’s Jews.

It took France’s leadership 50 years after World War II to officially acknowledg­e the state’s role in the Holocaust, when President Jacques Chirac in 1995 apologized for authoritie­s’ role in the Vel d’Hiv raids.

“The policy, from 1942 onward, was to organize the murder of the Jews of Europe and therefore to organize the deportatio­n of the Jews of France,” said Jacques Fredj, director of the Paris Shoah Memorial. “Most of the time, the decisions were made by the Nazis ... but the management was French.”

Macron spelled it out clearly Sunday: “Let us repeat here with force, whether self-styled revisionis­t commentato­rs like it or not.”

None of France’s Vichy wartime leaders, Macron said, “wanted to save Jews.”

 ?? Christophe Petit Tesson Pool Photo ?? FRENCH PRESIDENT Emmanuel Macron, second from left, on Sunday visits the new Shoah memorial at the former Pithiviers train station, as part of events marking the 80th anniversar­y of the Vel d’Hiv roundup.
Christophe Petit Tesson Pool Photo FRENCH PRESIDENT Emmanuel Macron, second from left, on Sunday visits the new Shoah memorial at the former Pithiviers train station, as part of events marking the 80th anniversar­y of the Vel d’Hiv roundup.

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