19 December 2011
The Roundup at the Velodrome Du Hiver
“Operation Spring Wind”
The actions completed on July 16, 1942 in Paris, France will be remembered forever. The events that occurred in the Velodrome du Hiver will forever affect Jewish families and communities in France, and around the world. The roundup executed by the French Duchy police had many consequences in France, however it is generally little known today. The mass roundup of Jews was ordered by the French’s Nazi superiors. Theodor Dannecker, SS Councilor for Jewish Affairs, who had been delegated to France by Adolf Eichmann, demanded the transportation of 10,000 Jews from the Southern zone, and the arrest of a further 22,000 of which at least 40% were to be French from the Seine and Seine-et-Oise. On June 30, Eichmann and Dannecker signed a declaration “to totally free France of Jews as quickly as possible” (Klarsfeld, 2001). On July 2, 1942 René Bousquet agreed to put his men at the disposal of the occupier for the purposes of arresting Jewish foreigners in the two zones. The following day, at the Council of Ministers, Laval announced a census for the Southern zone intended to distinguish French Jews from “the trash sent by the Germans themselves”. Pétain considered the initiative to be “fair” and “that it would be understood by the public at large.” Although the original plan was to put children in UGIF, or ‘Union Générale des Israélites de France’ homes because the Nazi’s had not required their collection, it was suggested that children should be deported as well, “in order to make peace with public opinion which could be shocked by the breaking up of families.” The original intention of the whole ordeal was to consolidate Jewish activities. On July 1, 1942, Pierre Galien ordered UGIF Vice-President André Baur to prepare a “back-up stock” of clothing and shoes sufficient for 7,000 people. This stock was to be collected from Jewish communities. In response, André Baur expressed his alarm at the preparation of a “new and vast deportation” and the risk of creating panic within the targeted Jewish communities. Galien became threatening and on July 15 ordered him to “abstain from communicating any biased information or any commentary whatsoever”. UGIF employees were forbidden from undertaking activities within homes, but some probably did try to go door-to-door to warn at-risk families. Early in the morning, before the general public had woken up, the orders were put into action. “Police knocked at our door and asked us to prepare. We’ll be back to fetch you in two or three hours, they said, we’re taking you for checking your papers…My parents were very religious, observant: they were people of great probity. They decided they would wait – they had done nothing wrong and there was nothing to reproach them with.” (Rosenblum, 1981) When the Duchy police came back, they escorted the Jews into buses. Every Jew they could find, thousands of children who were crying, old people, couples, some being dragged in pitiful states of health. The Jews were driven to the Velodrome du Hiver and remained there in atrocious conditions. A former 1889 Universal Exposition gallery used to display machinery, the Vélodrome d’hiver was opened to cycling competitions in 1903. Following reconstruction by architect Gaston Lambert, it reopened in 1910 with the “Six Day of Paris” (modeled on the New York marathons) and remained a space devoted to leisure, sporting and political activities up until its demotion in May 1959. On April 26, 1942, two-and-a-half months before the major Round-up, Marcel Cerdan fought a boxing match there, and within weeks following the tragic events of July 1942, the complex regained its previous role before becoming an assembly center for suspected collaborationists for a few days upon Liberation. Jews of all ages, women, men, girls, and boys alike were crowded into the arena without a single belonging to call their own. In the course of...
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