This day in history: 1942 Vél d’Hiv – French Police Raid

A report in The Guardian a year ago gave a detailed report and analysis of events in Paris on this day in 1942.

The Vél d’Hiv roundup began in the early hours of 16 July 1942 and, over the next two days, 12,884 Jews from the Paris region, including over 4,000 children, were taken into custody. It was biggest such mass arrest in France during the second world war. Of these, 7,000 victims were packed into the Vélodrome d’Hiver, an indoor sports stadium. In increasingly desperate conditions they awaited shipment to the death camps in eastern Europe.

What made the event so especially shocking was not just the number of children involved, but that the operation was planned and executed by French police and civil servants.

The Germans had entered Paris in 1940 and established control yet this 1942 tragedy centered on Paris city officials. It was French citizens who very visibly set out to dehumanize and destroy others under their jurisdiction. The idea of safe harbor in France was publicly dismissed and replaced as the French Police made it clear they would torment and execute residents of the city, even children.

René Bousquet, secretary general of the national French police, suggested that it would be less “embarrassing” if his policemen confined their arrests to foreign Jews. The Germans accepted this view and also agreed to a proposal put forward by the Vichy premier Pierre Laval that Jewish children should be included in the deportation. In part, this was to prevent ugly public scenes of the forcible separation of children from their parents. But it was also simply to avoid the financial responsibility for the soon-to-become orphans.

A movie also was released last year called Sarah’s Key that detailed the story and controversy over remembrance:

Nearly half those rounded up in the raid that day, about 5,000, were sent to the Drancy Internment Camp designed to hold less than 1,000. Upon arrival children were separated from their families and then sent to be killed in Auschwitz, Poland. The French had control of Drancy although it was under German SS Captain Theodor Dannecker.

Approximately 70,000 prisoners passed through Drancy between August 1941 and August 1944. […] Fewer than 2,000 of the almost 65,000 Jews deported from the Drancy camp survived the Holocaust.

Among those to remember on this day, as documented by the International Wargraves Photography Project and the Shoa Memorial in France, are the following:

Ottenheimer, Friedel – b. 1891 d. 1942, deporté(e) par le convoi n° 18
Ottenheimer, Lily – b. 1898 d. 1942, deporté(e) par le convoi n° 18
Ottenheimer, Lydia – b. 1891 d. 1942, deporté(e) par le convoi n° 18
Ottenheimer, Paula – b. 1894 d. 1942, deporté(e) par le convoi n° 18
Ottenheimer, Sigmund – b. 1902 d. 1942, deporté(e) par le convoi n° 18
Ottenheimer, Wilhelm – b. 1900 d. 1942, deporté(e) par le convoi n° 25

Transport 18 left Paris on August 12, 1942. Transport 25 left Paris on August 28, 1942.

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