Memory and the Vel d’Hiv
Monday marked the seventieth anniversary of the rafle du Vel d’Hiv, the mass arrest and deportation of Jewry from France, conducted by Nazi and some 9,000 Vichy police officers, on July 16 and 17, 1942. 12,884 Jews were penned into the Vélodrome d’Hiver, the majority including 4,000 children for five days in the heat of summer with little sustenance, before movement onto Drancy and then Auschwitz. An official act of commemoration in the presence of President François Hollande will take place on Sunday, July 22.
A poll conducted by CSA for the French Union of Jewish Students has revealed that 67% of those aged between 15 and 17, 60% between 18 and 24, and 57% between 25 and 34 did not know of the round up of Jews into and out of the Vél d’Hiv. Across the entire population, 42% possessed no knowledge of the one of the most important events in the history of twentieth century France, indicitive of the nation’s struggle and oftentimes failure to face up to the hand it played in the Holocaust.
It was not until 1995 that the French government officially acknowledged that it had played any part in this most heinous of acts. “These dark hours soil our history forever and are an insult to our past and our traditions. The French and the French state seconded the occupying powers in their criminal folly”, Jacques Chirac proclaimed on Vél d’Hiv day in 1995. “France committed the irreparable”.