France commemorates victims of Vel d'Hiv roundup
Several hundred people were present on Monday for a ceremony in the Paris suburb of Drancy, to pay hommage to victims of France’s Vel d’Hiv roundup, which saw over 13,000 Jews deported during the second World War.
The ceremony marking 70 years since the roundup took place at the site of the former internment camp, where a monument now stands, at Paris’s ex-Velodrome stadium.
Many laid wreathes at the Wagon Témoin, a wooden wagon that has become the symbol of the deportation.
Among those who paid their respects were family members of those deported and members of France’s Jewish community.
Rabbi Moché Lewin, the spokesperson for the Chief Rabbi of France, said it was the work of each citizen to “pass on humanitarian values from one generation to the next.”
He continued, saying that “this is necessary for the well-being of humanity itself, and to assure that a barbaric ideology does not develop [in France] in the future.”
According to a survey published on Monday, a majority of French people under the age of 35 had never heard of the Vel d’Hiv roundup – 67 per cent of 15-17 year olds, 60 per cent 18-24 year olds and 57 per cent of 25-34 year olds. Among all ages, there was still a 42 per cent rate of ignorance concerning the roundup, according to the poll.
Yet, the poll also showed that 85 per cent of French people considered it important to remember the events of the Holocaust.
Hubert Tison, general secretary of France's history teachers association, told RFI that the Vel d’Hiv roundup is taught at three levels of schooling in France.
“I think the transmission [of events] is done well,” said Tison. “It's true these events should be treated as key dates in our national history, but the subject is no longer taboo. I think it's being effectively taught, but maybe there's still work to be done before it takes root in our collective memory."
On 16 and 17 July 1942, 13,152 foreign Jews were rounded up in Paris by French police, before being deported to extermination camps, most notably Auschwitz.
Among them, 8,160 people, including 4,115 children, were held in Paris’s Velodrome stadium for four days. Many died from the poor conditions or suicide. The remaining 4,992 people were transferred to the Drancy internment camp, just outside of Paris, before being sent to the concentration camps.
The Vel d’Hiv roundup is the largest of its kind to take place in France during World War II. Only approximately 100 people are known to have survived, and just a handful of children.