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French officials mark anniversary of mass arrest of Jews during Holocaust

France’s veterans minister, Geneviève Darrieussecq, led a ceremony Sunday commemorating the Vel d’Hiv roundup, a mass arrest of Jews by French police on July 16-17, 1942, before their extermination in Nazi death camps.

Alongside Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, Darrieussecq took part in a wreath-laying to pay her respects to the 13,000-plus victims of the roundup, one of the most shameful acts undertaken by the country’s wartime government.

Following the Nazi invasion of France in 1940, the country was ruled by a government commonly known as Vichy France, which collaborated with Nazi Germany.

Vel d’Hiv derives from the name of the Winter Velodrome bicycle stadium that many of the detainees were confined in, before they were deported to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration and death camp in German-occupied Poland and were mass-murdered. Over 4,000 children were included in the roundup.

The men, women and children were imprisoned at the stadium and in several other locations for days in unsanitary conditions and without sufficient water, leading to dozens of fatalities, including by suicide.

In 1995, some 53 years later, former president Jacques Chirac finally apologized for the role the French authorities had in the raid. President Emmanuel Macron went further, in 2017, acknowledging the responsibility the French state had in those events and in the Holocaust.

Darrieussecq said Sunday “there is no space for ambiguity, the Vel d’Hiv roundup is an issue belonging to France.”

Header: In dramatizing the history of the Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup, La Rafle weaves together stories of the persecuted with those of their Nazi oppressors.

La Rafle (“The Roundup”) chronicles the Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup of July 1942, in which roughly 13,000 Jews living in Paris (4,501 of them children) were removed from their homes by French police and sent to detention camps in the countryside, before being deported to Auschwitz. While approximately two-thirds of France’s Jewish community survived the Holocaust, La Rafle focuses on a grave moment of extreme complicity and betrayal by the Vichy government and French police — a stain of the war that went unacknowledged by the French government until the 1990s. Menemsha Films.

Source: AP