A Black Day In French History

A Black Day In French History

An honor guard stood near Rabbi Alain Goldman in Paris during a ceremony that reflected no honor on France.

On the recent 69th anniversary of the Vel d’Hiv roundup of some 13,000 Jews from Paris and its surrounding suburbs, Rabbi Goldman, at right, the city’s former chief rabbi, took part in a memorial ceremony which included World War II veterans, below.

The roundup was the largest mass arrest of Jews in France during World War II; the children and adults arrested over two days were shipped to Auschwitz, where most died.

The roundup — Rafle du Vel d‘Hiv in French — is named for the Velodrome d’Hiver, the indoor bicycling racetrack and stadium near the Eiffel Tower where the people arrested in “Operation Spring Breeze” were held for weeks under appalling conditions, with limited food and water provided by Quakers and the Red Cross, until they were deported.

The arrests — most of the victims were of non-French origin — were planned and carried out by French police and civil servants under the Nazi-collaborating Vichy government, becoming a symbol of French complicity in the Final Solution. President Jacques Chirac apologized in 1995 for his country’s role, and France’s highest court ruled two years ago that the country bears moral and legal responsibility for the wartime deportation of 76,000 French Jews.

Large-scale protests by many Parisians and the Catholic Church followed the roundup. After the war, most of the perpetrators were tried and found guilty.

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