Two books by Maurice Rajsfus, a French activist and former investigative journalist for Le Monde, who shares his research and personal recollections in order to shed new light on France's role in the Holocaust. In the first volume, "Operation Yellow Star," Rajsfus meticulously analyzes archival documents, demonstrating the extent of police collaboration with the Vichy regime and how it facilitated the persecution, deportation, and ultimately the death of hundreds of thousands of Jews. Examining long-unseen arrest records and transcripts, Rajsfus seeks to understand how and why many average French citizens resisted Nazi occupation while others were willingly complicit. In the second book, "Black Thursday," Rajsfus recounts his own experiences of July 16, 1942, when he and his family were arrested as part of the Vel’ d'Hiv roundup, the largest ever in France, of 13,000 Jews. While most of those detained during the two-day sweep eventually died in Auschwitz, the author survived and has spent the rest of his life grappling with his country's betrayal. Together, the two volumes by Rajsfus offer a damning exposé of the bureaucracy of genocide, laying bare how cultural bias, political self-interest, and the influence of right-wing media led to the implementation of the Yellow Star as a segregationist device and determined France’s culpability in the Holocaust.
Maurice Rajsfus is the author of thirty books and from 19942012 he created and circulated "Que fait la police," a "Cop Watch" bulletin detailing human rights abuses. He lives in Paris with his wife, sons and grandchildren.
Phyllis Aronoff has won the Jewish Literary Award for translation and the translation prize from the Quebec Writers' Federation. She was president of the Literary Translators' Association of Canada and from 20072015 represented translators on the Public Lending Right Commission of Canada.
Mike Mitchell (b. 1941) is an award-winning translator of French and German who has been active as a translator for over thirty years. In 2012 the Austrian Ministry of Education, Art and Culture awarded him a lifetime achievement award as a translator of literary works. He lives in Scotland.
Book One - Operation Yellow Star
Honor and Discipline
In the Service of Immoral Laws
The Stages of Humiliation
Toward the Yellow Star
A Little History
Hunting Them Down
The Requests for Special Dispensation
Non-Jews Wearing the Badge
A Compliant Press
The Red Line
Book Two - Black Thursday: The Round-up of July 16, 1942
Twelve Hours of Anxiety
[untitled chapters 1-15]
Part Two: No Witnesses, No Crime!
The Police Have Forgotten
The Bus Drivers Did Their Job
Vincennes City Hall Has No Information
What About the Churches?
My City Has Lost Its Memory
Part Three: Survivor of the Absurd
Memories, a User’s Guide
Appendix - Interview with Maurice Rajsfus
Well researched and deeply personal, the accounts are powerful in their detail.
– San Francisco Book Review
If [Rajsfus] still wishes to recall how scrupulously — and even with zeal — the French police applied Nazi orders, he also wants to warn us against certain xenophobic or discriminatory speech still heard recently that could lead to behavior of that bygone age.
Maurice Rajsfus has devoted his life to denouncing and combating racism, fascism, intolerance, and police brutality, while putting in his texts a good dose of caustic irony.
– Jakilea, Basque Human Rights Defense League
Well documented … essential for understanding and above all not forgetting. To this day there are still no pictures of the days of horror at the Velodrome d’Hiver.
– Clara Magazine
Through his sobering, exhaustive research Rajsfus chronicles the arrests, harassment, and deportations of Jews [in France]…. Rajsfus’ eyewitness, unblinking account of the events in Vichy France is a journalistic, yet passionately written j’accuse against the French collaborators and those who want to erase the [era’s] devastating atrocities.
– Lew Whittington, New York Journal of Books
An interesting view into the field of investigative journalism as we follow the author’s steps to find more information at the Archives de la Préfecture de Police de Paris [which] exposes the reluctance of the French police to come to terms with its own past. He also emphasizes the various problems faced by researchers studying the era in terms of access to archival material. This investigation touches on numerous issues of memory such as the role of bystanders and their apparent indifference, not only at the time of the events, but also as a memory of shameful collaboration.
– Patrick Fournier, H-France Review
An unsparing indictment of Paris police during the Nazi occupation.… The author’s memory of July 16 is harrowing.… Besides commemorating his family’s murder, Rajsfus raises awareness about how “the enemies of human rights are once more gaining ground,” spouting xenophobia that is easily transferable to any minority group. A heartfelt, timely plea to remember past atrocities.
– Kirkus Reviews
Adept reporting and personal experience make for a gripping read… While each book is strong enough to stand on its own, Operation Yellow Star and Black Thursday together make an unusual, important, credibly researched, and skillfully written contribution to Holocaust literature.
– Susan Waggoner, Foreword Reviews
Maurice Rajsfus is not only a historian of the raid: he lived it in his flesh, saw it with his own eyes, and if he had not had the audacity and ingenuity of a Parisian street urchin, son of immigrant Polish Jews that he was, would have suffered the same fate as his parents, deported and assassinated in Auschwitz. Without making improper comparisons, the roundup of the Vél d’Hiv is a very current topic. Maurice Rajsfus’ narrative can help us to grasp both the logic and the implications of a policy of exclusion of populations and communities who, because of their ethnic, national or religious origin, are not protected by the State of which they are a part.
– Michel Warschawski, author of On the Border, winner of Le Prix des Amis du Monde Diplomatique (2002)