Beginning in the early morning hours of July 16, 1942, and lasting for two days, the French police went beyond Nazi ordinances and took it upon themselves to arrest and imprison more than 13,000 Jews at a Paris sporting arena, the Vélodrome d'Hiver. For most of the Jews, this detention without water, food, or sleep was the first horrific step toward death in the concentration camps. This uniquely detailed study of the roundup offers the only contemporary analysis of both the precursors and the aftermath of the events of those two days. Using recently opened police files, Maurice Rajsfus details the internal organization of the police, showing the mechanisms of this raid in particular and of raids in general, making the book an indispensable micro-history of the Holocaust. A companion piece to Rajsfus's Operation Yellow Star / Black Thursday (DoppelHouse Press, 2017), The Vél d'Hiv Raid includes witness and police reports, shocking excerpts from the collaborationist press, and speeches by contemporary French politicians whose official apology is still not complete and terribly overdue.
With a foreword by Israeli activist and author Michel Warschawski.
Maurice Rajsfus (b. 1928), a former investigative journalist for Le Monde, survived the Vél d'Hiv roundup. He has written thirty books, including many examining the Vichy regime and its legacy in French police culture. Several of his books about his World War II experiences are the basis of a YA comic published by Tartamudo editions, as well as a theatrical production and a film. He lives in Paris with his family.
Introduction: THE UNVARNISHED TRUTH
PRELUDES TO THE GREAT RAID: THE PREPARATIONS OF THE VICHY GOVERNMENT
THE PREPARATION FOR THE RAID
- The behavior of the police
- Wanting to do a good job
- Public opinion
- The raids will continue
- The malcontents
TO THE VÉL D’HIV
- The evacuation of the Vél d’Hiv
THE DIRECTORS OF THE GREAT RAID and their Nazi interlocutors
WHAT THE PRESS WAS SAYING
WHO COULD PROTEST?
Conclusion: FOR THE RECORD…
ORGANIZATION OF THE GREAT ROUNDUP
The decrees issued by Émile Hennequin (Chief of the municipal police) on July 12 and 13, 1942
FLYER TRANSLATED FROM YIDDISH DISTRIBUTED TO JEWISH IMMIGRANTS IN PARIS A FEW HOURS BEFORE THE ROUNDUP
FLYER TRANSLATED FROM YIDDISH DISTRIBUTED IN PARIS IN AUGUST 1942
SPEECH BY JACQUES CHIRAC ON JULY 16, 1995 (Delivered at the ceremonies memorializing the roundup of July 16 and 17, 1942)
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
This episode represents a stain on the honor of the French nation, with its principles of liberty, fraternity, and equality and, in particular, the French police as it does other complicit nations and peoples. […] As a Vél d’Hiv survivor himself, author Maurice Rajsfus has made a point of documenting, what is now effectively a trilogy, the entirety of France’s ill-starred history with respect to its responsibilities regarding Jews and others who suffered in the Holocaust.
– Thomas McClung, New York Journal of Books
With passion and indignation, Maurice Rajsfus recounts the worst single crime of the Vichy regime in France: the pre-dawn arrest by French police, at German instigation, on July 16-17, 1942, of 13,152 Jewish men, women, and children, and their ordeal on the way to extermination. Rajsfus brings this terrible experience to life with contemporary texts – high-level Franco-German haggling, detailed police instructions, eye-witness testimony, and press commentary.
– Robert O. Paxton, author of Vichy France and the Jews
Maurice Rajsfus, a French Jewish survivor who witnessed this infamous roundup, dissects it in a workmanlike book, The Vel D’Hiv Raid: The French Police at the Service of the Gestapo, which was originally published in France 15 years ago. […] Rajsfus, a former investigative reporter for Le Monde, was 14 years old when thousands of police, at Germany’s request, arrested the Jews. His parents, immigrants from Poland, were swept up in the net and sent on to Auschwitz. He discusses this personally painful and unforgettable aspect in another book, Black Thursday: The Roundup of July 16, 1942.
– Sheldon Kirshner, The Times of Israel