On July 16th and 17th, of 1942, French police rounded up 13,152 Jewish people in Paris and its immediate suburbs, taking them to the Vélodrome d’Hiver sports stadium, where they would be kept in crowded and unsanitary conditions.
They were then deported, first to French internment camps before many were sent to Auschwitz and murdered.
This year marks 80 years since the horrific event, and in the place of the former Vel d’Hiv, as it is popularly known, now stands the ‘Jardin du souvenir,’ (remembrance garden) which French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne will visit this weekend.
The Prime Minister will remember the tragedy and its survivors in a ceremony on Sunday, July 17th – the ‘National Day of Remembrance.’
PM Borne, whose father survived the Nazi death camp Auschwitz, will first go to the memorial garden at the former site of the Vél d’Hiv, and then she will lay a wreath at the Square of the ‘Place-des-Martyrs-Juifs-du-Vélodrome-d’Hiver.’
The tragedy will also be remembered in a photography exhibit at the Jardin de Luxembourg. Titled “Lest we forget,” the exhibit will include 42 portraits of Holocaust survivors, which will be hung on the gates of the garden, with a QR code under each photo, allowing you to learn the individual story and testimony of the person in the image.
You can also view the portraits and read the stories by going to https://lestweforget.crif.org/.
Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris. A gallery of wonderful portraits of Vel d’Hiv survivors. pic.twitter.com/JywWfu53t2
— Isabelle de Roys (@embrace_the_raw) July 12, 2022
The exhibit, which will run until August 7th, was curated by German-Italian photographer Luigi Toscano, who has already made portraits of over 400 survivors across the world.
The legacy of the Nazi occupation and war crimes in France has been a complicated one and it was not until 1995 that then-president Jaques Chirac acknowledged the complicity of the French Vichy government in Nazi atrocities such as the deportation and wholesale murder of Jews in France.
In 2017, French President Emmanuel Macron admitted the responsibility of the French state in the Vel d’Hiv roundup, saying in a speech that “It was indeed France that organised” the roundup.
Over 77,000 French Jews died in Nazi concentration camps during World War II.
Speaking on the 75th anniversary, Sarah Lichtsztejn-Montard told French media France 24 how she survived and escaped from the Vél d’Hiv, describing how that day began with Sarah and her mother being driven to a garage on the corner of Belleville and Pyrénées streets, and then later down to the 15th arrondisement, to the Vélodrome d’Hiver, just a ten minute walk from the Eiffel Tower.
Sarah died, aged 93, in February.