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CULTURE

Vel d’Hiv: France marks 80 years since notorious round-up of Jews in Paris

This weekend marks 80 years since the 'rafle du Vélodrome d'Hiver' - the roundup of Jews in Paris during World War II - here's what happened and how France will mark the event.

Vel d'Hiv: France marks 80 years since notorious round-up of Jews in Paris
A ceremony commemorating the 76th anniversary of the Vel d'Hiv round-up in Paris at the memorial garden. (Photo by Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP)

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/

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. 

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FRENCH HISTORY

French history myths: France is the birthplace of wine

You might be surprised that France - one of the world's top wine exporters - is not where wine originated.

French history myths: France is the birthplace of wine

Myth: France, known across the world for wine, is where the drink originated.

When thinking of France, wine is often one of the first things that comes to mind. A sip of a nice Bordeaux or a clink of Champagne can make even non-Francophiles dream of visiting the land of wine.

Thus, many make the understandable mistake that based on France’s deep ties to the growth and exportation of wine, this is where the alcoholic beverage must have originated.

On top of that, it is easy to presume that since the term terroir –  the environmental impacts on a wine’s character, used to determine the authenticity of certain wines – is French in origin, so is wine.

France and Italy flip back and forth each year to top lists of ‘best wine countries’ or ‘best vineyards to visit,’ yet neither France nor Italy is the homeland of wine.  

Wine may feel fundamentally French, but in actuality it has existed for ‘only’ about 2,600 years in the territory that is now France.

Winemaking is actually thought to have originated in the Caucasus region – around 6,000 BC. What is now Georgia is most likely the birthplace of wine (of a sort), with early Georgians having been the ones to discover how to turn grapes into alcohol by “burying them underground for the winter.”

Most historians agree that this is where humans first ‘conquered the common grape,’ as Georgia is where the classic Vitis vinifera wine grape variety first appeared – far from Western Europe.

For France, it was not until approximately 600 BC where wine as we know it began to appear. Historians often link this to the arrival of Greek settlers in Southern Gaul. Later, the Roman Empire institutionalised winemaking in France – with Bordeaux eventually developing an industry big enough to export to Roman troops stationed in what is now Britain. 

Roman techniques did introduce wine-making technologies as we might recognise them today, and in the Middle Ages it was the Catholic church who played a large role in viticulture and helping European vineyards to gain international acclaim.

Prior to the Romans, it is unclear how much Celtic and Gallic tribes produced what we currently think of as wine, although grape pips found around Lake Geneva could be over 10,000 years old. That being said, based on current evidence, it is the Georgians, not the French, who win the viticulture race.

This article is part of our August series on popular myths and misconceptions about French history.

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