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Paris police open Vel d’Hiv archives

An exhibition is being held on the Vel d’Hiv Roundup, when more than 13,000 Jews were arrested and sent to death camps

THE PARIS police have opened their archives on one of the darkest periods of their history – the “Vel d’Hiv Roundup”.

During the episode, in July 1942, the Vichy regime mobilised the police and gendarmerie to round up Jews on behalf of the Nazi occupiers. According to the curator of a new exhibition using police files, Olivier Accarie Pierson, “the Germans had hoped to arrest 27,427 Jews in Paris and the Petite Couronne but in the end there were ‘only’ 13,152.”

People were kept in a cycling stadium – the Vélodrome d’Hiver – hence the name of this grim event. It is thought fewer than 100 of the people (and none of the children) came back after being transported to camps.

The exhibition – The Vel d’Hiv Roundup: the police archives – is from July 16 to September 15 at the mairie of the 3rd arondissement.

It includes lists of arrested Jews, accounts of their goods that were seized, intelligence service notes on their state of mind etc.

One document, from July 16, 1942, notes that: “The operation against the Jews is being slowed down by a lot of exceptional cases. A lot of men left their homes yesterday; women have stayed behind with very young children or several of them; others are refusing to open up - we’re going to have to call on a locksmith.”

On July 17 it was noted that a nurse at the Vel d’Hiv telephoned to ask the police for: “blankets, basins and bowls, of which the people being held are greatly in need”. Conditions in the stadium are known to have been extremely poor.

On July 21 a note lists the tally of those rounded up – 3,118 men, 5,919 women and 4,115 children. The next day a note states the stadium has been evacuated - the operation is over.

Mr Pierson told Le Monde intelligence service notes from the time show the roundup was “very badly thought of by the population”.

“It was the first time that everyone had been arrested, including women, children and the elderly. As a result many police officers had leaked the information the day before the raid. The Germans were furious.”

The Vel d’Hiv was demolished in 1959 after part was destroyed in a fire. There is now a commemorative monument on the site.

Photo: Leonieke Aalders

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