On the occasion of the release on March 10, 2010 of the highly expected film by Roselyne Bosch, “La Rafle”, let’s take bearings of this dark page in the history of France.
I would like to remind that other full length films about the Second World War have just been directed. But they have not benefited as much as many media hype.
I think of the remarkable film directed by Tony Gatlif, “Liberté”, dealing with a subject less known: the deportation of the Gypsies in Europe; also “L’Arbre et la forêt”, by Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau, about the internment of the homosexuals.
Keep in mind that the first raid in France took place May 14, 1941, in Paris: 3,710 Jews were deported to internment camps in the Loiret. At this time, the fate which is in store for them is unknown to everyone.
In January 1942, the "Solution finale" was planned. After Pierre Laval was recalled in April at the Council Presidency, the collaboration takes another turn. On April 18, 1942, René Bousquet was appointed Secretary General to the Vichy police. He conducts the raid of the Vél’ d'Hiv’.
On June 2, Second Statute of the Jews was decreed: a law orders the census of all Jews located on French territory, including the free zone. On June 7, wearing the Yellow Star was imposed in the occupied zone. On July 8, Jews become forbidden in public places.
The Vélodrome d'Hiver roundup
On June 25, 1942, Jean Leguay, Bousquet assistant to the occupied zone, was convened by Theodore Dannecker, SS adviser for Jewish affairs. The latter, also Adolf Eichmann delegate in France, demanded the delivery of 10,000 Jews from the southern zone, and the arrest of 22,000 others.
On July 16 and 17, 1942, 13,152 Jews - including 4,115 children - were arrested by French police during an operation called cynically "spring wind". They have been taken to the Vélodrome d'Hiver1, held for 6 days, “living” in conditions of appalling hygiene (no sanitary, no water, no food, no mattress), before being deported to internment camps2: Pithiviers or Beaune-la-Rolande, Loiret, having for food only a chunk of bread per day. Most of all were remaining there for two weeks. Then, all have been deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau.
The Vélodrome d'Hiver roundup was the largest mass arrest of Jews in France. In principle, it should affect only men and foreign Jews.
Singles and couples without children were taken directly to the Drancy camp - opened in August 1941 – with a perspective of quick deportation to Auschwitz.
A total of 76,000 Jews - or 25% of Jews in France – have been deported to Nazi camps.
In addition, at least 3,000 died in France in the internment camps.
Over 11,000 children were deported and never returned; about 2,000 were under 6 years old.
Only 2,600 people survived.
Those who are responsible for that deeds have never been judged for them.
According to the American historian Raul Hilberg, 5,100,000 Jewish victims died during the Holocaust, or 50% of European Jews.
The duty of memory
How to understand this silence for so many years? After the Liberation, there was an appeal for deny. Moreover, the trauma prevented transmission. In view of the institutionalized amnesia, talking to other survivors seems to be the only way to get out of it.
There is only one photography of the raid proved the Vél’d'Hiv’:
We were have to wait 1967, with the release of "La Grande Rafle du Vél’ d’Hiv'", by Claude Lévy and Paul Tillard (published by Editions Robert Laffont) - a book which shows the responsibility of France in this tragic episode in its history - a "release" of memory occurs.
History has a duty to remember: to look, analyse, face and try to understand the past. The cinema participates in this memory.
68 years after the facts, a memorial image arises.
ADLER J., The Jews of Paris and the Final Solution, Oxford University Press, 1987.
FERRO M., Cinema and History, Trans. by Naomi Greene, Detroit, Wayne State University Press, 1988.
HARENDT H., Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, New York, Viking Press, 1963.
HILBERG R., The Destruction of European Jews, London, Holmes and Mayer, 1985.
KLARSFELD S., French Children of the Holocaust: A Memorial, New York Press, 1996.
LEVI P., If This Is a Man, Trans. by Stuart Woolf, New York, Orion Press, 1961.
MARRUS M., PAXTON R.O., Vichy France and the Jews, New York, Basic Books, 1981.
PAXTON R.O., Vichy France, Old Guard and New Order, 1940-1944, New York, Random House, 1972.
ROUSSO H., The Vichy Syndrome: History and Memory in France since 1944, Harvard University Press, 2006.
Movies and documentaries
"Nuit et Brouillard" (1956), by Alain Resnais, is the first French film to tackle head-extermination camps and the "Solution finale" to the "Jewish question"
"Monsieur Klein" (1956), by Joseph Losey
"Shoah" (1985), by Claude Lanzmann, collects every word of survivors
Testimony filmed by Irmgard von Zur Mülhen from Alexander Vorontsov, "The Liberation of Auschwitz, 1945", Chronos U.K., 1985
"La Rafle du Vél' d'Hiv'" (2002), by Gilles Nadeau and Jacques Duquesne, produced by Morgan Production in association with France 5
Testimony lived: "Je me suis échappée du Vél' d'Hiv'", with Anna Traube, survivor of the Vél' d'Hiv', Akadem, Paris, 2006
Regarding the deportation of the Gypsies in Europe: "Liberté" (February 24, 2010), by Tony Gatlif
Regarding the internment of the homosexuals: "L'Arbre et la forêt" (March 3, 2010), by Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau
"La Rafle" (release March 10, 2010), a drama by Roselyne Bosch, with Emmanuelle Seigner, Sylvie Testud, Melanie Laurent, Gad Elmaleh, Jean Reno
http://video.cinefil.com/video/iLyROoafvgEa.html (interview with the director)
Official site of the Memorial of the Shoah
Jüdisches Museum Berlin
Chemins de mémoire, 60 years ago: the large scale rounding up of Jews in France
I would like to especially thank Yaroslav Chebotarev for his precious help and valuable advices for this English version.