Haunted Paris: The French role in the roundups of July 16, 1942

My French teacher mother and I never had agreed on much – other than a passion for the City of Lights. Long retired from the job to which she’d willingly devoted thirty-plus years, she shocked me with a sudden, bitter question: “How could I have spent my working life,” she wondered, “promoting the language and culture of France to young people. . .?”

For the first time at that moment in the 1980s, I heard her pronounce the name, “Drancy.” “The French deported four thousand children,” she informed me,“from Drancy, just outside Paris, to the gas chambers of Auschwitz.“

The Velodrome was razed; a plaque explains its dark history.

Razed after WWII, this Paris bicycle race stadium served as a detention center for Jews destined for deportation to the Auschwitz crematoria.

As I discovered much later, she had some facts mixed up. The 4,000 Jewish children (exactly 4,115) who were rounded up by French police in and around Paris on the early morning of July 16, 1942, were first transported in Paris SNCF city buses, not to Drancy but to a huge bicycle-race stadium in the 15th arrondissement. After four days in the wretched conditions of Le Vélodrome d’Hiver, the children, with 4,045 Jewish adults, were transported from “Le Vel d’Hiv” to the Pithiviers and Beaune-la- Continue reading