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France’s Inhuman Stain


The famous Paris cemetery, Père Lachaise, has more than Jim Morrison‘s grave. There are at least a dozen monuments dedicated to those who perished in Nazi Concentration camps. On the airplane returning from France this weekend, I watched a new film, Le Rafle (or The Roundup) that highlights French complicity, under Marshal Pétain, in the persecution and round up of Jews that added thousands more to the death toll of the Holocaust. France’s inhuman stain.


The film tells the

story of the arrest of 13,000 Parisian Jews, including 4,000 children, by French rightwing militia and gendarmes in July 1942 (two days after Bastille Day). The mostly French-born Jews and those from Poland who were integrated into Parisian life were herded into a giant cycling stadium, the Vélodrome d’Hiver (Vél’d’Hiv). Almost all of them died in Nazi death camps.


Although the film shows the courage of many ordinary French men and women, The Rafle du Vél’d’Hiv nonetheless illustrates the enthusiastic participation of many French officials who acceded to Nazi demands. The collaborationist French authorities in Paris set out to round up 25,000 Jews on 16 July 1942. Almost half of them escaped, in large part thanks to citizens who risked their lives to save others. See a video clip here.

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