La Grande Rafle (The Great Roundup) of 1942

GrandeRaffleMemorial

La Grande Rafle Memorial on site of old stadium

In July 1942, arrests of foreign Jews in France began simultaneously in the Occupied and Unoccupied Zones (see map below). After railcars were freed up by the Wermacht in the East, convoys began departing France every other day. “The initial plan called for the deportation of a hundred thousand Jews from the occupied zone and fifty thousand from the ‘free’ zone, but such a large-scale operation could be undertaken only with the active cooperation of the French police.” At the direction of Vichy Prime Minister Pierre Laval, only foreign Jews could be deported. “[H]e approved the active participation of French police forces in the planned operation; moreover, he suggested that the Germans deport children, too.”[1]

The Great Roundup (aka Black Thursday) began 16 July 1942 in Paris. “Armed with index cards with names of immigrant Jews, forty-five hundred French policemen fanned out in the early morning darkness to arrest men aged sixteen to sixty and women aged sixteen to fifty-five.” The roundup continued the following day, with childless adults taken to Drancy and those with children to Velodrome d’hiver (Winter Cycle Stadium), located near the Eiffel Tower. “More than 8,000 people, about half of them children, were confined for five days in the Vel d’Hiv, which lacked the sanitary facilities for such numbers. The stench was overpowering.” A few days later, the first convoys traveled East across the line of demarcation. “Since permission had not yet arrived from Germany to deport young children to the east, those younger than fourteen were forcibly separated from their parents and older siblings and left alone in the camps, under the care of a few Red Cross volunteers.”[2]

After the deportation of adults, “[r]elief organizations in the Unoccupied Zone learned later what had become of the children left behind in Paris. Many were hidden. But French police gathered up thousands of others who were found in apartments, wandering the streets, or crying at locked doors of houses. Nearly 4,000 of them, aged two to fourteen, were sent to ‘unknown destinations,’ packed into windowless boxcars without adult escort, without food, water, or hygienic provisions, without so much as straw to lie on. They were even without identification. The Nazis had destroyed their papers.”[3] Another source places the number of children at “more than 4,000” and cites their final destination as Auschwitz. Thirty-five of them survived.[2]

1940France

Map of France, 1940 (Courtesy USHMM)

For a good overview of the French connection to the Holocaust see:
BBC’s “Vichy Policy on Jewish Deportation”
USHMM’s Holocaust Encyclopedia, “France” 

Sources:
[1]When Memory Comes [George L. Mosse Series in Modern European Cultural and Intellectual History] by Saul Friedländer and Helen R. Lane, Univ of Wisconsin Press, 2003, ISBN 0299190447, p. 70

[2]The Jews of modern France by Paula Hyman, University of California Press, 1998, ISBN 0520209257, p. 173

[3]The Abandonment of the Jews: America and the Holocaust, 1941-1945 by David S. Wyman, Pantheon Books, New York, 1984, ISBN 0394428137, p. 31

3 Responses to “La Grande Rafle (The Great Roundup) of 1942”

  1. I spent almost 2 weeks in Paris about a month ago and their acceptance of the roll they played in the presecution of people during WWII is really interesting. There is no large memorial, musuem (beyond the Jewish history museum that briefly discusses the topic), or well placed and obvious memorial (at least that I know of and I have read a ton of guide books about Paris) but when walking the streets of Paris with open eyes I have come across a dozen or so simple plaques set into typically residental building which usually state something along these lines:
    “In memory of the 112 inhabitatnts of this house, 40 of whom were small children, who were deported and killed in the German camps in 1942″.

    Just something to think about…

    -Meredith

  2. The mind boggles at how all the indigenous police forces co-operated with the nazis to deport Jews , the only people that I have ever heard of that actually helped Jews escape was the Danes .

  3. I recently read a book called “Sarah’s Key” and it was based on the great roundup. its a very interesting and sad book, and i recommend it to those who are interested in this topic

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