Version II: Posted April 26th, 2016
Click here for a downloadable copy of the final draft of this paper.


Vichy and the Vel d’Hiv:
Examining the German Occupation of Paris

The Vel d’Hiv Roundup remains a relatively unknown event to those without a profound interest in World War II history, yet the event shaped the history of Paris and left a black mark on France. The Roundup occurred on July 16th and 17th, 1942.[i] On these two days, nine thousand Parisian police officers working under the Vichy regime removed Jewish men, women, and children from their homes and shut them into the Vélondrome d’Hiver, otherwise known as the Winter Stadium.[ii] Upon their release, they were sent to transit camps in other parts of France where they waited to be sent to Auschwitz for extermination.[iii] Of the people detained in the Vel d’Hiv Roundup a third were children.[iv] The Vel d’Hiv Roundup is significant because the French, under the Vichy regime and only at the advisement of the Germans, carried out this plot. Moreover, it was not until the Roundup’s anniversary on July 16th 1995, that the President of France, Jacques Chirac, acknowledged the involvement of the French police in the Vel d’Hiv Roundup and admitted French culpability in the extermination of both French and foreign-born Jewish people living in France during the German occupation.[v] This apology resulted in new studies of the German occupation of France; however, the expansion of the historiography remained focused on the Vichy regime and not the events in Paris. This paper will demonstrate that the oppression of the Jewish community in Paris was gradual and that the Vel d’Hiv Roundup was a turning point in the treatment of both foreign-born and French Jewish communities in the capital of France by both the Germans and the Vichy regime.

Paxton and Michael R. Marrus collaborated on the 1981 text Vichy France and the Jews, which was met with praise by scholarly reviewers who regard it as an essential work on the topic of the German occupation of France and the Vichy regime.[vi] This text explained that the first year of the German occupation of France and the anti-Semitic legislation that was instituted during that time period were entirely the creation of France’s Vichy government because the Germans were preoccupied with non-French threats to their forces outside of France.[vii] Within the first month of his appointment as the head of the French state, Marshal Pétain implemented legislation that stripped six thousand French Jewish people of their naturalization.[viii] Meanwhile, it took Germany more than two months after their invasion of France to present an ordinance defining who was classified as Jewish to both German and French authorities.[ix] The ordinance was not for civilian identification of Jews because it was not until May of 1942, two months before the Roundup, when wearing the Star of David became mandatory for all the Jewish people in France.[x] The significance of the French creating legislation and the Germans slowly implementing their own anti-Semitic agenda was that there are accounts of the lack of public identification of Parisian Jews and, in fact, that there was a business-as-usual lifestyle in Paris despite the Nazi presence until after the Vel d’Hiv Roundup.[xi] Another example of Vichy France’s anti-Semitism occurred when they repealed the Marchandeau Law, even before the Germans began issuing ordinances.[xii] The Marchandeau Law was created to protect anyone in France from attacks based on their religion and similar circumstances; therefore, its repeal allowed both the Vichy and German authorities to spread anti-Jewish propaganda.[xiii] Neither the repeal of Marchandeau Law or Pétain’s legislation that stripped French citizens of their naturalization contained specific verbiage that they were directed at the Jewish community and yet they did significantly impact them, particularly in terms of business.[xiv] Furthermore, the impact of such legislation had an obvious impact on Paris, a business center, and its Jewish community that faced eradication just two years after the German occupation began.

The question of who the Germans would have the French police arrest during the Roundup was heavily debated before the event, but ultimately the decision was made to remove non-French Jews, being those who were stateless or foreign, with a quota of twenty-eight thousand to be arrested and all but six thousand to be immediately sent to Auschwitz.[xv] It should be mentioned that the Jewish communities were not without warning, sympathetic police and a newspaper warned them of the coming arrests, and yet during and after the arrests over a hundred suicides occurred amongst those who did not run or hide.[xvi] As a result, the Roundup yielded just below thirteen thousand arrests.[xvii] Unfortunately, this is the extent of the information on the event available within Marrus and Paxton’s keystone piece and other secondary works on the German occupation of France provide little more and often less information. However, the image of the event presented in the secondary work was certainly supported by the information in the few primary sources that discuss the Roundup. There are clear records that the news of the Roundup leaked into the Jewish communities and that the result was that many fled to the unoccupied parts of southern France; few tried their luck and did not answer the door when the French police knocked; and others gave the French police or trusted neighbors money and jewelry to be left alone, placed in hiding, or escorted out of occupied France.[xviii]

When discussing Aryanisation the Roundup is mentioned in passing for both the culpability of the French police who stole property from the victims and separated four thousand children from their families when they sent them to different transit camps.[xix] In Verdict on Vichy, Michael Curtis notes that the Vel d’Hiv Roundup’s greater significance is that of the nearly four thousand children arrested with their parents.[xx] Moreover, the majority of these children were French-born and this was the first time that French citizens had been targeted as the focus had previously been on non-French adult male Jews.[xxi] When examining this unique situation of the repeal of the Marchandeau Law in which the Vichy regime chose to repeal naturalization two years before the Roundup, it could be argued that an assumption should have been made within the Jewish community that children of non-French Jewish parents would not be considered French despite having been born in the country.

Legislation remains the easiest means of examination of the Vel d’Hiv Roundup because both the Germans and French so heavily cataloged their actions, but after World War II the few French officials put on trial were charged with treason and corroboration with Germany, not for the Vichy regime creating their own anti-Semitic legislation.[xxii] However, several scholars have reflected on the issue and one in particular, Isaac Lewendel’s Not the Germans Alone, reflects on his life in France during and after the war with an early focus on the fact that he was a French-born Jew and his parents were Polish and through their attempt to become French citizens his own citizenship was questioned.[xxiii] Ultimately, he too agrees that the denaturalization of foreign-born and the children of foreign-born Jewish people in France resulted in the focal dark moments of France’s World War II history, including both the Roundup and the arrests and deportation of Jews in southern France that was supposedly free but actually controlled by the Vichy regime.[xxiv] Lewendel also reflected on life after these events in 1942 and described a much more harsh system in which the Vichy regime moved from a client state to a puppet state that functioned entirely under Germany’s Final Solution policies and stripped citizenship to anyone in the Jewish community until there was no longer a difference between being French-born and Jewish or foreign-born and Jewish.[xxv] His experience and those he met and shared their stories with continued the narrative that the Vel d’Hiv Roundup was a turning point in the treatment of anyone who was Jewish in France.[xxvi]

The legislation was not swift and sweeping. The Vel d’Hiv Roundup did not occur immediately after the German occupation of France. Two translated letters of Parisian residents, one was written by a refugee and the other a young woman, were sent to America and discussed a tolerable life in November of 1940, where food and work were only mildly and certainly not unbearably impacted.[xxvii] The collection contains other letters that were written by various people living in Paris; teenagers, refugees, socialites, and Parisian men and women, in which any mention of a ration cut was accompanied with the note of another ration being increased.[xxviii] For example, when there was a shortage of bread there was an increase in rice rations, or the availability of specific foods, such as a dominance of fresh fruit and vegetables took the place of meat and pastries.[xxix] The optimism in Parisians’ letters to America deteriorated after 1942 and they namely mention a lack of heat and mentions of food rations are almost always met with a tone of annoyance rather than bitter panic that came after 1942 in other sources.[xxx] However, a refugee that had visited Paris in 1941 noted that “the ‘foreigners’ are treated as if they were furniture nobody looks at.”[xxxi] Yet, the collaboration of Vichy France with the Germans did not go wholly unnoticed either. Letters from early November 1940 through January 1941 suggest a sentiment that Great Britain would soon come to France’s rescue and these letters discuss an unpreparedness on France’s part which allowed the Vichy regime to come to power and fall to the Germans who overran Paris.[xxxii] In reading these letters it would seem that Britain may have been the greatest reason to hope for France’s liberation because the only means of news outside of Vichy and Nazi propaganda was BBC radio newscasts.[xxxiii]

Outside of these letters, historians have a detailed account of life in France before, during, and after the war through diaries. Two significant diaries are those of the well-educated Hélène Berr, a Parisian Jew that would die in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, and Virginia d’Albert-Lake, an American who married a French man and eventually joined the French Resistance. D’Albert-Lake’s memoir provides very little difference to the previously mentioned array of letters. She too discussed tight rations in Paris, albeit in more detail, but also describes bearable circumstances.[xxxiv] Beyond her cataloged experiences of life in Paris during the German occupation, d’Albert-Lake was also imprisoned in Fresnes in South Paris, which the Germans used for many members of the French Resistance.[xxxv] Outside of the large amount of content focused on the Vichy regime, there has also been a significant amount of work on the French Resistance.[xxxvi] The overall consensus remained that until 1942 life in Paris and most of France was hard but tolerable; moreover, hardship could be interpreted as a simple product of the expected strife of wartime. This was seen quite abruptly in Hélène Berr’s diary in which she wrote, “Something is brewing, something that will be a tragedy, maybe the tragedy…. It appears that the SS have taken command in France and that terror must follow,” at ten o’clock at night July 15, 1942.[xxxvii] Being a French Jew resulted in her evasion of arrest during the Roundup and allowed her to recount the Roundup on July 18th. She had watched families being physically dragged away and wrote the resulting stories of other families collectively killing themselves.[xxxviii] Unfortunately, with so few survivors of the Vel d’Hiv Roundup, it is unlikely that new primary source material will be found to equal these two sources and the previously mentioned letters and interviews.

There are surviving photographs in collections that show internees in Drancy, a Parisian transit camp which included gender segregation and makeshift apartments.[xxxix] Insight into these photographs are as grim as the circumstances inside the Vel d’Hiv itself. With little food, some died of starvation, with poor sanitation some died of illness, and ultimately most died from transit to Auschwitz.[xl] One such account declares sixteen school girls were arrested with a supervisor and after a week in Drancy they were all sent to Auschwitz where all were immediately killed, except a single fourteen-year-old who was selected for forced labor.[xli] Another account shows that educational and medical welfare programs did provide aide to the transit camps.[xlii] These experiences demonstrate that life before arrest in Paris was starkly different than what the victims experienced in transit camps and even Drancy was far less brutal than Auschwitz. That final transport experience for the victims of the Vel d’Hiv Roundup was delayed until late August for the remaining children and women and records show “seven trains left Drancy for Auschwitz carrying about 1,000 people each. Between one-third and one-half of the passengers in each train were unaccompanied children—the children from Vel d’Hiv….none of the deported children from the Vel d’Hiv returned.”[xliii] However, analysis of the experiences of arrest, torture, internment, and extermination have been argued to be biased due to nationalism and public perception of the horrors and French culpability.[xliv]

With an abundant and still rapidly growing amount of scholarly work being made after the 1995 address by President Chirac, it is easy to discover source after source of material in which no one denies the Vichy government not only worked with but instigated much of the anti-Semitic oppression of the Jewish communities inside and outside of Paris, France.[xlv] While there is a significant amount of scholarship on France’s memory of the German occupation and life under the Vichy government, a clear image cannot be made of the specific experiences of the Vel d’Hiv victims, what Parisians witnessed during the event, the experiences of the few that were allowed access into the stadium during the prisoners’ detention, or accounts from within the Vel d’Hiv after the prisoners were moved to transit camps.[xlvi] However, in its absence speculation has flourished in films which have created a dialogue outside of France where the event is almost completely unknown.[xlvii] As new questions are presented, such as how or if the Vel d’Hiv Roundup should be presented in schools outside of France, analysis of the available materials from Paris under the occupation by reputable scholars becomes all the more important for the beginning of a dialogue about the event’s absence from France’s World War II narrative. After all, can a true post-Vichy identity be formed without a clear understanding of this event?


Bibliography

Primary Resources

Berr, Hélène. The Journal of Hélène Berr. Translated by David Bellos. New York: Weinstein Books, 2008.

Centre De Documentation Juive Contemporaine, comp. Activité des Organisations Juives en France Sous L’occupation. Paris: CDJC, 1947.

Curie, Eve, Philippe Barrès, and Raoul De Roussy De Sales, eds. They Speak for a Nation: Letters from France. Translated by Drake Dekay and Denise Dekay. Garden City, NY: Doubleday Doran and Company Incorporated, 1941.

d’Albert-Lake, Virginia. An American Heroine in the French Resistance: The Diary and Memoir of Virginia D’Albert-Lake. Edited by Judy Barrett Litoff. New York: Fordham University Press, 2006.

“David P. Boder Interviews Bertha Goldwasser; August 4, 1946; Paris, France.” Interviewed by David P. Boder. Voices of the Holocaust. Galvin Library, Illinois Institute of Technology. 2009. http://voices.iit.edu/interviewee?doc=goldwasserB

“David P. Boder Interviews Fania Freilich; August 9, 1946; Paris, France.” Interviewed by David P. Boder. Voices of the Holocaust. Galvin Library, Illinois Institute of Technology. 2009. http://voices.iit.edu/interviewee?doc=freilichF

“David P. Boder Interviews Henja Frydman; August 7, 1946; Paris, France.” Interviewed by David P. Boder. Voices of the Holocaust. Galvin Library, Illinois Institute of Technology. 2009. http://voices.iit.edu/interviewee?doc=frydmanH

“David P. Boder Interviews Marcelle Precker; August 12, 1946; Paris, France.” Interviewed by David P. Boder. Voices of the Holocaust. Galvin Library, Illinois Institute of Technology. 2009. http://voices.iit.edu/audio.php?doc=preckerM

“David P. Boder Interviews Nelly Bondy; August 22, 1946; Paris, France.” Interviewed by David P. Boder. Voices of the Holocaust. Galvin Library, Illinois Institute of Technology. 2009. http://voices.iit.edu/interviewee?doc=bondyN

Lewendel, Isaac. Not the Germans Alone: A Son’s Search for the Truth of Vichy. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1999.

“”Mémoires Vivantes” Collection.” Interview by Martine Lemaître and Geneviève Dreyfus-Armand. La Bibliothèque De Documentation Internationale Contemporaine. 2004. http://www.bdic.fr/collections/quels-documents/documents-audiovisuels/36-collections/164-video2.

“Témoignages: Dialogues Et Rencontres.” Interview by Musée De La Résistance Et De La Déportation. Centre D’Histoire De La Résistance Et De La Déportation. http://www.chrd.lyon.fr/chrd/sections/fr/ressources_historiqu/temoignages.

Secondary Resources

Aron, Robert, Georgette Elgey, and Humphrey Hare. The Vichy Regime, 1940-44. Beacon Press: Boston, 1969.

Barber, Noel. The Week France Fell, June 10-16, 1940. New York: Cooper Square Press, 2000.

Blatman, Daniel. “Holocaust Scholarship: Towards a Post-Uniqueness Era.” Journal of Genocide Research 17, no. 1 (March 2015): 21-43.

Bruce, Robert B. Pétain: Verdun to Vichy. Dulles, VA: Potomac Books, 2008.

Burrin, Philippe. France under the Germans: Collaboration and Compromise. New York: New Press, 1996.

Conan, Éric, and Henry Rousso. Vichy: An Ever-Present Past. Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 1998.

Curtis, Michael. Verdict on Vichy: Power and Prejudice in the Vichy France Regime. New York: Arcade Publishing, 2002.

Golsan, Richard Joseph. Memory, the Holocaust, and French Justice: The Bousquet and Touvier Affairs. Hanover: Dartmouth, 1996.

Golsan, Richard Joseph. Vichy’s Afterlife: History and Counterhistory in Postwar France. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2000.

Hytier, Adrienne Doris. Two Years of French Foreign Policy: Vichy, 1940-1942. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1974.

Lee, Daniel. Pétain’s Jewish Children: French Jewish Youth and the Vichy Regime, 1940-1942. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.

Liauzu, Claude. La Société Française Face Au Racisme: De La Révolution À Nos Jours. Brussels: Editions Complexe, 1999.

Magid, Shaul. “The Holocaust and Jewish Identity in America: Memory, the Unique, and the Universal.” Jewish Social Studies 18, no. 2 (Winter 2012): 100-135.

Marrus, Michael R., and Robert O. Paxton. Vichy France and the Jews. New York: Basic Books, 1981.

Ott, Sandra. War, Judgment, and Memory in the Basque Borderlands, 1914-1945. Reno, NV: University of Nevada Press, 2008.

Peschanski, Denis. Collaboration and Resistance: Images of Life in Vichy France, 1940-44. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2000.

Rousso, Henry. The Vichy Syndrome: History and Memory in France Since 1944. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1991.

Wright, Gordon. Review of Vichy France and the JewsThe Journal of Modern History 55, no.2. University of Chicago Press (1983): 354-356.

Zuccotti, Susan. The Holocaust, the French, and the Jews. New York: Basic Books, 1993.


Endnotes

[i] Michael R. Marrus and Robert O. Paxton, Vichy France and the Jews (New York: Basic Books, 1981), 250-251.

[ii] Marrus and Paxton, Vichy France and the Jews, 250-255. The Vichy regime was an authoritarian government that controlled France during World War II and was led by Marshal Pétain who was a respected World War I veteran. The Vichy government worked in cooperation with the Germans from 1940 until 1942 where the regime then worked underneath Germany as a puppet state.

[iii] Marrus and Paxton, Vichy France and the Jews, 250-255.

[iv] Marrus and Paxton, Vichy France and the Jews, 251.

[v] Éric Conan and Henry Rousso, Vichy: An Ever-Present Past (Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 1998), x.

[vi] Gordon Wright, Review of Vichy France and the JewsThe Journal of Modern History 55, no. 2, (University of Chicago Press, 1983), 354-356.

[vii] Marrus and Paxton, Vichy France and the Jews, xii-xiii.

[viii] Marrus and Paxton, Vichy France and the Jews, 4-6.

[ix] The source accounting the German ordinance can be found at: Marrus and Paxton, Vichy France and the Jews, 4-6.

[x] “David P. Boder Interviews Bertha Goldwasser; August 4, 1946; Paris, France,” Interviewed by David P. Boder, Voices of the Holocaust, (Galvin Library, Illinois Institute of Technology, 2009), http://voices.iit.edu/interviewee?doc=goldwasserB.

[xi] There are many primary sources that address the wearing of the Star of David in France, including photographs. However, I have specifically selected the following sources for further reading because they discuss both the Star of David and life in Paris during the occupation. The David P. Boder interviews specifically include the business-as-usual lifestyle mentioned above.: “David P. Boder Interviews Bertha Goldwasser; August 4, 1946; Paris, France,” Interviewed by David P. Boder, Voices of the Holocaust, (Galvin Library, Illinois Institute of Technology, 2009), http://voices.iit.edu/interviewee?doc=goldwasserB; “David P. Boder Interviews Fania Freilich; August 9, 1946; Paris, France,” Interviewed by David P. Boder, Voices of the Holocaust, (Galvin Library, Illinois Institute of Technology, 2009), http://voices.iit.edu/interviewee?doc=freilichF; “David P. Boder Interviews Henja Frydman; August 7, 1946; Paris, France,” Interviewed by David P. Boder, Voices of the Holocaust, (Galvin Library, Illinois Institute of Technology, 2009), http://voices.iit.edu/interviewee?doc=frydmanH; “David P. Boder Interviews Nelly Bondy; August 22, 1946; Paris, France,” Interviewed by David P. Boder, Voices of the Holocaust, (Galvin Library, Illinois Institute of Technology, 2009), http://voices.iit.edu/interviewee?doc=bondyN; “David P. Boder Interviews Marcelle Precker; August 12, 1946; Paris, France,” Interviewed by David P. Boder, Voices of the Holocaust, (Galvin Library, Illinois Institute of Technology, 2009), http://voices.iit.edu/audio.php?doc=preckerM; and Hélène Berr, The Journal of Hélène Berr, trans. David Bellos (New York: Weinstein Books, 2008).

[xii] Marrus and Paxton, Vichy France and the Jews, 7.

[xiii] Claude Liauzu, La Société Française Face Au Racisme: De La Révolution À Nos Jours (Brussels: Editions Complexe, 1999), 190.

[xiv] Marrus and Paxton, Vichy France and the Jews, 160.

[xv] Marrus and Paxton, Vichy France and the Jews, 248-250.

[xvi] Marrus and Paxton, Vichy France and the Jews, 251.

[xvii] Marrus and Paxton, Vichy France and the Jews, 252.

[xviii] See all cited Voices of the Holocaust interviews for specific details about each person’s different experience in occupied Paris.

[xix] Michael Curtis, Verdict on Vichy: Power and Prejudice in the Vichy France Regime (New York: Arcade Publishing, 2002), 150-153. Aryanisation is the eradication of non-Aryan people, namely the Jewish communities, from Germany and its occupied territories as a means of purification to create a society of perceived superior Caucasian subordinates in which Hitler’s supporters believed the strengthening of their nation and its power and control over other nations was dependent.

[xx] Curtis, Verdict on Vichy, 202.

[xxi] Curtis, Verdict on Vichy, 202.

[xxii] Conan and Rousso, Vichy, 17-19.

[xxiii] Isaac Lewendel, Not the Germans Alone: A Son’s Search for the Truth of Vichy (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1999), 76.

[xxiv] Lewendel, Not the Germans Alone, 75-80.

[xxv] Lewendel, Not the Germans Alone, 75-80.

[xxvi] Lewendel, Not the Germans Alone, 75-80.

[xxvii] Eve Curie, Philippe Barrès, and Raoul de Roussy de Sales, eds., They Speak for a Nation: Letters from France, trans. Drake Dekay and Denise Dekay (Garden City, NY: Doubleday Doran and Company Incorporated, 1941), 38-39.

[xxviii] Curie, Barrès, and de Roussy de Sales, They Speak for a Nation, 49-55.

[xxix] Curie, Barrès, and de Roussy de Sales, They Speak for a Nation, 49-55.

[xxx] Curie, Barrès, and de Roussy de Sales, They Speak for a Nation, 48-51.

[xxxi] Curie, Barrès, and de Roussy de Sales, They Speak for a Nation, 50.

[xxxii] Curie, Barrès, and de Roussy de Sales, They Speak for a Nation, 154-168. These letters were written by French men and women that were both married and single, a refugee, war veterans, youths, and business owners.

[xxxiii] Curie, Barrès, and de Roussy de Sales, They Speak for a Nation, 10-21.

[xxxiv] Virginia d’Albert-Lake, An American Heroine in the French Resistance: The Diary and Memoir of Virginia D’Albert-Lake, ed. Judy Barrett Litoff (New York: Fordham University Press, 2006), 79-82.

[xxxv] d’Albert-Lake, An American Heroine in the French Resistance, 119-120.

[xxxvi] Two significant collections of audio and video interviews which include or are entirely focused on the experiences of the members of the French Resistance are: “”Mémoires Vivantes” Collection,” Interview by Martine Lemaître and Geneviève Dreyfus-Armand, La Bibliothèque De Documentation Internationale Contemporaine (2004), http://www.bdic.fr/collections/quels-documents/documents-audiovisuels/36-collections/164-video2; “Témoignages: Dialogues Et Rencontres,” Interview by Musée De La Résistance Et De La Déportation, Centre D’Histoire De La Résistance Et De La Déportation, http://www.chrd.lyon.fr/chrd/sections/fr/ressources_histriqu/ temoignages.

[xxxvii] Berr, The Journal of Hélène Berr, 97.

[xxxviii] Berr, The Journal of Hélène Berr, 97-98.

[xxxix] Centre De Documentation Juive Contemporaine, comp., Activité Des Organisations Juives En France Sous L’occupation (Paris: CDJC, 1947), 174.

[xl] Susan Zuccotti, The Holocaust, the French, and the Jews (New York: Basic Books, 1993), 176-177.

[xli] Zuccotti, The Holocaust, the French, and the Jews, 176-177.

[xlii] Zuccotti, The Holocaust, the French, and the Jews, 176-177.

[xliii] Zuccotti, The Holocaust, the French, and the Jews, 116-117.

[xliv] Two such arguments can be found here: Daniel Blatman, “Holocaust Scholarship: Towards a Post-Uniqueness Era,” Journal of Genocide Research 17, no. 1 (March 2015): 21-43.; Shaul Magid, “The Holocaust and Jewish Identity in America: Memory, the Unique, and the Universal,” Jewish Social Studies 18, no. 2 (Winter 2012): 100-135.

[xlv] For more studies on French collaboration with Germany and of Vichy policy see: Adrienne Doris Hytier, Two Years of French Foreign Policy: Vichy, 1940-1942 (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1974); Daniel Lee, Pétain’s Jewish Children: French Jewish Youth and the Vichy Regime, 1940-1942 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014); Denis Peschanski, Collaboration and Resistance: Images of Life in Vichy France, 1940-44 (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2000); Philippe Burrin, France under the Germans: Collaboration and Compromise (New York: New Press, 1996); Robert Aron, Georgette Elgey, and Humphrey Hare, The Vichy Regime, 1940-44 (Boston: Beacon Press, 1969); Robert B. Bruce, Pétain: Verdun to Vichy (Dulles, VA: Potomac Books, 2008).

[xlvi] For more studies on French memory of the German occupation and the Vichy regime see: Henry Rousso, The Vichy Syndrome: History and Memory in France since 1944 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1991); Noel Barber, The Week France Fell, June 10-16, 1940 (New York: Cooper Square Press, 2000); Sandra Ott, War, Judgment, and Memory in the Basque Borderlands, 1914-1945 (Reno: University of Nevada Press, 2008); Richard Joseph Golsan, Memory, the Holocaust, and French Justice: The Bousquet and Touvier Affairs (Hanover: Dartmouth College, 1996); Richard Joseph Golsan, Vichy’s Afterlife: History and Counterhistory in Postwar France (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2000).

[xlvii] More recent films include La Rafle (2010) and Sarah’s Key (2011).

 


Version I: Posted April 5th, 2016

Click here for downloadable copy of the following draft of this paper.


Vichy and the Vel d’Hiv:
Examining the German Occupation of Paris

The Vel d’Hiv Roundup is a relatively unknown event to those without a profound interest in World War II history, yet the event shaped the history of Paris and left a black mark on France. The Roundup occurred on July 16th and 17th, 1942.[1] On these two days, nine thousand Parisian police officers working under the corrupt Vichy regime removed men, women, and children from their homes and shut them into the Vélondrome d’Hiver, otherwise known as the Winter Stadium.[2] Upon their release, they would be sent to transit camps in other parts of France where they waited to be sent to Auschwitz for extermination.[3] Of the people detained in the Vel d’Hiv Roundup a third were children.[4] The event’s significance is that it was France’s Vichy government, not the Germans, that carried out this plot. Moreover, it was not until the anniversary on July 16th 1995, that the President of France, Jacques Chirac, acknowledged the involvement of the French police in the Vel d’Hiv Roundup and admitted French culpability in the extermination of both French and foreign-born Jewish people living in France during the German occupation.[5] This apology resulted in new studies of the German occupation of France; however, the expansion of the historiography remained focused on the Vichy regime and not the events in Paris. Furthermore, the historiography of the German occupation remains dominated by the historian Robert O. Paxton, but despite a lack of scholarly material focused on the event specifically scholars have critically analyzed life under both the Vichy regime and the German occupation. This paper will demonstrate that the oppression of the Jewish community was gradual and that the Vel d’Hiv Roundup was a turning point in the treatment of both foreign-born and French Jewish communities.

Paxton and Michael R. Marrus collaborated on the 1981 text Vichy France and the Jews, which was met with praise by reviewers who regard it as an essential work on the topic of the German occupation of France and the Vichy regime, a topic overburdened by pseudohistorians.[6] This text argued that the first year of the occupation and the anti-Semitic that was invoked during that time period were entirely of Vichy France’s creation because the Germans were preoccupied with non-French threats to their forces.[7] An example was made of legislation enacted within the first month of Marshal Pétain’s appointment to head of the French state in which he stripped six thousand French Jewish people of their naturalization and it took Germany more than two months to present an ordinance defining who was Jewish to authorities.[8] Marchandeau Law had existed until the Vichy regime repealed it, even before the German ordinances.[9] It was meant to protect attacks based on religion and similar circumstances and its repeal thus allowed both Vichy and German authorities to spread anti-Jewish propaganda.[10] None of this legislation specifically wrote out that it was targeted toward the Jewish communities and yet they did significantly impact them, particularly in terms of business.[11] Furthermore, the impact of such legislation would have an obvious impact on Paris, a business center, and its Jewish community who would face eradication just two years later.

The question of who to send to was heavily debated before the Roundup, but ultimately the decision was made to remove non-French Jews, being those who were stateless or foreign, with a quota of twenty-eight thousand to be arrested and all but six thousand to be immediately sent to Auschwitz.[12] It should be mentioned that they were not without warning, sympathetic police and a newspaper warned of the coming arrests, and yet during and after the arrests over a hundred suicides occurred amongst those that did not run or hide.[13] As a result, the Roundup yielded just below thirteen thousand arrests.[14] Unfortunately, this is the extent of the information on the event available within Marrus and Paxton’s keystone piece and other works on the German occupation of France provide little more and often less information.

When discussing aryanisation the Roundup is mentioned in passing for both the culpability of the French police who stole property from the victims and also separated four thousand children from their families by sending them to different transit camps.[15] In Verdict on Vichy, Michael Curtis notes that the Vel d’Hiv Roundup’s greater significance is that of the children because it was the first time children were intentionally arrested and in such a large amount, nearly four thousand.[16] Moreover, the majority of these children were French-born.[17] When examining this unique situation with the repeal of Marchandeau Law and Vichy’s legislation to repeal naturalization two years before the roundup, it could be argued that an assumption should have been made within the Jewish community that children of non-French Jewish parents would not be considered French despite having been born in the country. Legislation remains the easiest means of examination of the Vel d’Hiv Roundup because both the Germans and French so heavily cataloged their actions, but after the World War II the few French officials put on trial were charged with treason and corroboration with Germany, not for the Vichy regime creating their own anti-Semitic legislation.[18]

The legislation was not swift and sweeping. The Vel d’Hiv Roundup did not occur immediately after the German occupation of France. Translated letters discuss a tolerable life in November of 1940, where food and work were only mildly and certainly not unbearably impacted.[19] Moreover, if there was a mention of a ration cut there is also a mention of another ration being increased, such as cutting bread but increasing rice, or the availability of specific foods, such as a dominance of fresh fruit and vegetables instead of meat and pastries.[20] Parisian letters to America deteriorated and they namely mention a lack of heat and mentions of food rations are almost always met with a tone of annoyance rather than bitter panic; however, a refugee that visited Paris noted that “the “foreigners” are treated as if they were furniture nobody looks at.”[21] Yet, the collaboration of Vichy France with the Germans did not go wholly unnoticed either. Though letters suggest a sentiment that Great Britain would soon come to France’s rescue, these letters discuss an unpreparedness on France’s part which allowed the Vichy regime to come to power and fall to the Germans who overran Paris.[22] In reading these letters it would seem that Britain may have been the greatest reason to hope for France’s liberation because the only means of news outside of Vichy and Nazi propaganda was BBC radio newscasts.[23]

Outside of these letters, historians have a detailed account of life in France before, during, and after the war through diaries. One such diary by Virginia d’Albert-Lake, an American who married a French man and eventually joined the French Resistance, provides very little difference to the previously mentioned array of letters. She too discussed tight rations in Paris, albeit in more detail, but also describes bearable circumstances.[24] Beyond these experiences of life in Paris during the German occupation, d’Albert-Lake was also imprisoned in Fresnes in South Paris, which the Germans used for many members of the French Resistance.[25] Outside of the large amount of content on the Vichy regime, there is also a large amount of content on members of the French Resistance.[26] The overall consensus remained that until 1942 life in Paris and most of France was hard but tolerable; moreover, hardship could be interpreted as a simple product of the expected strife of wartime. Unfortunately, the likelihood of primary source material, particularly in terms of diaries of Parisian Jews, is unlikely due to so few of them surviving the Roundup.

There are surviving photographs in collections that show internees in Drancy, a Parisian transit camp which included gender segregation and makeshift apartments.[27] Insight into these photographs are as grim as the circumstances inside the Vel d’Hiv itself. With little food, some died of starvation, with poor sanitation some died of illness, and ultimately most died from transit to Auschwitz.[28] One such account declares sixteen school girls were arrested with a supervisor and after a week in Drancy they were all sent to Auschwitz where all were immediately killed except a single fourteen-year-old who was selected for forced labor.[29] Another account shows that welfare programs did provide aide to the transit camps.[30] What this demonstrates is that life before arrest in Paris was starkly different than what the victims experienced in transit camps and even Drancy was far less brutal than Auschwitz. That final transport experience for the victims of the Vel d’Hiv Roundup was delayed until late August for the children and women and records show “seven trains left Drancy for Auschwitz carrying about 1,000 people each. Between one-third and one-half of the passengers in each train were unaccompanied children—the children from Vel d’Hiv….none of the deported children from the Vel d’Hiv returned.”[31] However, analysis of the experiences of arrest, torture, internment, and extermination have been argued to be biased due to nationalism and public perception of the horrors and French culpability.[32]

With the a large, and still rapidly growing, amount of scholarly work being made after the 1995 address by President Chirac, it is easy to uncover source after source of material in which no one denies the Vichy government not only worked with but instigated much of the anti-Semitic oppression of the Jewish communities inside and outside of Paris, France.[33] While there is a significant amount of scholarship on France’s memory of the German occupation and life under the Vichy government, a clear image can not be made of the specific experiences of the Vel d’Hiv victims, what Parisians witnessed during the event, or even the experiences of the few that were allowed access into the Vélondrome during the prisoners’ detention, or accounts from within the Vel d’Hiv after the prisoners were moved to transit camps.[34] However, in its absence speculation has flourished in films which have created a dialogue outside of France.[35] As new questions are presented, such as how or if the Vel d’Hiv Roundup should be presented in schools, it becomes all the more important that scholars either analyze more material from Paris under the occupation or begin a dialogue about its absence. After all, can a true post-Vichy identity be formed without a clear understanding of this event?


 

Bibliography

Primary Resources

Centre De Documentation Juive Contemporaine, comp. Activité des Organisations Juives en

France Sous L’occupation. Paris: CDJC, 1947.
Curie, Eve, Philippe Barrès, and Raoul De Roussy De Sales, eds. They Speak for a Nation:

Letters from France. Translated by Drake Dekay and Denise Dekay. Garden City, NY:

Doubleday Doran and Company Incorporated, 1941.

 

d’Albert-Lake, Virginia. An American Heroine in the French Resistance: The Diary and Memoir

of Virginia D’Albert-Lake. Edited by Judy Barrett Litoff. New York: Fordham University

Press, 2006.

 

“”Mémoires Vivantes” Collection.” Interview by Martine Lemaître and Geneviève Dreyfus-

Armand. La Bibliothèque De Documentation Internationale Contemporaine. 2004. http://www.bdic.fr/collections/quels-documents/documents-audiovisuels/36-collections/164-video2.

 

“Témoignages: Dialogues Et Rencontres.” Interview by Musée De La Résistance Et De La

Déportation. Centre D’Histoire De La Résistance Et De La Déportation.

http://www.chrd.lyon.fr/chrd/sections/fr/ressources_historiqu/temoignages.

 

Secondary Resources

 

Aron, Robert, Georgette Elgey, and Humphrey Hare. The Vichy Regime, 1940-44. Beacon Press:

Boston, 1969.

 

Barber, Noel. The Week France Fell, June 10-16, 1940. New York, NY: Cooper Square Press,

2000.

 

Blatman, Daniel. “Holocaust Scholarship: Towards a Post-Uniqueness Era.” Journal of

Genocide Research 17, no. 1 (March 2015): 21-43.

 

Bruce, Robert B. Pétain: Verdun to Vichy. Dulles, VA: Potomac Books, 2008.

 

Burrin, Philippe. France under the Germans: Collaboration and Compromise. New York: New

Press, 1996.

 

Conan, Éric, and Henry Rousso. Vichy: An Ever-Present Past. Hanover, NH: University Press of

New England, 1998.

 

Curtis, Michael. Verdict on Vichy: Power and Prejudice in the Vichy France Regime. New York:

Arcade Publishing, 2002.

 

Golsan, Richard Joseph. Memory, the Holocaust, and French Justice: The Bousquet and Touvier

Affairs. Hanover: Dartmouth, 1996.

 

Golsan, Richard Joseph. Vichy’s Afterlife: History and Counterhistory in Postwar France.

Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2000.

 

Hytier, Adrienne Doris. Two Years of French Foreign Policy: Vichy, 1940-1942. Westport, CT:

Greenwood Press, 1974.

 

Lee, Daniel. Pétain’s Jewish Children: French Jewish Youth and the Vichy Regime, 1940-1942.

Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.

 

Liauzu, Claude. La Société Française Face Au Racisme: De La Révolution À Nos Jours.

Bruxelles: Editions Complexe, 1999.

 

Magid, Shaul. “The Holocaust and Jewish Identity in America: Memory, the Unique, and the

Universal.” Jewish Social Studies 18, no. 2 (Winter 2012): 100-135.

 

Marrus, Michael R., and Robert O. Paxton. Vichy France and the Jews. New York: Basic Books,

1981.

 

Ott, Sandra. War, Judgment, and Memory in the Basque Borderlands, 1914-1945. Reno, NV:

University of Nevada Press, 2008.

 

Peschanski, Denis. Collaboration and Resistance: Images of Life in Vichy France, 1940-44. New

York: Harry N. Abrams, 2000.

 

Rousso, Henry. The Vichy Syndrome: History and Memory in France Since 1944. Cambridge,

MA: Harvard University Press, 1991.

 

Wright, Gordon. Review of Vichy France and the JewsThe Journal of Modern History 55, no.

  1. University of Chicago Press (1983): 354-356.

 

Zuccotti, Susan. The Holocaust, the French, and the Jews. New York: Basic Books, 1993.


Endnotes

[1] Michael R. Marrus and Robert O. Paxton, Vichy France and the Jews (New York: Basic Books, 1981), 250-251.

[2] Marrus and Paxton, Vichy France and the Jews, 250-255.

[3] Marrus and Paxton, Vichy France and the Jews, 250-255.

[4] Marrus and Paxton, Vichy France and the Jews, 251.

[5] Éric Conan and Henry Rousso, Vichy: An Ever-Present Past (Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 1998), x.

[6] Gordon Wright, Review of Vichy France and the JewsThe Journal of Modern History 55, no. 2, (University of Chicago Press, 1983): 354-356.

[7] Marrus and Paxton, Vichy France and the Jews, xii-xiii.

[8] Marrus and Paxton, Vichy France and the Jews, 4-6.

[9] Marrus and Paxton, Vichy France and the Jews, 7.

[10] Claude Liauzu, La Société Française Face Au Racisme: De La Révolution À Nos Jours (Bruxelles: Editions Complexe, 1999), 190.

 

[11] Marrus and Paxton, Vichy France and the Jews, 160.

[12] Marrus and Paxton, Vichy France and the Jews, 248-250.

[13] Marrus and Paxton, Vichy France and the Jews, 251.

[14] Marrus and Paxton, Vichy France and the Jews, 252.

[15] Michael Curtis, Verdict on Vichy: Power and Prejudice in the Vichy France Regime (New York: Arcade Publishing, 2002), 150-153.

 

[16] Curtis, Verdict on Vichy, 202.

[17] Curtis, Verdict on Vichy, 202.

[18] Conan and Rousso, Vichy, 17-19.

[19] Eve Curie, Philippe Barrès, and Raoul de Roussy de Sales, eds.,They Speak for a Nation: Letters from France, trans. Drake Dekay and Denise Dekay (Garden City, NY: Doubleday Doran and Company Incorporated, 1941), 38-39.

[20] Curie, Barrès, and de Roussy de Sales, They Speak for a Nation, 49-55.

[21] Curie, Barrès, and de Roussy de Sales, They Speak for a Nation, 48-51.

[22] Curie, Barrès, and de Roussy de Sales, They Speak for a Nation, 154-168.

[23] Curie, Barrès, and de Roussy de Sales, They Speak for a Nation, 10-21.

[24] Virginia d’Albert-Lake, An American Heroine in the French Resistance: The Diary and Memoir of Virginia D’Albert-Lake, ed. Judy Barrett Litoff (New York: Fordham University Press, 2006), 79-82.

[25] d’Albert-Lake, An American Heroine in the French Resistance, 119-120.

[26] Two significant collections of audio and video interviews which include or are entirely focused on the experiences of the members of the French Resistance are: “”Mémoires Vivantes” Collection.” Interview by Martine Lemaître and Geneviève Dreyfus-Armand. La Bibliothèque De Documentation Internationale Contemporaine. 2004. http://www.bdic.fr/collections/quels-documents/documents-audiovisuels/36-collections/164-video2.; “Témoignages: Dialogues Et Rencontres.” Interview by Musée De La Résistance Et De La Déportation. Centre D’Histoire De La Résistance Et De La Déportation. http://www.chrd.lyon.fr/chrd/sections/fr/ressources_historiqu/temoignages.

 

[27] Centre De Documentation Juive Contemporaine, comp., Activité Des Organisations Juives En France Sous L’occupation (Paris: CDJC, 1947), 174.

 

[28] Susan Zuccotti, The Holocaust, the French, and the Jews (New York: Basic Books, 1993), 176-177.

[29] Zuccotti, The Holocaust, the French, and the Jews, 176-177.

[30] Zuccotti, The Holocaust, the French, and the Jews, 176-177.

[31] Zuccotti, The Holocaust, the French, and the Jews, 116-117.

[32] Two such arguments can be found here: Daniel Blatman, “Holocaust Scholarship: Towards a Post-Uniqueness Era,” Journal of Genocide Research 17, no. 1 (March 2015): 21-43.; Shaul Magid, “The Holocaust and Jewish Identity in America: Memory, the Unique, and the Universal,” Jewish Social Studies 18, no. 2 (Winter 2012): 100-135.

[33] For more studies on French collaboration with Germany and of Vichy policy see: Adrienne Doris Hytier, Two Years of French Foreign Policy: Vichy, 1940-1942 (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1974); Daniel Lee, Pétain’s Jewish Children: French Jewish Youth and the Vichy Regime, 1940-1942 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014); Denis Peschanski, Collaboration and Resistance: Images of Life in Vichy France, 1940-44 (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2000); Philippe Burrin, France under the Germans: Collaboration and Compromise (New York: New Press, 1996); Robert Aron, Georgette Elgey, and Humphrey Hare, The Vichy Regime, 1940-44 (Boston: Beacon Press, 1969); Robert B. Bruce, Pétain: Verdun to Vichy (Dulles, VA: Potomac Books, 2008).

 

[34] For more studies on French memory of the German occupation and the Vichy regime see: Henry Rousso, The Vichy Syndrome: History and Memory in France since 1944 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1991); Noel Barber, The Week France Fell, June 10-16, 1940 (New York, NY: Cooper Square Press, 2000); Sandra Ott, War, Judgment, and Memory in the Basque Borderlands, 1914-1945 (Reno: University of Nevada Press, 2008); Richard Joseph Golsan, Memory, the Holocaust, and French Justice: The Bousquet and Touvier Affairs (Hanover: Dartmouth College, 1996); Richard Joseph Golsan, Vichy’s Afterlife: History and Counterhistory in Postwar France (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2000).

 

[35] More recent films include La Rafle and Sarah’s Key.