The Vel d’Hiv Incident

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The Vel d’Hiv incident was a dark time in history involving the arrest and round up of foreign Jews in Paris during the German occupation of France.

        In May and June of 1942, head of the SS Siecherheitsdienst Reinhard Heyrich, forced labor employment organizer Fritz Sauckel and Jewish policy official Adolf Eichmann visited Paris. Later in June into July, the French administration was replaced by the collaborationist Vichy regime instituted by the Germans. This would serve to make their plans to deport the Jews easier as they could exploit France’s policy: all Jews had to wear gold stars of David to make clear that they were Jews.

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        On July 16th, 1942, around 4,500 French policemen began to arrest all Jewish in Paris en masse as ordered by the German authorities. 13,000 Jews, around 4,000 of which were children, were rounded up and taken to the Velodrome d’Hiver in the span of one week. Inside the stadium, it was horribly crowded and the smell was noted to be horrible, the facility not built to hold so many people. There was very little water and food, as well as poor sanitation that only exacerbated the confusion and panic among the Jews. In the following week, the Jews were moved once more to the Pilthiviers concentration camp in Loiret and the Beaune-la-Rolande concentration camp in Drancy. When they arrived there in the end of July and until the beginning of August, they were prepared to be transported to Auschwitz. Children as young as babies and as old as early adolescents were separated from their parents and were left behind until the end of the month, where they would be transported to their tragic deaths with complete strangers in September.

        Two months after the Vel d’Hiv, approximately 1,000 Jews were deported to Auschwitz every two to three days and by the end of September, 38,000 had been deported to their ends. By 1945, only 780 of those 38,000 had survived.

        The general public had mixed feelings about the incident, from actively working with the Germans (civil administration and police force) to arrest Jews to indifference and even empathy towards those being persecuted.

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