The following is the speech given by French President François Hollande to commemorate the seventieth anniversary of the Vel d’Hiv Roundup on July 16 and 17, 1942, when the French police arrested 13,152 Jewish men, women, and children from Paris and its suburbs, and confined them to the Vélodrome d’Hiver, a bicycle stadium in Paris. They were later deported to German concentration camps. Eight hundred and eleven survived the war. President Hollande delivered his speech at the site of the demolished velodrome on July 22, 2012.
Prime Minister, President of the National Assembly, ambassadors, Mayor of Paris, President of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions of France, Chief Rabbi, representatives of the religions, ladies and gentlemen:
We’ve gathered this morning to remember the horror of a crime, express the sorrow of those who experienced the tragedy, and speak of the dark hours of collaboration, our history, and therefore France’s responsibility.
We’re also here to pass on the memory of the Holocaust—of which the roundups were the first stage—in order to fight the battle against oblivion and testify to new generations what barbarity is capable of doing and what resources humanity may possess to defeat it.
Seventy years ago, on July 16, 1942, early in the morning, 13,152 men, women, and children were arrested in their homes. Childless couples and single people were interned in Drancy, where the museum created by the Mémorial de la Shoah will stand in the autumn.
The others were taken to the Vélodrome d’Hiver. Thrown together for five days in inhuman conditions, they were taken from there to the camps of Pithiviers and Beaune-la-Rolande.
A clear directive had been given by the Vichy administration. “The children must not leave in the same convoys as the parents.” So, after heartrending separations, they departed—the parents on one side, the children on the other—for Auschwitz-Birkenau, where the deportees of Drancy had preceded them by a few days.
There, they were murdered. Solely for being Jews.
This crime took place here, in our capital, in our streets, the courtyards of our buildings, our stairways, our school playgrounds.
It was to prepare the way for other roundups, in Marseille and throughout France—in other words, on both sides of the demarcation line. There were also other deportations, notably of gypsies.
The infamy of the Vel d’Hiv was part of an undertaking that had no precedent and has no comparison: the Holocaust, the attempt to annihilate all the Jews on the European continent.
Seventy-six thousand French Jews were deported to the death camps. Only 2,500 returned.
Those women, men, and children could not have known the fate that awaited them. They could not even have imagined it. They trusted in France.
They believed that the country of the great Revolution and the City of Light…
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