France

Historical Background

The sports stadium Velodrome d’Hiver, Paris, where thousands of Jews were detained for days without provisions before their deportation, July 1942The sports stadium Velodrome d’Hiver, Paris, where thousands of Jews were detained for days without provisions before their deportation, July 1942

Following the German invasion, France signed an armistice with Germany in June 1940. Northern France came under direct German occupation, and the southern part remained unoccupied and was governed by a French administration – the Vichy government – that collaborated closely with Germany. In November 1942 the German forces took over the unoccupied zone.

The persecution of the Jews in France began soon after the occupation. They were gradually deprived of their civil rights and livelihood, and thousands of mostly foreign Jews were sent to internment camps. When the massive deportations from France to the death camps began in summer 1942, Jewish emigrants were the first to be targeted. On July 16-17, 12 884 Jews, including 4051 children were rounded up in Paris in what came to be known as the raffle du Vel D'Hiv.

This roundup was named after the Velodrome d'Hiver sports arena where 7,000 of the arrested Jews were interned for several days without food or water. Deportations continued until 1944. Over 77,000 Jews out of the 350,000 that were living in France in 1940 were deported and murdered. There are many reasons for survival of three quarters of the Jews in France – in addition to the political and geographical conditions of the country, the high survival rate was also due to a change in public attitudes after the meaning of the deportation of the Jews became known, as well as the extensive activity of Jewish and non-Jewish underground organizations that were actively hiding Jews.