France commemorates victims of Vel d’Hiv roundup

As every year, on the occasion of a ceremony organised jointly by the Crif and the Ministry of the Armed Forces, France paid tribute to the 13,152 men, women and children arrested during the infamous Vel d’Hiv round-up.

This year, in order to respect health regulations, the ceremony took place without an audience and was broadcast live.

The commemoration began at 10 at the Boulevard de Grenelle, in front of the plaque paying tribute to the victims of the Vel d’Hiv, in front of which the Minister Delegate to the Minister of the Armed Forces, Geneviève Darrieussecq, the Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, and Messrs Francis Kalifat, Serge Klarsfeld, Raphaël Esrail, and Pierre-François Veil paid their respects. They finally went to the Garden of Remembrance, inaugurated in 2017 by Serge Klarsfeld, before moving to the Square of the Jewish Martyrs of the Winter Velodrome.

Prayers were led by Chief Rabbi Alain Goldmann and Chief Rabbi Olivier Kaufmann.

Several wreath-laying ceremonies followed, adding to the solemnity of the moment. Among them, Mr Eugène Daumas, President of the French Union of Gypsy Associations; Mr Joël Mergui, President of the Central Consistory and of the Consistory of Paris; Serge Klarsfeld, Regine Lippe and Claude Bochurberg, for the association of the Sons and Daughters of the Jewish Deportees of France; Mr Raphaël Esrail, President of the Union of Auschwitz Deportees; Mr David de Rothschild, President of the Foundation for the Memory of the Shoah; Mr Francis Kalifat, President of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France (Crif); His Excellency Daniel Saada, Israeli Ambassador to France; Mr Jérémy Redler, Regional Councillor for the Ile de France region; Mrs Anne Hidalgo, Mayor of Paris, and Mrs Genevève Darrieussecq, Minister Delegate for the Armed Forces.

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The Marseillaise then rang out, finding a particular echo in the hearts of the many former deportees present that day.

Eugène Daumas then spoke, followed by Raphaël Esrail and Serge Klarsfeld.

It was then the turn of Joseph Schwartz, survivor of the Vel d’Hiv, to speak. Before beginning his moving testimony, he expressed his indignation at the comparisons between the sanitary pass and the Shoah. He said he was deeply revolted and upset by the distorted images of the yellow star that are circulating in anti-vaccine circles. “This comparison is odious! You can’t imagine how touched I was. Tears came to my eyes. I have worn the star. I know what it is. I have it in my flesh. His sensitivity and commitment were evident throughout his statements: “It is the duty of all our fellow citizens not to let this outrageous, anti-Semitic, racist wave roam. It is a primordial duty”, he concluded.

Pierre-François Veil, President of the French Committee for Yad Vashem, then took the floor and recalled Yad Vashem’s commitment to the Righteous Among the Nations.

Mr Denis Charpentier, grandson of Germaine and Emile Charpentier, then paid a vibrant tribute to the memory of his grandparents and to all the Righteous of France.

The ceremony continued with a speech by the President of the Crif, Francis Kalifat.

Finally, the Minister Delegate for the Armed Forces, Genevève Darrieussecq, took her turn to speak.

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