Before Emmanuel Macron’s speech in Pithiviers, the Prime Minister commemorated this Sunday the 80th anniversary of the Vél d’Hiv roundup, in Paris, in the presence of survivors.
In the children’s garden of the Vél d’Hiv, rue Nélaton, in the 15th arrondissement of the capital, eyes stare at the white stone wall, where the names of more than 4,115 Jewish children are inscribed. The memorial was erected in 2017, on the site of the former Vélodrome d’Hiver stadium. There, eighty years ago, nearly 13,000 Jews were parked after being rounded up by the Paris police. The compound was destroyed in 1959. All that remains, along with this memorial garden, is a plaque affixed to the entrance of the current building. “Passing by, remember!” it reads.
“We have given them a face,” Serge Klarsfeld whispered in Elisabeth Borne’s ear in the garden. The president of the association of the Sons and Daughters of Jewish Deportees of France, tells the Prime Minister about the faces of these children of the war, the history of this long-obscured roundup and the responsibility of the French authorities in it. “It’s a fight that has been long and will continue”, warns the historian.
It was eighty years ago, but the pain can still be read on the faces of the survivors, invited to participate in the commemoration in the square of the place of the Jewish martyrs of the vélodrome d’Hiver.
“Here, the echo of the horror still resounds, says Elisabeth Borne. Here, you can still hear the cries of distress and the shouted orders. Here, words seem empty of meaning, derisory. Even if the Vél d’Hiv has been razed, the murmur still rises, it seizes us, it chokes us.”
“To keep its honor our country must look its history in the face,” hammered Elisabeth Borne in front of several members of the government, including Gerald Darmanin (Interior), Pap Ndiaye (Education) or Clément Beaune (Transport), before adding, “These July 16 and 17, the history of France was marked by a wound that remains bare.”
“Yes, these days of July, France lost a little of its soul,” continues the one whose father, Joseph Bornstein, a Jew of Russian origin, resistant was arrested in 1943 and then deported to Auschwitz and Buchenwald. The courage consists in recognizing and commemorating it. For her, “the fight against antisemitism never stops.”