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Friday, 19 July, 2002, 16:22 GMT 17:22 UK
Paris remembers lost Jews
Jews in the camp of Drancy before their deportation to the nazi concentration camps
Some 76,000 French people were sent to the camps (Picture: AFP)
Hugh Schofield

They stare out from another time.

Some pose awkwardly in formal portraits arranged no doubt at the local studio - like Henri Blindt, an ungainly adolescent in shorts clutching the harp which he must have been learning to play.

Henri Gilburt
Henri Gilburt: Born 1930, deported August 1942
Others beam forth in spontaneous snapshots - like Jean-Pierre Guckenheimer, who looks like he was four when he was caught in a fit of laughter lathering his father with shaving-foam.

Later there are the grim studies, taken - it seems - when posterity suddenly started to matter. Unsmiling family groups with yellow stars. A woman clutching her young by the barbed wire of the internment camp at Pithiviers.

Launch new window : Paris Jews
Images of Jewish families deported from France

An exhibition of photographs and documents from World War II in the forecourt of the Gare Saint-Lazare in central Paris has been drawing a steady stream of commuters - distracted from their journeys by images of long-dead children.

France's role

Organised by the Association of the Sons and Daughters of French Jewish Deportees (FFDJF), it is part of the unending effort to keep alive the memory of the 76,000 who were sent to the camps - and France's ignoble role in their fate.

Henri Jaumont
Henri Jaumont was smuggled out of Paris - his two cousins died
"Of three-quarters of the 11,000 children who died there is absolutely no trace," says FFDJF member Henri Jaumont, 79, who survived because his parents smuggled him out of Paris.

"Their families just disappeared. But we ask people to keep looking through their attics for old photographs or letters. Only two days ago an old lady brought some pictures she had found of relatives who had died. That is how we help them to live again," he said.

The exhibition coincides with the 60th anniversary of perhaps the most notorious act of French collaboration from the war - the Vel D'Hiv round-up of 16 and 17 July 1942.


The police hierarchy must ask for forgiveness - what it did was inexpressible

Exhibition visitor Djafar Bouaziz
More than 13,000 Jews - mostly of foreign origin - were picked up in Paris and most taken in buses to the Velodrome D'Hiver, a cycling stadium near the Eiffel Tower, where they suffered a week of bewilderment, hunger and humiliation.

From there they started their journey's east to the death camps.

Women and children

What marked out the Vel D'Hiv round-up from previous smaller swoops was that for the first time women and children were targeted.


I will now on do all I can to struggle against anti-Semitism, which alas is reappearing in our country

Visitor's book
Some of the 4,000 children taken now look out over the concourse of the Gare Saint-Lazare.

But the most shocking aspect was that the work was carried out not by the Gestapo, but by French police.

The Vichy government was so anxious to maintain the fiction that it was a free agent, that it insisted on keeping control. The Germans were delighted to oblige.

Reactions among those who see the exhibition can be gauged from the emotional remarks left in the visitors' book.

"The police hierarchy must ask for forgiveness. What it did was inexpressible. Why did they forsake the path of resistance and instead go down the road of shame?" wrote Djafar Bouaziz, himself a captain in the police.

Heat and hunger

"Even though I am not Jewish, I will now on do all I can to struggle against anti-Semitism, which alas is reappearing in our country," read another comment.


Above all I remember the cries

Helene Zytnicki, survivor
The Vel D'Hiv stadium has been demolished now, and a government office stands in its place.

Curiously only one contemporary photograph survives from July 1942, and that merely shows a line of buses parked outside.

A picture that was believed to be of detainees standing on the terraces was later proved to be of suspected collaborators rounded up after the Liberation.

But the memory of the heat, the hunger and the fear is etched on the handful of people who survived.

"Above all I remember the cries," recalled Helene Zytnicki in a documentary on French television.

"Years later I learned that some people had committed suicide. People hurled themselves from the top of the terraces."

See also:

21 Jul 02 | Europe
15 Dec 99 | Europe
07 Mar 00 | Europe
23 Oct 99 | Europe
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