The Vel d’Hiv Roundup–by Will Hays

I was not sure exactly what to expect upon leaving Gare de l’Est Wednesday morning. However, after our morning activities and our break had passed, I found myself with the group at a particular monument next to the Eiffel Tower.  The monument was erected in memory of the disturbing events that occurred in July 1942.  This event was known as the Vel d’Hiv Roundup.  I soon learned from listening to Stephani’s excellent expert assignment and also by doing my own research that between July 16-17, 1942 over 12,000 Jewish men, women, and children were defenselessly arrested and taken from their homes in Paris and other parts of France.  These people were brought to police stations and perhaps the most disturbing thing was that it wasn’t even the Nazis that were arresting the Jews in France, but the French police. The Vichy government was very much influenced by the German leaders, and was forced to co-operate with the orders that would come from Berlin in order to maintain what sovereignty it could manage to keep. After the war, the roundup became known as a symbol of French guilt and shameful compliance in the Holocaust. The terrible conditions the many victims faced in the camps they were later taken to were far too terrible for most people to even attempt to grasp, in terms of the lack of food, filthy water, and no place for them to go the bathroom. The prisoners were treated worse than POWs in most camps.

The artistry that is portrayed by the monument does an excellent job of illustrating such an atrocity, to the maximum extent that a monument can portray. The artist portrayed the victims as all appearing as if they are all in a state of disarray, including a woman holding suffering children, and one laying down on a suitcase, which I believe symbolized how they were all forced to leave their homes with almost no time to pack, and the exhaustion experienced by all. The faces of the individuals on the monument represent all the victims of the Vel d’Hiv Roundup as a collective whole. Below the monument, there is a plaque, and part of it reads “We will never forget.” I find France’s history to still be extremely prevalently embedded into its citizens’ memories even to present day, and feel like this quote is both very appropriate and symbolic of the French culture today.