The Vélodrome d’hiver (also called Vel’ D’Hiv’) is a little known horror occurring July 16 and 17th in Paris, France 1942. Known as “operation Spring Breeze” Jews were arrested in Paris and the suburbs, deported and then murdered/assassinated at Auschwutz. The nights the Jews were arrested 1,129 men, 2,910 women, and 4,115 children were innocently torn from their homes and packed into the Vélodrome in inhuman conditions for 6 days, by the government of the Vichy police, by order of the Nazi occupant, meaning these innocen humans, were arrested and mistreated by the French police, because the Nazi’s told them to. Rumors had be flying the raids were going to happen, therefore many Jewish men went into hiding assuming the women and children would be safe. The Gestapo asked the French to deliver a certain “quota” of Jews between the ages of 16 and 50 to be sent to Auschwitz. However, most boys and men of these ages had gone into hiding and the French were nervous about reaching the quota, so instead the French police sent woman and children instead. Many if not most of the children there were French born and all were between the ages of 2 and 12, nowhere near the ages the Nazi’s had “requested”. The Gestapo, at first, had not asked that the children be sent. Deporting of children was very risky and would easily reveal the truth: that Jews were not being sent to work camps, but to death camps. In the end, France sent nearly 8,000 Jews to death camps, their own citizens.
This event, along with everything associated to the Holocaust, is a terrible and horrific event. I am deeply saddened that I never learned about this in school or heard it even mentioned. In fact, I was 26 years old before I learned of this event. I am even more upset that people blindly followed the orders of the Nazi’s either out of fear, lack of information, blind faith or whatever it may be. I do believe after World War I, many were in turmoil and needed somewhere to turn, thus easily allowing Hitler to be that person, to become a “hero” and correct the wrongs and pull everyone out of disparity and poverty. By no means should this have ever happened. God bless all those who tried to help the Jews and stand up for what is right, many lost their own lives trying to help. God bless everyone who lost someone fighting in the war or to a concentration as well as those who had to endure the camps, were able to survive and had to endure time without their loved ones.
I read in a book by Neil Gaiman that fear is contagious. Once someone is scared or fearful everyone around them becomes fearful too. I agree whole heartily with this statement on many levels. The French police rounded up their own because whoever gave orders was fearful if they did not have the number of bodies the Nazi’s had ordered be there, then they would become victims to the Nazi party. Very often in times of fear, people will sacrifice others or make ghastly decisions that they would not normally make.
If you are looking for a historical fiction book surrounding the Vélodrome d’hiver, I highly recommend Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay. It was in this book that I learned of Vélodrome d’hiver and it spawned my curiosity to learn more.