France's Darkest Chapter: 70 Years On

For many, the common assumption regarding the deportation of Jews to concentration camps was carried out solely by the Nazis, through invasion and force. Perhaps it is easier to imagine the ministers of other countries cowering back with fear and allowing the Nazis in without putting up any form of resistance, let alone making negotiations with them.

But this was not so.

One lesser-known aspect of the deportations comes from France, where officials actually co-operated with the Nazis and willingly gave them their own Jewish citizens.

Did the French treat their own any kinder than the Nazis did? Certainly not. Over 13,000 Jews were rounded up and taken to the Velodrome d'Hiver, once a cycling stadium located close to the Eiffel Tower. For two days, between 16th and 17th July 1942, Jews were given little food or water and forced to stay in these unbearable conditions. There were not enough toilets; the heat was overwhelming.
This was only the beginning of their agony. From the velodrome they were taken to Drancy concentration camp - yes, there was a camp in Paris - and deported to Auschwitz.

The French government has acknowledged its shameful part in the persecution of Jews before, but now, to mark the 70th anniversary of this terrible event, documents from that time are being publicly displayed in Paris for the first time. On Sunday, 22nd July, the newly-elected President Francois Hollande will give a speech at the place the Velodrome once stood.

You can read about the exhibition of documents here.

If you are interested in this lesser-known event, I also recommend this brilliant, recent film, 'Sarah's Key' (which I will be reviewing in the near future), the trailer for which is below.