By Steve Pollack for the Jewish Literay Review
The Vel d'Hiv had been an indoor cycling track located near the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Built in the early part of the last century, it was used over the years for everything from six-day bicycle races to ice hockey, wrestling, boxing, roller-skating, circuses and concerts.
But it was for one event in particular that it will always be remembered: the July 16, 1942 raid in which French police — acting on instructions from the occupying Germans — began rounding up approximately 13,000 Jews from their homes in Paris and the nearby region. The police sent many of the adults to the concentration camp located in Drancy, north of Paris. The others, many of them parents with children, were sent to the Vel d'Hiv where they stayed for six dreadful days. According to some accounts, as many as 7,500 people were held there with no lavatories, no place to sleep, unbearable heat, very little water and only a smattering of food. The conditions drove some to suicide. Most of those who lived through the nightmare were sent to French concentration camps before making their final destination to Auschwitz.
Many thanks to Steve Pollack for this review.
Author photo Philippe Matsas