1942

They were children

Paris City Hall

DEPORTATION AND RESCUE OF JEWISH CHILDREN IN PARIS, 1940-1945

In July 1942, nearly 14,000 Parisians were arrested by French police and, for the most part, assembled at the Vélodrome d’Hiver, simply because they were Jewish. Among them were many children. More than half of the 11,400 Jewish children deported from France between 1942 and 1944 were Parisians. Now, in 2012, on the 70th anniversary of the 'rafle du Vél d’Hiv' [Vel' d'Hiv Round-up], our town wants to honour their memory. We also want to remember the thousands of "hidden" children who survived the Shoah thanks to the actions of rescue networks and the solidarity of Parisians who embodied the honour of our capital city. Thus, this exhibition is the crowning achievement of the commemoration work led by the city for many years. It continues the transmission and preservation work undertaken by the many organisations who, in each arrondissement, have restored the deported children's names, memories, stories and dignity. Let this exhibition be a call to the fidelity of memory, vigilance and responsibility.

Bertrand Delanoë

IDENTIFICATION AND EXCLUSION

The armistice of 22 June 1940, divided France in two. Paris, and therefore the majority of France's Jews, were located in the northern zone. From September 1940, the occupying authorities and the Vichy government organised the stigmatisation of the Jews. French laws and German rulings defined who were Jews before identifying and locating them. Then, they were excluded from economical and cultural life. Most of these measures affected not only adults, but also children. Thus, they marked a radical break from the protective provisions that children had increasingly benefited from in Europe since the eighteenth century.

ARREST AND DEPORTATION

In total, more than 6,100 children were arrested in Paris during the Shoah, mainly by the city police. Most of these were deported to the Auschwitz camp in Poland where they were exterminated upon arrival.

Being a child of interned parents

The first Parisian round-ups took place during 1941. They led to the arrest of nearly 8,200 people, exclusively men and almost all foreigners. The internment of many of these fathers resulted in further material and psychological difficulties for their families. Sometimes it had the tragic consequence that children were left alone.

SOLIDARITY AND RESCUE

It was in Paris that the fate of most Jewish children deported from France was decided. Beyond its scale, the 'rafle du Vél d’Hiv' [Vél d’Hiv round-up] marked a turning point. On the one hand, it definitively sealed the fate of Jews aged under 16. On the other hand, due to the reactions that it provoked, it opened the door to opposition to this radical extermination project. On their landings, in their apartment buildings, in their streets, Parisians noticed these sudden disappearances – and were sometimes witness to violent arrests by the French police – not just of men, but also of women and above all children. These scenes sparked reactions of solidarity amongst the non-Jewish population who, until then, had been indifferent to, sometimes content with, the situation for Jews. Jewish social organisations – which, for several months now, had supported families whose situations had continued to deteriorate – could now build upon these displays of sympathy to achieve the now collective objective: to save the children.

SURVIVING AND GROWING UP

In Paris, like across the whole of France, around 80% of Jewish children survived the war. It is generally estimated that 10,000 of them were kept alive as a result of being taken in by Jewish rescue networks, supported by non-Jews. However, it is difficult to come up with an exact figure. A quantitative estimate is even more difficult in relation to the acts of solidarity offered by this or that neighbour, friend or classmate. Finally, many children lived through the war alongside their parents who managed to stay at home in Paris throughout. The experiences of Jewish children who survived the war in France are therefore quite diverse.

Credits: Story

Amicale des anciens et sympathisants de l’OSE
Archives nationales
Archives de la ville
Archives départementales du Loiret
Archives de la préfecture de police de Paris
Archives de l’ORT-France
Bibliothèque historique de la Ville de Paris
Bibliothèque nationale de France
Centre Medem
CERCIL/Musée-Mémorial des enfants du Vel d’Hiv
Comité français pour Yad Vashem
Maison d’Izieu
Mémorial des enfants juifs exterminés
Ministère de la Défense
Musée de la résistance et de la déportation de Besançon
Musée de la résistance nationale
OSE
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (Washington)
Amicale des anciens et sympathisants de l’OSE
Archives nationales
Archives de la ville
Archives départementales du Loiret
Archives de la préfecture de police de Paris
Archives de l’ORT-France
Bibliothèque historique de la Ville de Paris
Bibliothèque nationale de France
Centre Medem
Comité français pour Yad Vashem
Maison d’Izieu
Mémorial des enfants juifs exterminés
Ministère de la Défense
Musée de la résistance et de la déportation de Besançon
Musée de la résistance nationale
OSE
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (Washington)

Credits: All media
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