Operation Spring Breeze

Opération Vent Printanier

          Operation Spring Breeze was the French involvement in WWII. code name for mass arrest of Parisian Jews, conducted by over 4,500 French police under Nazi authority. Around 13,000 Jews were arrested, and roughly 7,000 were held at the Vélodrome d'Hiver, an indoor stadium (that no longer exists) in Paris, while others were taken to Drancy, Pithiviers, or Beaune-la-Rolande internment camps.

The Vélodrome d'Hiver (Vel d'Hiv)

  • Before the roundup, the French Resistance and some Jewish organizations found out about Operation Spring Breeze and helped several Jewish families escape, but not many
  • The roundup began around 4am on July 16, 1942
  • Jews held at the Vel d'Hiv were forced to endure harsh conditions. It was crowded, dirty, smelly, there was no food, and one pump that spewed dirty water
  • After being held at the Vel d'Hiv, the Jews were taken to Auschwitz in cattle cars
  • Almost all of them perished, either from gas chambers, guns, disease, starvation, or suicide
  • Only 2,600 Jews out of the original 33,000 taken over 2 months returned alive

Impact

  • For over half a century, the French Government was humiliated and denying the horrid things they had done, making excuses for how and why they were forced to what they did
  • It was not until 1995, on the roundup's 53rd Anniversary, that the French Government finally took responsibility and apologized for their actions. President Jacques Chirac gave a speech, saying, "These black hours will stain our history forever, and are an affront to our past and traditions... the criminal insanity of the occupiers were assisted by the French, by the French State."
  • The Vélodrome d'Hiver no longer exists, but at the place de Martyrs-Juifs (place of Jewish Martyrs) there is a monument
  • There is also a plaque at the Rue des Pyrénées, in Paris
  • Around July 16 (the anniversary) of every year, information on the roundup is taught in French schools, poster are put up on buses, films and documentaries are shown on TV, letters from the Operation are reproduced, and newspaper articles are published everywhere

For more information on Operation Spring Breeze, The Vélodrome d'Hiver, or Occupied France, read Sarah's Key, by Tatiana de Rosnay

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