The Vel' d'Hiv Roundup
"These Black hours will stain our history forever"
-Former president Jacques Chirac
Live Accounts From Vel' d'Hiv Roundup Survivors
The Vélodrome d'Hiver stadium in Paris, France was originally designed by Gaston Lambert, a French architect. It had a large 250 meter motor track with a smaller rollerskating track in the centre. The stadium had two tiers of seats, with higher class ticket holders in track-side seats and lower class ticket holders in the upper seats. The entire stadium was light with 1,253 large hanging lights. A highly popular event in the stadium was the Six-Day cycle race, where cyclists raced for six days and the winner was the one who completed the most laps. The Véldrome d'Hiver housed several events in the 1924 Summer Olympics, including boxing, fencing, weightlifting, and wrestling. In 1931, American Jeff Dickson joined management and began renovations. The rollerskating rink was removed, as well as several pillars and an ice skating rink was inserted, along with a cover for the rink to allow for other activities. In 1959, a fire destroyed half the stadium. The rest of the stadium was demolished and a block of flats and a building for the Ministry of the Interior were built.
Rafle du Vel' d'hiv'
On the 16th and 17th of July 1942, over 13,000 Jews living in France were arrested and temporarily interned in the Véldrome d'Hiver stadium. More than 4,000 of the arrested were children, and the entire operation was performed by French Policemen. At least 7,000 civil servants were used in the roundup. Conditions of the arrests were harsh. There was to be no discussion, utilities were to be turned off, and keys and pets were to be handed to the concierge or neighbor. Jews could take only a blanket, a sweater, a pair of shoes, and to shirts with them. This event targeted mainly women and children who had not developed the reflex of hiding. Conditions in the Vel' d'Hiv were unfathomable. The glass roof, which had been painted dark blue to avoid bombing targets, increased the temperature greatly. They were under intense lighting night and day and deafened by constant announcements over loudspeaker. Of the ten lavatories in the stadium, five were sealed because of possible escape routes, the rest were quickly clogged. For three days, they were literally living in their own excrement with nothing to eat or drink. The only food and water was brought in by Quakers. There were only three doctors and twelve nurses allowed in. Anyone who attempted to escape was immediately shot down. Many committed suicide by jumping from the rafters. After several days, prisoners were transported by rail in cattle cars to concentration camps to be processed and exterminated by gassing. The Jews were sent to three main camps, Drancy, Beaune-la-Rolande, and Pithiviers.
Gilbert, Adrian. "Vél D'Hiv, Paris 1942: 'These Black Hours Will Stain Our History Forever'" Theguardian.com. Guardian News and Media, 21 July 2011. Web. 27 Apr. 2014.
Kelly, Tara. "Cecile Widerman Kaufer, Holocaust Survivor, Recounts 1942 Vel D'Hiv Roundup In Paris Stadium." The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 17 July 2012. Web. 27 Apr. 2014.
Lees, David. "Remembering the Vel D'hiv Roundup." Remembering the Vel' D'Hiv Roundup. Warwick Knowledge Centre, 16 July 2013. Web. 26 Apr. 2014.