If it’s a Sunday, or the Sunday after
The National Day of Remembrance of the victims of racist and anti-Semitic persecutions by the French State and of tribute to the righteous of France
►Déroulé de la commémoration de la rafle du Vél' d'Hiv' | Dimanche 22 juillet 2018
On 16 and 17 July 1942, 13,152 Jews were arrested by the French police. A total of 1,129 men, 2,916 women and 4,115 children were rounded up in the Vélodrome d’Hiver. Childless couples and single people (1,989 men and 3,003 women) were interned at the Drancy camp.
From 19 to 22 July, families were transported from the Vélodrome d’Hiver to camps in Pithiviers and Beaune-la-Rolande. Adults and teenagers were deported first. Brutally separated from their parents, about 3,000 young children were left at the velodrome in absolute distress. They were then transferred to Drancy and deported between 17 and 31 August 1942. Not a single one returned.
THE IMPORTANCE OF REMEMBRANCE
The national day of remembrance of the victims of racist and anti-Semitic persecutions by the French State and of tribute to the ‘righteous’ of France was founded in response to the wish expressed by the Jewish community, as well as a number of French personalities, to have officially recognised the Vichy regime’s responsibility in the persecutions and crimes that took place against the Jews.
Two texts set forth the terms of this national day of commemoration. Decree no. 93-150 of 3 February 1993, signed by the President of the Republic François Mitterrand, established “a national day of remembrance of the racist and anti-Semitic persecutions committed under the authority of the so-called ‘government of the French State’ (1940-1944).” The 16th of July, the anniversary of the roundup at the Vélodrome d'Hiver, was chosen as the day of commemoration if it fell on a Sunday, otherwise the following Sunday would be the designated day of remembrance.
This tragic episode of the Occupation was previously remembered through ceremonies organised by the Jewish community. The decree also stipulated the erection of monuments and steles in Paris, at the government’s expense, at the site of the internment camp in Izieu and in the capital town of each Department. A monument was erected near to the former Vélodrome d'Hiver, near the Bir Hakeim bridge, and steles were put up at Camp de Gurs in Pyrénées-Atlantiques and the Maison d'Izieu in Ain. In Paris, the official ceremony took place near to the Vélodrome d'Hiver, in front of the monument inaugurated on 17 July 1994. Outside the capital, the ceremony was conducted, under the authority of the local prefect, around plaques erected in the capital towns of each French Department.
On the 16th of July 1995, in a speech given at this commemoration, the President of the Republic, Jacques Chirac, recognised that “criminal folly of the occupiers was seconded by the French” and that “France, on that day, committed the irreparable”. He added that the roundup at the Vélodrome d'Hiver was “the starting point of a vast resistance movement" in which many French families took part, the "righteous" who saved countless Jews.
Act no. 2000-644 dated 10th July 2000 adopted and amended the decree of 1993 to importantly add a tribute to the righteous of France. This day became an occasion for the nation to show its recognition of all those “who took in, protected or defended, risking their own life and asking for nothing in return, one or more people threatened by genocide”.