Does the date July 16th, 1942 ring a bell to anyone? It won’t to most people. For those of you who do recognize this date, it was the day of the roundups in Paris, France, and this year marks the 70th anniversary of this tragic event. They began in the early morning, around 4:00AM. 13,152 Jews were arrested in their homes and buses to the Vélodrome d’Hiver (Vél d’Hiv'), a stadium for winter cycling. About 3,299 (25%) were men, 5,802 (44%) were women, and 4,051 (31%) were children. There were a smaller percentage of males because there had been other roundups earlier in the year, which only collected men.
The conditions in the stadium were extremely harsh. It was designed to hold a quarter less than the Jews that were brought there. They were held for 6 days with no food, the only source of water being dirty water coming from an old fire hydrant, minimal clothing and no space. There was also severe heat and no ventilation. A few nurses were allowed in, but they could not treat the severe disease that people quickly began to catch. There were 10 bathrooms, 5 of which became useless within a few days due to blockage. The other 5 were sealed off because they had windows, which offered an escape. After these harsh 6 days, the Jewish families were transferred to camps nearby.
This operation of the roundups was ordered by the Nazi’s, but completed by the French police. Most Jews believed they would be safe because it was the French, but they soon discovered that they were sadly mistaken. The ironic code name for this operation was called “Operation Spring Breeze”. The original date was to be before July 14 however, the Germans wanted to avoid causing civil chaos before the national holiday, Bastille Day. The French also guarded the stadium and the camps that the Jews were sent to in nearby villages.
Most people were sent to a nearby camp called Drancy, an internment camp under the head of the French police who arrested the Jews. Others were sent to Auschwitz. The youngest of was an 18-month-old child. Upon the arrival at Drancy, men were separated from their families. After a few days, children were separated from their mothers. Once parents were fully separated from the children, they were immediately sent to the extermination camp called Auschwitz, where they were later assassinated.