ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 140

search

Marseille determined to remember ‘forgotten’ WWII roundups of Jews

In 1943 Velodrome d’Hiver raids, more than 12,000 people, including 4,000 children, were rounded up in the French capital in less than two days

This file photo taken on April 25, 2012, shows the "Vieux-Port" (Old Harbour) shows the buidings designed by French architect Fernand Pouillon (1912-1986) and built between 1953 and 1960, in the southern city of Marseille. (Anne-Christine Poujoulat/AFP)
This file photo taken on April 25, 2012, shows the "Vieux-Port" (Old Harbour) shows the buidings designed by French architect Fernand Pouillon (1912-1986) and built between 1953 and 1960, in the southern city of Marseille. (Anne-Christine Poujoulat/AFP)

MARSEILLE, France (AFP) — It was one of the most shameful yet least-known outrages of the Nazi occupation of France during World War II.

One hundred-year-old Albert Corrieri still vividly remembers French and German police evicting and rounding up thousands of people from around Marseille’s Old Port, including hundreds of Jews later sent to a death camp.

“I can still see those poor people with their bundles on their backs, after the Germans and French collaborators threw them out into the street in the middle of winter,” said Corrieri, who was 20 years old at the time.

After the raids in January 1943, a whole neighborhood along one side of the Old Port was razed to the ground by the Nazis, who saw it as a hotbed of the French Resistance.

But with witnesses dying out, the city’s left-wing mayor Benoit Payan is worried it will be forgotten.

“The story of the destruction of the old quarters and the 1943 roundups isn’t even in school books,” he wrote this month.

This file photo taken on July 8, 2020, shows generators of the new MRS3 Interxion datacenter, settled in a former submarine base built by the Germans during the Second World War, in Marseille harbor, southern France. (Clement Mahoudeau/AFP)

“It has been forgotten in the national retelling of World War II.”

Yet it is comparable to the notorious mass arrests of Jews in Paris in July 1942, Payan argued, which is taught in French schools.

In the Velodrome d’Hiver raids, more than 12,000 people, including 4,000 children, were rounded up in the French capital in less than two days.

Neighborhood destroyed

The city of Marseille is organizing a series of events this year, including a photo exhibition, to remind people that they had their own roundups too.

This file photo taken on January 1, 1943 shows a combination picture (from bottom up) dated the 1950s, 1943 and the 1930s of the harbor of the city of Marseille. (Intercontinental/AFP)

In the first raid on the night of January 22, 1943, French police arrested 1,865 men, women and children in an area of the port near the opera house that had a large Jewish community.

The next day German troops encircled a densely-populated low-income district to the north of the old harbor that was home to dockers, including many of Italian origin, as well as bars and brothels.

Berlin considered it a bastion of the Resistance, as well as a “pigsty.”

French police then moved in and arrested 635 people.

Early on January 24, German soldiers and French police woke up the whole neighborhood and evacuated 15,000 of its inhabitants by force, transferring them to an abandoned army camp some 140 kilometers (80 miles) east of the city.

The authorities then blew up 1,500 buildings, laying waste to an area the size of 20 football pitches along the harbor.

Images of the aftermath show most of the district, where 20,000 people had lived, reduced to a sea of rubble.

‘Crimes against humanity’

Some 800 Jews were crammed into cattle trains after the first two days of roundups.

Elie Arditti, who was 19 at the time, described the scene.

“They squashed us in to the point that we had to put our arms up in the air to make room for new arrivals,” he said.

Then “they chucked seven loaves of bread and three cans into the wagon, and a worker sealed us in,” he told researchers before his death.

When the train started moving, everybody on board was reciting the Kaddish, a Hebrew mourning prayer for the dead, he said.

Arditti managed to escape, but all the other Jews were transported to the Sobibor extermination camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.

Pascal Luongo, a lawyer for the survivors and the descendants of the victims of the Marseille roundups, filed a complaint for “crimes against humanity” with the prosecutor general in Paris in 2019.

He said it is unlikely the probe will find anyone responsible that is still alive, but it’s a first step.

“We’ve come very, very far and just opening an investigation into crimes against humanity has allowed us to revisit these events,” said Luongo, whose grandfather was forcibly evacuated from the old harbor quarter.

The next step, he said, would be for the French state to recognize its responsibility in the events, and for the Marseille roundups to be added to the school curriculum.

read more:
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed
image
Register for free
and continue reading
Registering also lets you comment on articles and helps us improve your experience. It takes just a few seconds.
Already registered? Enter your email to sign in.
Please use the following structure: example@domain.com
Or Continue with
By registering you agree to the terms and conditions. Once registered, you’ll receive our Daily Edition email for free.
Register to continue
Or Continue with
Log in to continue
Sign in or Register
Or Continue with
check your email
Check your email
We sent an email to you at .
It has a link that will sign you in.