Paris, 1942. Occupied France — One of the worst periods in French history
July 16th, 1942. It is the middle of the night. Sarah is a young Jewish girl living in occupied France. One night as she is sleeping, she hears a pounding on the door. The words — Police, open up — cut through the darkness.
She is startled and cannot understand what is happening. They are not thieves or criminals, then why are their own policemen arresting them?
This is just the beginning of the terrible Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup.
Code name, Operation Spring Breeze — a sweet name for something so horrible . It was on this unfortunate day that 13,152 Jews were arrested by the French police, including 4000 children.
Their crime? Being Jewish. Wearing the star of David. Speaking a strange tongue and practicing a different religion.
As Sarah is taken away, She hides her kid brother in a secret cupboard in the house and keeps the key with her. The key, is the last memory she has of her old life. It is also a symbol — of a promise made to her brother.
One that will haunt her for the rest of her life.
“I will come back for you later, I promise”.
Fast forward to 2002. It is sixty years since the roundup. The Vel’ d’Hiv is torn down. It has become a dark and depressing memory in the minds of the French people. One, that no one wishes to repeat or remember.
Julia Jarmond is a Franco-American reporter who begins to investigate the Vel’ d’Hiv roundup. As she learns more about it, she finds out about her family’s intimate and haunting connection with one of the Jewish families from the roundup.
As she digs deeper into the past, She is swept into a morbid, unforgettable memory. One that will change the course of her life and those around her.
My take on the book: An artful weaving of fact and fiction
it was my first time reading about the atrocities of the world war. And I was not disappointed. Tatiana de Rosney gives us a stark and gripping picture of the events that occurred during the roundup through the eyes of Sarah, a young Jewish girl.
Stories based on the holocaust can be a heavy read, even for the most seasoned readers. The parallel narrative employed by the author makes the book easier to read.
Another thing that kept me engrossed was Sarah’s narrative of the roundup. Not only is it heartbreaking, but the questions she asks herself are also insightful
“Why was this happening to her, What had she done to deserve this cruel fate?
“Why was being Jewish dreadful, why were Jews being treated like this?
“Why are people so heartless and cruel? How can they watch this happening to us and laugh?
Why doesn’t anyone help us?
The conditions faced by the victims of the roundup were worse than an animal about to be slaughtered — They were kept in the velodrome for five days with no food, water, or even a place to relieve themselves. Some, unable to bear the oppressive heat, took their own lives. Many were shot dead by the guards as they tried to escape.
The reactions of the French people to this incident are cruel and pitiful. Some felt sorry and tried to help (especially the children). Some heartlessly clapped, jeered, and applauded. The irony is that the same people bravely occupied the houses of the evicted Jews.
I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to understand the mental state of a Jewish holocaust survivor — up close and personal. The survivor’s guilt, experienced by Sarah and Julia’s family — is the driving theme of this book.
Despite a semi-fictional storyline, the Vel’ d’Hiv roundup is retold with fervor by Tatiana de Rosney. The combination of fact and fiction made this book a wholesome and gripping read for me.
To learn more about the the Vel’ d’Hiv roundup, here are some useful links for further reading
The Vélodrome d'Hiver (Vél d'Hiv) Roundup
After the French surrender to German forces in June 1940, the Vichy regime (officially known as the French State)…
The Vel' d'Hiv Roundup
In May and June, 1942, Reinhard Heydrich (head of the SS Sicherheitsdienst, or SD), Fritz Sauckel (who organized the…
The Vélodrome d'hiver Round-up: July 16 and 17, 1942
The greatest mass-arrest of Jews ever carried out on French soil is known as the Vél' d'hiv' Round-up. It involved 13…
About the Author
Shruti is a freelance content writer and a content creator for social media.
After completing her academic journey with two Masters, in HR and Classical dance — she decided to become a full-time writer and content creator.
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