French president says Vel d’Hiv round-up of Jews to Nazi camps was a ‘crime committed in France by France’.
At a moving commemoration to mark its 70th anniversary, Hollande praised former president and political rival Jacques Chirac, who in 1995 forced France to face up to its “dark hours” of Nazi collaboration.
Until then, French leaders, including Hollande’s Socialist mentor François Mitterrand, had argued the wartime collaborationist Vichy government did not represent the French Republic.
The round-up, known as the “Vel d’Hiv Rafle” after the velodrome where most of the 13,152 Jews from Paris and its banlieues were taken, accounted for more than a quarter of the 42,000 Jews sent from France to Nazi concentration camps in 1942, of whom only 811 returned.
The raids were codenamed Operation Spring Breeze by French police, who were said to have worked with an enthusiasm that surprised the German occupiers who had commanded them.
On Sunday, after laying a wreath at the site of the velodrome, which was demolished in 1959, Hollande spoke of “the dark hours of the collaboration, of our history and therefore of France’s responsibility”.