Friday 24 November 2017

Paris 1942: No time for love if they come in the morning

The rounding up of Jews by Parisian police marked a shameful period in French history that echoes today

Marked: Two French women wearing the Star of David in France, 1942
Marked: Two French women wearing the Star of David in France, 1942

Miriam O'Callaghan

Paris, July 16, 1942

It's 4am and 4,000 policemen head out, two-by-two, through the streets of Paris. They're about to raid houses and apartments in a round-up of the city's foreign and refugee Jews. Shortly, on landings and in the streets, Parisians will stand thrilled or horrified as bewildered Jewish families stumble down stone staircases on the poison of suspicion, dehumanisation, other-ing.

In the chaos and screaming, some neighbours will grab Jewish children from their parents, shut their doors. Others will note how the usually glamorous Mesdames don't look so good, so newly woken. Good citizens, puffed up with their duty and opportunity to denounce, will ask: "How is it the Goldbergs have two children, but Monsieur sees today they have none?" Monsieur will find the Goldberg toddler and baby upstairs in the apartment closet. But which Monsieur will it be? The one who will get them out, throw them to their parents? Or the one who will deny the sight of his eyes, make sure they have air, close the door to keep the looters out?

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