Youra Culpa

July 22, 2012

PARIS — French President François Hollande on Sunday made an emotional mea culpa on behalf of his country for its part in the World War II roundup and deportation of more than 13,000 Jews from Paris.

At the 70th anniversary of what is known as the Vel d’Hiv Raids, Hollande admitted the operation carried out by Paris police in 1942 was a “crime committed in France, by France.”  …

On July 16 and 17, 1942, French police rounded up 13,152 Jews from Paris and its suburbs as part of what they code-named Operation Spring Breeze. It was the first case in which women and children were included in the French arrests.

Entire families were ordered from their homes in dawn raids and taken to the Velodrome d’Hiver (the Winter Velodrome) in the French capital where they were kept for days without food and water before being deported to German concentration camps. These raids accounted for more than a quarter of the estimated 42,000 Jews sent from France to the Auschwitz camp in 1942. Jewish organizations say only 811 of them returned.

“There will be no forgetting in the Republic,” Hollande said, adding that France would clamp down on anti-Semitism “with the greatest determination.”

So the president of France, born a dozen years after an atrocious episode for which he and the vast majority of all living Frenchmen bear no direct responsibility, utters a toothless apology. It reminds me of  Lenny Bruce’s joke: “Okay, fine, I admit it.  The Jews killed Jesus.  In fact, my Uncle Hymie hammered in the nails himself.”

History is made every day.  And what France is doing now with absolutely zero determination means that some future French president, born 2024, will have to apologize for all this.

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