By Maurice Rajsfus
Translated by Levi Laub
Foreword by Michel Warschawski
In a timely release, three companion books, Operation Yellow Star and Black Thursday (June 27, 2017) and The Vél d’Hiv Raid (September 5, 2017) bring to light one of the most traumatic events in French history during the 20th century. Written by Maurice Rajsfus, a Jewish survivor who became an editor and contributor to Le Monde, an investigative journalist and a controversial outspoken critic of the French Police, the three books offer detailed archival research and a first-hand witness account of the infamous roundup in France on July 16, 1942, in which over 13,000 immigrant Jews were arrested and detained for three days in squalid conditions at the Paris sporting stadium, the Vélodrome d’Hiver. The Vél d’Hiv Raid, as it is now known, was conducted by the French Police on their own initiative, and is an event distinguished in history for its horrific display of local anti-Semitism under the Nazi occupying force.
The Vél d’Hiv Raid: The French Police at the Service of the Gestapo dives into arrest records, right-wing media accounts, memoranda, and preparations for the raid. The author correctly points out that only a spare few of the policemen refused to obey orders and resist participating in this humiliation of 13,000 citizens of their city. Upon Liberation, the French Police were decorated with a collective Legion of Honor by General Charles de Gaulle. And it was only at the 70th anniversary of the raid, in 2012, that a French politician officially apologized for the raid, yet the French Police have to this day never done so. The author’s book is a compelling argument that this fact is a national embarrassment and a warning to citizens of every country about institutions under strong governments that are allowed to act with impunity. A Foreword by Michel Warschawski echoes the author’s call to solidarity among individuals to come to the aid of those targeted for their race, religion or ethnicity and not to accept an argument of collective immunity.
This episode represents a stain on the honor of the French nation, with its principles of liberty, fraternity, and equality and, in particular, the French police as it does other complicit nations and peoples. […] As a Vél d’Hiv survivor himself, author Maurice Rajsfus has made a point of documenting, what is now effectively a trilogy, the entirety of France’s ill-starred history with respect to its responsibilities regarding Jews and others who suffered in the Holocaust.
– Thomas McClung, New York Journal of Books
With passion and indignation, Maurice Rajsfus recounts the worst single crime of the Vichy regime in France: the pre-dawn arrest by French police, at German instigation, on July 16-17, 1942, of 13,152 Jewish men, women, and children, and their ordeal on the way to extermination. Rajsfus brings this terrible experience to life with contemporary texts – high-level Franco-German haggling, detailed police instructions, eye-witness testimony, and press commentary.
– Robert O. Paxton, author of Vichy France and the Jews
Maurice Rajsfus has devoted his life to denouncing and combating racism, fascism, intolerance, and police brutality, while putting in his texts a good dose of caustic irony.
– Jakilea, Basque Human Rights Defense League
If [Rajsfus] still wishes to recall how scrupulously — and even with zeal — the French police applied Nazi orders, he also wants to warn us against certain xenophobic or discriminatory speech still heard recently that could lead to behavior of that bygone age.
– Ekaitza weekly newspaper, Bayonne, France
Maurice Rajsfus (b. 1928) is an activist and former investigative journalist for Le Monde. He is the author of thirty books, including many examining the Vichy regime and its legacy in French police culture. He has also written about Drancy concentration camp and Israel-Palestine, as well as co-authored several illustrated books about history. In 1990, Rajsfus and several friends founded “Ras l’Front,” an anti-Le Pen association of far-left-wing organizations extremely active in the 1990s against the rise of nationalist parties in France and fascist ideas. They worked together and promoted leftist causes through a monthly publication as well as actions. He served as chairman from 1991–1999. From 1994–2012 Rajsfus created and circulated “Que fait la police,” a “Cop Watch” bulletin with press clippings detailing human rights abuses by French police. His books about the Vél d’Hiv raid and his experiences during WWII have been brought together to form the basis of a YA comic (Tartamudo editions) as well as a play written and directed by Philippe Ogouz, which was then adapted for film in 2010, Souvenirs d’un vieil enfant: La rafle du Vel’ d’Hiv (Memories of an Old Child: The Roundup of the Vel’ d’Hiv), directed by Alain Guesnier. Maurice Rajsfus lives in Paris with his wife, and has two sons as well as several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Read Maurice Rajsfus’ May 6, 2017 statement “The Le Pen Family Are All Holocausts Deniers.”
Levi Laub (b.1938) is an activist and occasional translator who worked with the Progressive Labor Party in the United States for 15 years primarily as an organizer of immigrant labor in the California Valleys. In 1963 Laub led a group of 59 students to Cuba via Prague, violating and challenging the travel ban for US citizens that was in place at the time. Upon his return to the United States, Laub was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee. Riots broke out in the hearing room when Capitol police were called in to remove Laub and his supporters. Within the month, Laub and three other organizers of the Cuba trip were indicted in Federal Court for violating the Travel Ban. In U.S. v. Laub, the Supreme Court ruled in his favor, considering it unconstitutional to disallow American citizens their right to free movement. He met Maurice Rajsfus in Paris while doing research into communist militancy in the French Resistance, about which Rajsfus wrote a book entitled L’An Prochain, La Revolution (Next Year, The Revolution).
Michel Warschawski (b.1949) (Mikado) is an Israeli anti-Zionist peace activist and journalist. He was born in Strasbourg, France, where his father was a rabbi. He moved to Jerusalem for Talmudic studies at age 16 and later completed a degree in philosophy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He led the Marxist Revolutionary Communist League (Matzpen, Israeli Section of the Fourth International) until its demise in the 1990s, and co-founded the Alternative Information Center (AIC), an organization uniting Israeli and Palestinian anti-Zionist activists. His books include On the Border (South End Press) and Towards an Open Tomb — The Crisis of Israeli Society (Monthly Review Press).