June 15, 2021


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“These images have never passed censorship”: a raid in Paris in 1941 comes to the surface after the discovery of unpublished photos of a German soldier

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In a simple envelope of paper, 98 photos out of five contact sheets cause a leap back of 80 years. The report made in 1941 in Paris occupied by the Germans, in the midst of World War II, begins at the Japy gymnasium, one of the assembly centers where 800 Jews will present themselves, responding to a summons received by post.

A German soldier from the Propagandakompanie (PK), a unit of the Wehrmacht, took the photos. “We see women, children who accompanied their fathers and husbands, details Lior Lalieu-Smadja, head of the Shoah Memorial photo library. And it’s a real discovery: these images have never passed censorship. We see them framed by French police. They are anguished in some photos that we have enlarged, some have handkerchiefs, cry … “

The “roundup of the greenback” is an episode of the Second World War passed under the radar of history. On May 14 and 15, 1941, a “green ticket” called on the more than 6,000 foreign Jews in Paris, mainly Poles, to come and be registered in the police stations in the city and in the Paris region. Nearly 4,000 of them will be arrested by the French police, gathered at the Japy gymnasium, transported to the camps of Pithiviers and Beaune-la-Rolande (Loiret), deported to the death camps.

The arrested men are parked in the stands upstairs.  The center of the gymnasium is emptied.  Only police officers circulate.  The first stage of the roundup has already taken place: the summoned Jews have entered the mousetrap.  We discover for the first time the interior of Japy and the hundreds of Jewish men piled up.  (MEMORIAL OF THE SHOAH)

The raid, less known than that of the Vel-d’hiv, was relatively poorly documented before the discovery of a hundred photographs taken by this German soldier and recently acquired by the Shoah Memorial in Paris. The lost glances, the last kiss of a couple, the stiffness of the police officers: the clichés contrast with those of the propaganda, until today the only documents available.

“There, we have a couple kissing, saying goodbye. There are very, very few photos that show this separation, the roundups, the deportations and which show the human side.”

Lior Lalieu-Smadja

to franceinfo

The German soldier had Jewish ancestry, which might explain the sensitivity of his photos and his willingness to keep track. His images, despite their documentary interest, took a long time to come to the surface. “These are two collectors who came to see us, continues Lio Lalieu-Smadja. They had bought this fund from a second-hand dealer who had obtained it at a fair in Reims ten years ago. It’s the only story we know today. “

The photos were taken the day after the raid at the Pithiviers and Beaune-la Rolande camps. The men had to settle in cold and unsanitary huts under construction.  The straw that will serve as mattresses in the bedsteads is still outside the barracks.  (SHOAH MEMORIAL)

The Shoah Memorial is working to pick up the thread. The museum also hopes that in these photos, families will be able to recognize a grandfather, a great uncle, to perhaps one day put a name on these long forgotten faces.

An exhibition, installed outdoors and organized by the Shoah Memorial, is visible from Thursday, May 14 at the Japy gymnasium, in the 11th arrondissement of Paris.

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