The Shoah Memorial in Paris has acquired a series of recently discovered photographs which show in detail the first mass arrest of Jews in Paris, organized during World War II by the French police at the initiative of the German authorities.

Gymnase Japy: the relatives, often the wives and their children, are asked to separate from the men
from the men summoned. They were asked to come back with a few things for 2 to 3 days.
The reasons given are the same: "examination of the situation".

On Wednesday, May 14, 1941, 3,700 men, mainly refugees from Romania, Czechoslovakia, and especially Poland, received a so-called “green ticket” from the Parisian police summoning them for an “examen de situation.” They were asked to bring along a relative or a friend. Having fled anti-Semitism and persecution in their native countries, enlisted in the army at the beginning of the war and fought for France, these men, many of them family breadwinners, expected a simple status review.

The “billets verts” indicated several convocation centers, including the Napoleon barracks (4th Arrondissement), the Minimes barracks (3rd), and the Japy gymnasium (11th), as well as some police stations around the city and in the suburbs.

The inhabitants of the district discover the fate reserved for their neighbors, who are now captives
and the unusual emotion that reigns around the Japy gymnasium.

At the Japy gymnasium, the main site requisitioned for this operation, 1,061 Jews were summoned at 7:00 a.m. Eight hundred responded. Upon arrival, they went through a checkpoint and were detained inside the gymnasium. The person accompanying them was then asked to go to the arrested person’s home and return with a suitcase containing personal effects.

That very day, 3,700 arrested Jews were transferred by the French police to the Austerlitz train station in special buses and then interned in the camps of Pithiviers and Beaune-la-Rolande (Loiret). They were held there for over a year, and then were deported directly to the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp by convoys of June 25, June 28, and July 17, 1942. Nicknamed the “Green Ticket Roundup,” this was the first large-scale operation targeting Jews in occupied France, sixteen months before the notorious Vel’d’Hiv Roundup.

Gymnase Japy: some men still arrive carrying their summons and are received by the policemen who guard the entrance of the gymnasium. Women with children arrive with suitcases and packages. The following scenes show them queuing up and waiting for their turn to hand over the suitcases.

Propaganda photos

On the day of the arrests, a German photographer from the Propagandakompanie (PK), a Wehrmacht unit responsible for indoctrination, was present at the Japy gymnasium. The Shoah Memorial has identified him by name: Harry Croner, a former Berlin advertising executive, who was drafted into the army and sent to occupied France. The PK employed photographers, cameramen, radio and press reporters, and was directly controlled by the German Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels.

Inside the Gymnase Japy, Paris XI, where foreign Jews were arrested on May 14, 1941.
A German delegation with SS Theodor Dannecker, responsible for Jewish affairs in France,
and a French delegation led by the Prefect of Police François Bard, came to inspect the system.

The photographer followed German officials, including Theodor Dannecker (1913–1945), head of the section in charge of the “Jewish question” at the Paris Gestapo, as well as François Bard (1889–1944), newly appointed Chief of Police in Paris. The images clearly show these “protagonists” as they discuss the operation, and allow us to retrace the progress of the roundup stage by stage.

The photographs also show the arrested men crowded in the gymnasium bleachers. This first stage of the roundup was nothing short of an ambush: the Jews were summoned only to find themselves in a mousetrap, often accompanied by their wives. Outside, other men followed in their footsteps. Their summons in hand, they were received by the police at the entrance to the gymnasium; they bade goodbye to their families, even as a line of women and children grew. The industrial neighborhood had been entirely cordoned off. Neighbors looked on from the windows. Families were huddling in the street, waiting for news of their loved ones. Their faces betrayed anguish. The police blocked off the street and then evacuated it.

Gymnasium Japy: the arrested men are parked in the bleachers on the floor. The center of the gymnasium is empty. Only policemen were walking around. The first stage of the raid had already taken place: the Jews who had been summoned had entered the mousetrap. For the first time, the interior of Japy and the hundreds of Jewish men crammed in were discovered.
The waiting of the families on the sidewalk in front of the Japy gymnasium, forced by the French police to move away from the gymnasium. The families are plunged into anguish and gather around the gymnasium.
After a few hours, the men left the premises under police guard and had to board buses requisitioned for their transfer to the Austerlitz station.

Harry Croner also photographed the Jews as they left the gymnasium with their personal belongings and were escorted by the police to the buses. The detainees would be taken first to the train station—the second stage of their deportation—then to internment camps in the Loiret region, before their final destination of the extermination camps in Germany. One of these images is of particular historical value: a view of a black hangar in Pithiviers, of which no image had been available until now, and which was later to become the site where the Vel’d’Hiv deportees were registered and the following wave of deportations took place.

In total, the Shoah Memorial acquired five contact sheets from two specialized collectors. These plates, numbered 182 to 187— with plate 185 missing—add up to 98 photos. The five rolls of film present a reality very different from the handful of photos published by the collaborationist press. For the first time, the scene of the arrest is captured from several angles, and we are able to get a glimpse of the faces of the perpetrators. More importantly, the families of those rounded up, previously either dehumanized by the propaganda or totally erased from the reports, can now be seen in the photos.

 

"Gymnase Japy". From May 14, 2021. Outdoor exhibition organized by the Shoah Memorial and the Paris City Hall. 2, rue Japy, 75011 Paris. Upon reopening of the Shoah Memorial, the photos will be available in the reading room. 17, rue Geoffroy l’Asnier, 75004 Paris.

The 3,710 men arrested in Paris in the various places of convocation were transferred to the Austerlitz train station to be interned in the camps of Pithiviers and Beaune-la-Rolande. Four convoys of passenger cars were formed, two convoys with 2,140 men to the Beaune-la-Rolande camp and two convoys with 1,570 men to the Pithiviers camp. These convoys arrived on May 14 in the afternoon.
Theodor Dannecker supervises the transfer of the Jews rounded up at the Austerlitz train station.  His presence in the photos of this roundup shows that he followed and supervised the entire process.
In Pithiviers, a never-before-seen view of the black hangar, of which no image existed until now, during the internment of the Jews, which was later the place of registration of those rounded up at the Vel d'Hiv and the deportations.
The gendarme on the left of the photo, posted in a watchtower, watching over the camp of Beaune la Rolande, is the emblematic photo of the film Nuit et Brouillard, censored at its release in 1955.
The photos were taken the day after the roundup at the Pithiviers and Beaune-la Rolande camps. The men had to move into cold, unhealthy barracks that were still under construction. The straw used as mattresses in the beds was still outside the barracks.
The photos were taken the day after the roundup at the Pithiviers and Beaune-la Rolande camps. The men had to move into cold, unhealthy barracks that were still under construction. The straw used as mattresses in the beds was still outside the barracks.

Read More: The Last Great Photographic Treasure Trove of the Spanish Civil War

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