PARIS (Jul. 17)
French President Francois Mitterrand was among the French and Jewish leaders who attended inauguration ceremonies here Sunday for a monument to the Jews in France who were deported to the Nazi death camps by France’s collaborationist Vichy regime.
The monument was located near the Vel d’Hiv, the now-demolished cycling stadium where French police held some 13,000 Jews during the infamous July 16 and 17,1942 roundups.
About 4,000 of the Jews, those without family, were sent to the Drancy internment camp near Paris, from which they were deported to Auschwitz. The remaining 9,000, which included 4,000 children, were kept at the Vel d’Hiv for a week and then sent directly to Auschwitz.
The inauguration of the monument took place on the day Mitterrand designated last year as a day of national commemoration for the 76,000 Jews in France deported to Nazi death camps during the war. Only some 2,000 survived.
The monument was created by artist Walter Spitzer, who was himself a survivor of Auschwitz, where all his family perished.
Along with Mitterrand at the inauguration ceremony were French Prime Minister Edouard Balladur, Paris Mayor Jacques Chirac and Jean Kahn, head of CRIF, the umbrella organization of French Jewish organizations.
Paris Chief Rabbi Alain Goldmann, who recited a prayer, was joined at the commemoration by other religious leaders, including Paris Archbishop Jean-Marie Lustiger and the head of the Paris Mosque, Dalil Boubakeur.
The absence of France’s newly re-elected chief rabbi, Joseph Sitruk, was widely noted.
Officially, he left for a long vacation until the end of August, but Jewish observers had other explanations for his absence.
According to one version, Sitruk did not come because he was denied the right to speak, although Mitterrand himself did not address the audience.
Others said that Sitruk preferred not to show up because the commemoration was held on Tisha B’Av, the Jewish fast day commemorating the destruction of the First and Second Temples.