The Vél d’Hiv roundup: 75 years on, a survivor remembers
On July 16-17, 1942, more than 13,000 Jews were detained in Paris and deported to concentration camps. Many were first sent to the Vélodrome d’Hiver (Vél d’Hiv) stadium in Paris. Sarah Lichtsztejn-Montard, then 14, managed to escape.
For a long time, Sarah Lichtsztejn-Montard had the same nightmare. “At night, I saw the little green ghosts of the Vél d’Hiv,” she declares in a clear, unwavering voice. “Inside, there was a large blue-painted canopy to protect the building from bombs. It gave off a glaucous light and the people who sat there had a greenish look about them.”
These faceless bodies still haunt her. At 89 years old, Sarah is one of the few survivors of the Vél d’Hivroundup; one of a handful of people who managed to escape from the stadium-turned-internment camp in the summer of 1942.
In 1942 Sarah was just 14 years old. The Polish-born teenager lived with her mother in a modest apartment in the 20th arrondissement (district) of Paris. Her father, Moise, had been arrested in July 1941 and sent to the Pithiviers internment camp, from which he had managed to escape. He was hiding in a room in Paris and using false papers. On July 15, Sarah and her classmates were celebrating the last day of school before the summer holidays. That day, a Jewish classmate told her that her parents “knew a police commissioner who told them that he was preparing a massive roundup of women, children and old men. She added that they were leaving their apartment and that I should do the same”.