On this occasion, the Head of State will deliver an “offensive speech” against anti-Semitism, which “still lurks and sometimes insidiously”, which is “very worrying”, announced an adviser to the Elysée.
He will also denounce “historical revisionism”, in particular on the role of Marshal Pétain during the Second World War, according to him.
Accompanied by several personalities, including the historian Serge Klarsfeld, the survivor of the camps Ginette Kolinka, or the CEO of the SNCF Jean-Pierre Farandou, Emmanuel Macron is expected at 3:00 p.m. in the small station of Pithiviers, about a hundred kilometers south of Paris, which has not welcomed travelers since the end of the 1960s and which has just been transformed into a museum by the Shoah Memorial.
It was through this station that some of the 13,000 Jews – including 4,115 children – passed through, arrested in Paris and its suburbs on July 16, 1942 and the following days by 9,000 French officials, at the request of the Germans.
8,160 of them, including the elderly and the sick, were taken to the Vélodrome d’Hiver stadium, in the 15th arrondissement of Paris. Before being evacuated to the camps of Drancy (Seine-Saint-Denis), Pithiviers and Beaune-la-Rolande (Loiret).
From Pithiviers station alone, eight convoys then left for the extermination camps, for more than 8,000 deportees, making it the second French deportation site after that of Drancy. Only a few dozen adults will survive.
“This station is the place where the French event becomes European genocide. (…) It is a place of memory unique in France”, affirms Jacques Fredj, director of the Shoah Memorial.
The 400 m2 site, which still belongs to the SNCF, is particularly intended for schoolchildren. “It is a priority in the face of the rise of anti-Semitism, racism and conspiracy,” explains Mr. Fredj.
A room at the station is devoted to a poignant photo report on the so-called “green ticket” roundup, the first mass arrest of 3,700 foreign Jews in France, on May 14, 1941.
Another room retraces “the litany of eight convoys” to Auschwitz-Birkenau, projecting photos of murdered deportees onto giant screens.
In his twenty-minute speech, Emmanuel Macron should affirm that “the fight continues” against anti-Semitism, following “the path that President Chirac had traced”.
After fifty years of silence from the French authorities, Jacques Chirac had recognized in 1995 the responsibility of France in the Rafle du Vel d’Hiv, in a speech that remained engraved in the memories. “France, that day, accomplished the irreparable,” he had launched.
In July 2012, François Hollande had gone further by declaring that “this crime was committed in France, by France”.
Then in 2017, Emmanuel Macron, newly elected president, had reaffirmed, for the 75th anniversary of the roundup, the responsibility of France and made a plea against anti-Semitism in the presence of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
But today “French society has not finished with anti-Semitism”, underlines the Elysée, also highlighting the “trivialization of debates” around the Vichy regime.
The far-right presidential candidate Eric Zemmour (Reconquest!) notably argued that Marshal Pétain had “saved” French Jews during the Second World War.
“80 years ago, the collaborationists of the Vichy regime organized the Vel d’Hiv roundup. Do not forget these crimes, today more than ever, with a President of the Republic who honors Pétain and 89 deputies RN”, tweeted the leader of the deputies LFI Mathilde Panot on Saturday, arousing indignation in the majority.
In 2018, Mr. Macron called Pétain a “great soldier” during the First World War, even if he then “led disastrous choices”.
Elected officials from the National Rally were also invited, by republican tradition, detailed the Elysée, without specifying whether they would be present.
At the same time, the traditional ceremony on the site of the former Vélodrome d’Hiver will take place in the morning in the presence of Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne.