HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR SAYS MOVIE “LA RAFLE” IS “ABSOLUTE TRUTH”
By Phillip Valys, Staff writer at South Florida Sun-Sentinel | Feb 24, 2012
Rosette Goldstein, 73, of Boca Raton, is a Holocaust survivor has firsthand experience of the French roundup on July 16, 1942, which is recounted in the French drama “La Rafle” opening Friday in area theaters. The photos behind her are of her parents and of herself as a child.
Rosette Goldstein was 5 when French police rounded up her father and shipped him via railroad to the Buchenwald death camp. Goldstein, now 73 and a resident of Boca Raton, was living in Paris when French police, in the early-morning hours of July 16, 1942, thundered into homes and yanked out 13,000 Jewish men, women and children. They would be detained for several days inside the city’s indoor velodrome, malnourished and teeming with disease, before being shipped to Auschwitz and Buchenwald.
The French government’s complicity during World War II in transporting its own Jewish citizens to Nazi camps is the subject of the French film “La Rafle,” which made its South Florida debut Feb. 17 but premieres tonight at Cinema Paradiso in Fort Lauderdale.
Goldstein is one of an estimated 6,000 Holocaust survivors residing in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, said Jack Karako, the director of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s southeast office in Boca Raton.
“The film is absolute truth,” said Goldstein, who watched “La Rafle” (or “The Roundup”) this past November during a Boca Raton fundraiser for the Holocaust organization March of the Living. “They arrested all the Jews on the outskirts of Paris and brought them to the Velodrome d’Hiver. There were many French who were for the deportation of Jews. It was a bad time – very, very bad.
“The only ones who survived were my mother and myself,” Goldstein added.
Roselyne Bosch, the director of “La Rafle,” said in an email that the “wound is still infectious” for roundup survivors. “There was nothing a human heart could do in front of babies being torn away from their mothers’ arms,” said Bosch, a former investigative journalist, whose film was a 2010 hit in France. “Seventy years after the facts, those children, when they miraculously survived, are now in their 80s. The velodrome was never properly shown, nor the dreadful conditions of the detainees, so I decided to go after the truth.”
Neil Friedman, the president of Menemsha Films, said he chose South Florida for the U.S. theatrical release of “La Rafle” for the tri-county’s large population of Holocaust survivors and because the SNCF, the French national railroad that transported Jews to death camps, sought a state contract in 2010 to develop Florida’s high-speed rail system.
“South Florida’s a nexus,” Friedman said. “The idea of having the French railroad competing for a contract in the same state, where there is a large concentration of Holocaust survivors is a huge irony. The railroad got paid, per head and per kilometer, for the transport of these folks to their deaths. It’s a horrible concept.”
Georges Miliband, 81, of Delray Beach, lost his mother and all three of his younger sisters during the Vel d’Hiv roundup. He survived on dumb luck: The day before, his mother had scrounged up enough money to send Miliband, then 12, to a private-school gathering 25 miles outside Paris. French police rounded up his family and transported them to the velodrome, and later, by railroad cattle car, straight to the Auschwitz gas chambers. The private school’s headmistress hid Miliband – whose surname he said was “very French and not Jewish-sounding” – and a handful of other Jewish children until the Americans liberated Paris in 1945.
Miliband said the depictions of the velodrome in “La Rafle” triggered painful memories of his siblings. “For the rest of my life, whenever I see any movies relating for the Holocaust, when I see children, I think of my sisters, and I break down,” Miliband said with a sob. “My sisters – the children – had nothing to do with the war. I always had a big problem with seeing children getting killed.”
Charlotte Gal’s “un-Jewish” surname likewise saved her, her younger brother and her mother from the Vel d’Hiv roundup. Her father had been deported from France to Auschwitz a month earlier, so her mother suspected they were next. That morning, the thud of boot steps passed right by her apartment door, so when the complex finally got quiet, they split and escaped to the French and Italian Alps. For three years, the Italian Underground helped hide the trio until Allied Forces liberated the city of Rome.
“I’m an old lady now, but it never goes away, the memories. We were the lucky ones. My mother, my brother and I were never caught,” said Gal, now 76 and living in Boca. “I remember climbing to the roof of a Christian convent when the American fighter pilots came. They threw down packets of chewing gum, but none of us knew what chewing gum was. So we ate it and when the sweetness went away, we swallowed it whole.”
Gal has not seen the movie. She’s not sure she wants to.
For Goldstein, the film showed her the charity of French gentile families, but also the horrible, stark reminders of what she lost during the roundup. “There were some wonderful, helpful people portrayed in the film, just like the farmer family who saved my life at the peril of losing their own,” she said. “But there was no doubt I was frightened. You had to become an adult very fast in those times.”
NEW YORK TIMES | July 17, 1995
CHIRAC AFFIRMS FRANCE’S GUILT IN FATE OF JEWS
PARIS, July 16 — Barely two months after taking office, President Jacques Chirac today publicly recognized France’s responsibility for deporting thousands of Jews to Nazi death camps during the German occupation in World War II.
His statement put an end to decades of equivocations by successive French Governments about France’s wartime role.
“These dark hours forever sully our history and are an insult to our past and our traditions,” he said during ceremonies marking the 53d anniversary of the first mass arrests of Jews in Paris. “Yes, the criminal folly of the occupiers was seconded by the French, by the French state.”
By his outright denunciation of the role played by both French citizens and the French state in deporting some 76,000 French and foreign Jews, Mr. Chirac went well beyond the positions of his predecessors.
For the first 25 years after the war, French leaders held Nazi Germany solely responsible for the deportations. More recently, in an argument that Jewish groups saw as sophistry, they have blamed the collaborationist wartime government based in Vichy, absolving the French state.
Mr. Chirac said today that on July 16, 1942, French police helped to round up some 13,000 Jewish men, women and children. They were crammed into the Vel d’Hiv, an indoor cycling stadium, before being interned in the Paris suburb of Drancy and then deported to death camps.
Speaking at a memorial to these victims before a small crowd that included Jewish leaders as well as some Jewish death camp survivors, Mr. Chirac admitted France’s “collective error.”
“France, the homeland of the Enlightenment and of the rights of man, a land of welcome and asylum, on that day committed the irreparable,” Mr. Chirac said. “Breaking its word, it handed those who were under its protection over to their executioners.” Of the victims, he said, “we owe them an everlasting debt.”
His remarks were warmly welcomed by Jewish leaders here. Joseph Sitruk, the chief rabbi of Paris, said he was “fully satisfied” with the President’s statement. Jean Kahn, president of the European Jewish Congress, said Jews as well as all those who fought the Nazis “must have been delighted to hear these words.” Serge Klarsfeld, a French lawyer and renowned Nazi-hunter, said “this speech contained everything we hoped to hear one day.”
Yet, even now, it may not be easy for France to turn over these black pages of its history. Just this weekend, Mr. Klarsfeld raised another difficult issue. He said the French state confiscated money, property and valuables from Jews being deported from France and then failed to return these assets or pay reparations to surviving children of deportees.
“The families of the deported never got anything back,” he said in an interview with the newspaper Liberation. “The Fourth Republic simply took their property, jewelry and objects. They stole money from parents and then did not pay it back to the children.” He added that reparations paid by postwar Germany were also not passed to children of foreign Jews deported from France. It is now time, he said, for the French state to make amends.
Another unresolved matter is the case of Maurice Papon, a former Vichy official and former Gaullist minister who is now in his 80’s. He has been charged with crimes against humanity for his involvement in deportation of Jews from Bordeaux, but his trial has been repeatedly delayed for more than a decade, raising suspicions that French judicial authorities were trying to postpone it indefinitely.
Still, by seizing this opportunity to confront France’s wartime past so soon after taking office, Mr. Chirac has shown that he is eager not only to defuse an issue that has increasingly troubled France, but also to demonstrate that he does not share the often ambivalent views of his immediate predecessor, Francois Mitterrand.
Mr. Mitterrand did not deny the role of the Vichy Government, headed by Marshal Henri Philippe Petain, in sending tens of thousands of Jews to their deaths, but he always argued that Vichy — and not France or the French Republic — was to blame. “I will not apologize in the name of France,” he said only last September. “The Republic had nothing to do with this. I do not believe France is responsible.”
Last year, however, Mr. Mitterrand’s own past became part of the debate when he admitted that, before joining the French resistance in 1943, he worked as a bureaucrat for 18 months for the Vichy regime. Further, he refused to apologize for his postwar friendship with a former Vichy police official, Rene Bousquet.
Mr. Mitterrand said he had ended this relationship in the mid-1980’s after Mr. Bousquet was charged with crimes against humanity for organizing mass deportations of Jews. But many French were dismayed that Mr. Mitterrand should have associated with a man known to be an important figure in the Vichy regime. Mr. Bousquet was murdered by a deranged gunman in 1991, before he went on trial.
In contrast, Mr. Chirac, who is 64 years old, belongs to a postwar generation of French politicians. Further, as a lifelong Gaullist, the new French President has always identified with General de Gaulle and his battle against Vichy from exile in London. And today Mr. Chirac also spoke of “the France that was never at Vichy” and that was always “correct, generous, faithful to its traditions, to its spirit.”
Yet his main purpose was clearly to look at the ugly side of France’s wartime record. “To recognize the errors of the past and the errors committed by the state and not to hide the dark hours of our history, that is plainly the way to defend a vision of man, of his freedom and dignity,” he said.
President Jacques Chirac spoke yesterday at a memorial at the site of a Paris cycling stadium where 13,000 Jews were held on July 16, 1942, before being sent to Nazi death camps. In his remarks, he fully recognized the French state’s role in the deportations, ending decades of equivocation on the subject. (Associated Press)