Lanzmann said. You can't repeat it. This is not theater. It was a very cinematic moment. With Mr. Lerner speaking in Hebrew and an interpreter translating into French the film will have English subtitles in the United States , ''Sobibor'' starts with Mr. Lerner recounting how in July , when he was just 16, he was rounded up in the Warsaw ghetto and deported to a labor camp beside an airport in Belarus.
There he quickly concluded that it would be better to be killed trying to escape than to await death. They enjoyed standing behind you, pressing the barrel to your temple and trying to blow your eyes out.
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Remarkably, Mr. Lerner and a friend managed to escape from their work site. Picked up by a German patrol a few days later, they were taken to a different camp. They escaped and were recaptured eight times in six months, being left in a new camp after each incident. Finally, looking like ''walking corpses,'' as Mr. Lerner put it, they were placed in the Jewish ghetto of Minsk, the Belarus capital. The food shortage was so severe that ghetto elders urged the teenagers to enter a nearby camp of Jewish prisoners of war from the Soviet Army.
Lerner did not explain how they did this, but he said conditions were better there, and after recovering his health, he was able to join work parties in Minsk. Then, in early September , all 1, prisoners, as well as many more from the ghetto, were placed on a train heading west. View all New York Times newsletters. When the train stopped at Chelm, a Polish railroad worker urged the Jews to escape: the next stop, he told them, was Sobibor, where they would be killed. Lerner said.
By then, however, some , Jews had already died in Sobibor. Built as a temporary camp for the sole purpose of killing Jews, Sobibor had only one stone building: the gas chamber, supplied with carbon monoxide from captured Soviet tanks. Deportees were routinely killed on arrival, their bodies burned in an adjacent mass grave.
A few hundred were kept in huts as a work force for the 30 or so German officers and several hundred Ukrainian guards. When Mr. Lerner's train arrived, he said, a German officer selected 60 of the prisoners to join the work force, while the rest were led away. Lerner recalled. Lerner's good fortune was that many fellow members of the work force were experienced Red Army soldiers who, led by one Alexander Petchersky, soon decided to organize a rebellion. The prisoners were divided by their crafts, with tailors, carpenters and even goldsmiths assigned to make pieces for their guards.
The plan was to call German officers to different huts to try on clothes or to collect the objects. Of the camp's Germans, 16 were on duty at the time. The operation was to begin on Oct. If they hadn't been punctual that day, everything would have failed. Lerner and another prisoner were assigned to the tailors' hut. When the first German entered, they cracked his skull with an ax smuggled in from the carpenter's hut, then hid his body.
Five minutes later, a second German officer arrived and he, too, was killed. Twelve Germans were slain. Seizing the officers' pistols, the prisoners recovered other weapons from a stock room, and the rebellion escalated. Lerner described escaping through the camp's fence and hearing shots fired by Ukrainian guards and mines exploding in the surrounding fields.
It was winter in Poland. In October at 5 p.
I ran into the forest and at that point, I think, maybe the emotion of everything that had happened, the exhaustion, the night, my legs could no longer carry me, and I collapsed. In what is known as the Rafle du billet vert "Roundup of the green ticket" , 3, Jewish men were arrested on 14 May , as they had gone to a convocation delivered on a green ticket to 6, for examen de situation "check of situation" as foreign Jews living in France.
Women, children, and more of the men followed in July What became known as the "Vel' d'Hiv Roundup" was to be more important. A further meeting took place in Dannecker's office in the avenue Foch on 7 July. The roundup was delayed because the French asked to avoid holding it a couple of days before Bastille Day on 14 July.
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The national holiday was not celebrated in the occupied zone, and there was a wish to avoid the risk of civil uprisings. Dannecker declared: "The French police, despite a few considerations of pure form, have only to carry out orders! The roundup was aimed at Jews from Germany , Austria , Poland , Czechoslovakia , the Soviet Union and the apatrides "stateless" , whose origin couldn't be determined, all aged from 16 to There were to be exceptions for women "in advanced state of pregnancy" or who were breast-feeding, but "to save time, the sorting will be made not at home but at the first assembly centre".
The sorting of children will be done in the first assembly centres. The position of the French police was complicated by the sovereignty of the Vichy government , which nominally administered France while accepting occupation of the north. Although in practice the Germans ran the north and had a strong and later total domination in the south, the formal position was that France and the Germans were separate. The independence, however fictional, had to be preserved.
German interference in internal policing, says the historian Julian T. Jackson , "would further erode that sovereignty which Vichy was so committed to preserving. This could only be avoided by reassuring Germany that the French would carry out the necessary measures. Jackson also explains that the roundup of Jews must have been driven by the French since the Germans would not have had the necessary information or the manpower to find and arrest a full 13, Bousquet succeeded in a compromise that the police would round up only foreign Jews.
Vichy ratified that agreement the following day. This too was a fiction, given that the parents of these children had already been deported, and documents of the period have revealed that the anti-semitic Laval's principal concern was what to do with Jewish children once their parents had been deported. The youngest child sent to Auschwitz under Laval's orders was 18 months old.
Three former SS officers testified in that Vichy officials had been enthusiastic about deportation of Jews from France. The investigator Serge Klarsfeld found minutes in German archives of meetings with senior Vichy officials and Bousquet's proposal that the roundup should cover non-French Jews throughout the country. The historians Antony Beevor and Artemis Cooper record:. An unknown number of people, warned by the French Resistance or hidden by neighbors or benefiting from the lack of zeal or thoroughness of some policemen, escaped being rounded up.
Conditions for the arrested were harsh: they could take only a blanket, a sweater, a pair of shoes and two shirts with them. Most families were split up and never reunited. After arrest, some Jews were taken by bus to an internment camp in an unfinished complex of apartments and apartment towers in the northern suburb of Drancy. The Vel' d'Hiv was available for hire to whoever wanted it. It was at the Vel' d'Hiv among other venues that Doriot, with his Hitler -like salute, roused crowds to join his cause.
The circumstances in which Goddet surrendered the keys remain a mystery and the episode is given only a few lines in his autobiography. The Vel' d'Hiv had a glass roof, which had been painted dark blue to avoid attracting bomber navigators. The glass raised the heat when combined with windows screwed shut for security. The numbers held there vary according to accounts but one established figure is 7, of a final figure of 13, There was only one water tap.
Those who tried to escape were shot on the spot. Some took their own lives. After five days, the prisoners were taken to the internment camps of Drancy, Beaune-la-Rolande and Pithiviers, and later to extermination camps. Roundups were conducted in both the northern and southern zones of France, but public outrage was greatest in Paris because of the numbers involved in a concentrated area.
The Vel' d'Hiv was a landmark in the city centre. The Roman Catholic church was among the protesters. Public reaction obliged Laval to ask the Germans on 2 September not to demand more Jews. Handing them over, he said, was not like buying items in a discount store. When a Protestant leader accused Laval of murdering Jews, Laval insisted they had been sent to build an agricultural colony in the East. The internment camp at Drancy was easily defended because it was built of tower blocks in the shape of a horseshoe. It was guarded by French gendarmes.
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The camp's operation was under the Gestapo's section of Jewish affairs. Theodor Dannecker, a key figure both in the roundup and in the operation of Drancy, was described by Maurice Rajsfus in his history of the camp as "a violent psychopath It was he who ordered the internees to starve, who banned them from moving about within the camp, to smoke, to play cards etc.
In December , forty prisoners from Drancy were murdered in retaliation for a French attack on German police officers. It was under his direction from August to June that almost two-thirds of those deported in SNCF box car transports requisitioned by the Nazis from Drancy were sent to Auschwitz. Drancy is also the location where Klaus Barbie transported Jewish children that he captured in a raid of a children's home, before shipping them to Auschwitz where they were killed.
Most of the initial victims, including those of the Vel' d'Hiv , were crammed in sealed wagons and died en route due to lack of food and water. Those who survived the passage died in the gas chambers. At the Liberation of Paris in August , the camp was run by the Resistance — "to the frustration of the authorities; the Prefect of Police had no control at all and visitors were not welcome.
When a pastor was allowed in on 15 September, he discovered cells 3.
The roundup accounted for more than a quarter of the 42, Jews sent from France to Auschwitz in , of whom only returned to France at the end of the war. Pierre Laval's trial opened on 3 October , his first defence being that he had been obliged to sacrifice foreign Jews to save the French. Uproar broke out in the court, with supposedly neutral jurors shouting abuse at Laval, threatening "a dozen bullets in his hide". Laval was sentenced to death, and tried to commit suicide by swallowing a cyanide capsule. Revived by doctors, he was executed by firing squad  at Fresnes Prison on 15 October.
Jean Leguay survived the war and its aftermath and became president of Warner Lambert, Inc. In , he was charged for his role in the roundup.
Louis Darquier was sentenced to death in absentia in for collaboration. This request was refused by Spain. Helmut Knochen was sentenced to death by a British Military Tribunal in for the murder of British pilots. The sentence was never carried out. He was extradited to France in and again sentenced to death. The sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment. In , the president, Charles de Gaulle , pardoned him and he was sent back to Germany, where he retired to Baden-Baden and died in Bousquet's position was always ambiguous; there were times he worked with the Germans and others when he worked against them.
After the war he worked at the Banque d'Indochine and in newspapers. He was supported by the Democratic and Socialist Union of the Resistance ; his second was Hector Bouilly, a radical-socialist general councillor. In , as accusations cast on Bousquet grew more credible, particularly after he was named by Louis Darquier,  he and Mitterrand stopped seeing each other. Lawyers for the International Federation of Human Rights spoke of a "political decision at the highest levels to prevent the Bousquet affair from developing".
Bousquet was committed to trial but on 8 June a year-old mental patient named Christian Didier entered his flat and shot him dead. Theodor Dannecker was interned by the United States Army in December and a few days later committed suicide.
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Jacques Doriot, whose French right-wing followers helped in the round-up, fled to the Sigmaringen enclave in Germany, and became a member of the exile Vichy government there. He died in February when his car was strafed by Allied fighters while he was travelling from Mainau to Sigmaringen. He was buried in Mengen. After the Liberation, survivors of the internment camp at Drancy began legal proceedings against gendarmes accused of being accomplices of the Nazis.
An investigation began into 15 gendarmes, of whom 10 were accused at the Cour de justice de la Seine of conduct threatening the safety of the state. Three fled before the trial could start. The other seven said they were only obeying orders, despite numerous witnesses and accounts by survivors of brutality. The court ruled on 22 March , that the seven were found guilty but that most had rehabilitated themselves "by active participation, useful and sustained, offered to the Resistance against the enemy.
A year later they were reprieved. For decades the French government declined to apologize for the role of French policemen in the roundup or for any other state complicity. The Republic had nothing to do with this. I do not believe France is responsible. On 16 July , the next President, Jacques Chirac , reversed that position, stating that it was time that France faced up to its past.
He acknowledged the role that "the French State" played in the persecution of Jews and others during the War.