Jerusalem Report

The eyewitness

A young social worker dared to complain to her superiors about appalling conditions at the Vel’ d’Hiv roundup of Jews in Paris during the Holocaust. Seven decades on, France has finally awarded her the Legion of Honor.

1942, Jewish deportees in the Drancy transit camp their last stop before the German camps
Photo by: AFP
“I stayed silent for many years because, when I did talk about what I had seen, people said I was making it up, or showing off. And when the subject became a topic of national interest in 2010, journalists were not interested in what I had to say because they assumed a non-Jew didn’t have anything to contribute.”

Denise Tavernier is now 94 years old, and people are finally listening. When she was 23 and a trainee social worker with the Paris police, she was present in the French capital’s indoor cycling stadium, the Vélodrome d’Hiver, into which collaborationist authorities packed away more than 8,000 Jews during the biggest anti-Jewish roundup in France in World War II.

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