History, on this day : la rafle du Vél’d’Hiv

die Banalität des Bösen, sagte Hannah Arendt

On July 16 and 17, 1942, the French police rounds up in Paris 13,000 Jews, including 4,000 children, who are later taken to Auschwitz German Konzentrationslager, Poland, where 99% will be assassinated

After the crushing German victory in May-June 1940, French venerated marshal Philippe Pétain has started to rule the country, in collaboration with the German authorities. Pétain has gathered fascists and more traditional far-right militants, who are historically anti-Semitic, an army of docile and ambitious civil servants. They have seized the opportunity of the military defeat to enforce their political agenda. The État français (French State) is promoting the fascist Révolution nationale. The State Police nationale has been created in May 1941, is the unification of former cities polices

In January 1942, in Berlin, the Nazi German authorities have laid down the technical procedures of the genocide. Germany is now demanding arrests. The French government and police have organized the operation. The victims are known, the French administration is keeping records of Jewish people since October 1940. 9,000 French policemen and Gendarmes are involved in the roundup in Paris.

The world war is going on, Soviet Union is mobilizing three-quarters of the German coalition army on the east front. The Soviet victories enable the Anglo-American landing in Normandy in June 1944. Philippe Pétain falls but the top priority is the unité nationale (national unity) and the Police nationale remains.

In August 1944, some policemen have skirmished against the retreating German army, during the uprising in Paris. In October, the whole Préfecture de police is awarded the highest French medal, Légion d’honneur. All will wear the red aiguillette, even those involved in the criminal 1942 roundup. Real resistance fighters are grumbling, Charles de Gaulle replies Paris vaut bien une complaisance, Paris is well worth a complacency. The decoration is indeed honorific and when in November 2015, a terrorist group slaughters civilians in Paris, the Préfecture de police is missing in action during several hours.

Another illustration is the GMR (Groupes Mobiles de Réserve, mobile reserve groups). Between July 1941 and December 1944, they have cracked down on the resistance clandestine military formations across the country. Then, they are renamed CRS (Compagnies Républicaines de Sécurité, republican security companies). Nowadays, they are cracking down on social protesters, like the Gilets Jaunes

(Osprey, Men-At-Arms #516, World War II Vichy French Security Troops)

Except the saddlebags, less trending today, the uniform of the junior officer is almost the same.

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