Trip Start Jun 22, 2012
Trip End Aug 08, 2012

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, Île-de-France,
Friday, June 29, 2012

While at De Panne, Mechel enlisted in the French Army. Esther and the kids then headed to Paris. It should be noted that we are not entirely sure the family stayed in De Panne, however they did stay somewhere near that area. My Uncle Boris has begun the process of pouring through family documents for more details of the story and he recently sent me an emailing saying Esther had once said the family camped at Groenendijk, which is about two kilometers from De Panne and still has campgrounds today.

Boris remembers making part of the De Panne-Paris trip on the back of a coal truck. Since we couldn't find any coal trucks for rent, my mom and I stuck with a train. Between Boris' and my grandmother Margot's interviews it seems Esther and the kids stayed with some family friends in Paris between two and seven days.

We had two full days in Paris and, considering Paris can be barely scratched in even a week, decided to orient much of the stay to learning about the WWII Jews of Paris (while of course succumbing to many of the major attractions). The first night I watched the movie Sarah's Key, which is about the lesser-known round up and deportation of thousands of Parisian Jews, not by the Nazis but rather the French police. Many of the Jews were forced to spend three days in subhuman conditions in the Veladrome Stadium (which no longer exists) only to be deported to concentration camps. I highly recommend watching this movie because the subject is a lesser known aspect of the Holocaust, and I personally had never learned about it.

And so we decided to visit these places in Paris. We went to a number of Jewish museums that covered the history of French Jews and their lives leading up to WWII, and went to the small, largely hipster-dominated, Jewish neighborhood. However, the greatest connection we found to both Sarah's Key and the experience of the WWII Parisian Jews was visiting the rather hidden location of the Veladrome Stadium.

The only signs that there was once this stadium that imprisoned thousands of dying Jews are a few plaques sprinkled around its former location. The location is on the Left Bank of the Seines about two kilometers from the Eiffel Tower in what, I imagined, is Paris' financial district. The locations of these plaques are not well-known and we were able to find only two out of three. Even our helpful companion Rick Steves mentioned he was unable to find one of the memorials.

The round up of the Parisian Jews did not occur until 1942 so the Beizers would have been unaffected by this event.

I am writing this en route from Paris to Dax, where we'll pick up a car and drive to Capbreton and other areas in Southern France.

Until then,

- Elijah Jatovsky
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