The French police were charged by German authorities with the responsibility of arresting enough Jews, including French citizens, to fill these convoys; 3000 bodies were needed.
To avoid the arrest of French citizen Jews in the ensuing roundups in Paris, the chiefs of the Paris police on their own initiative decided to ferret out and arrest every last foreign and stateless Jew who was eligible for deportation. There were 735 plain-clothed French policemen and 715 uniformed police who took part in three days of raids, during which were arrested a total of approximately 1,500 foreign Jews. The very old and the very young were targeted because the stronger, more able-bodied foreign Jews had already been deported. Of the 1,500 persons arrested, 1,194 were over the age of 60, and 29 were less than 10 years old.
Roundups were conducted simultaneously at the Rothschild Hospital, the Hospice, and the Orphanage. Dr. Alexandre Elbim, a surgeon, witnessed the hospital raid. In his report filed with the CDJC (CCXXXIII-49), he stated that on February 10, 1943, French police entered the hospital at 7 a.m. Working from lists, they arrested free foreign Jews in their beds, that is, Jews who had entered the hospital of their own volition, not those sent from Drancy. It was later learned that hospital administrators had prepared the list a few days before. Henri Dupin, the hospital director, joined the French police as they made their way through the wards, warning personnel not to interfere. In all, 31 foreign Jews were arrested at the Rothschild Hospital, and 21 from the Rothschild Hospice; the eldest was 91 years old.
A worse outrage was committed by the French police at the Rothschild Orphanage. On February 9, French police inspectors looked through the registers and wrote down names of foreign children placed by UGIF. On February 10 at 6:30 a.m., armed French police entered the orphanage, seized and carried off 12 children; on February 11 at 1:00 a.m., they returned and took 4 more children, all foreign Jews.
On the night of February 10, Colette Brull-Ulmann, an intern at Rothschild, rushed from the hospital to the orphanage after she received a call that “a kid was hysterical.” In her interview, she said she saw French police, with rifles and machine guns, chasing terrorized children who jumped out of their beds, scattered, and hid behind cartons in the cellar. She felt guilty because she was powerless to stop it.
The 16 children from the Rothschild Orphanage were shipped east from Paris on convoy 47, which departed at 10:15 a.m. on February 11, just hours after the second raid. Also on that train were 154 children born in France of foreign parents. This may have been the one of the lowest moments in the French government collaboration with the Nazis in their efforts to eliminate Jews.
Miraculously, an 8-year old German girl, Hedwige Plaut, eluded the police at the orphanage by hiding under her bed covers. She had come to Paris from Frankfort, Germany, to live with her grandfather after Kristallnacht, November 9, 1938. When staying with her grandfather became too perilous, she was placed at the Rothschild Orphanage in August 1942. On February 12, 1943, Hedwige was smuggled out of the orphanage, through the efforts of Rothschild social worker Claire Heymann, who operated a rescue network from the hospital, described in Chapter 3. Hedwige was passed from filière to filière, and crossed into Switzerland seven months later.
Hedwige Plaut was interviewed for the Picpus Digital Archives in the summer of 2004, when she was 66 years old. She has repressed memory. Owing to the assistance and patience of her husband, Paul Delcampe, she has been somewhat successful in remembering her life with her grandfather, but less so in recalling the events of February 1943, and she is still not comfortable relating them. To this day Hedwige has no independent recollection of the roundup or how she left the orphanage. Only by consulting Serge Klarsfeld’s Calendrier, published in 1993 – which recounts day-by-day the roundups and deportation of the Jews of France – did she and her husband learn that the crime was perpetrated by French police, and not by Germans as they had believed. The book Ne te retourne pas (Don’t Look Back) is Hedwige Plaut’s story as told by Delcampe; sections of it are included in these Archives.
The UGIF’s Role
The UGIF archives were consulted to see if any light could be shed on the November 11, 1942, and February 10 and 11, 1943 roundups at Rothschild. The Commission Médico-Sociale of UGIF convened almost weekly between January 27, 1942 and July 8, 1943, and it seems that this is where any information on the roundups should have been recorded. Affairs at and concerning the Rothschild Orphanage, Hospital and Hospice were discussed at these meetings almost weekly. The meetings were well attended by high ranking UGIF members, such as Vice-President André Baur; head of social services Juliette Stern; celebrated American social worker Josephine Getting; and Doctors Didier-Hesse, Minkowski, and Weill-Hallé. The Rothschild Foundation was represented by Armand Kohn. Three meetings were held in November 1942 after the November 11 roundup at the Rothschild Hospice, the earliest on the following day, November 12. The reported discussion on the three November meetings centers almost completely on problems at the Rothschild Orphanage. Remarkably, and sadly, there is not a single word or reference of any kind pertaining to the roundup in the minutes of these meetings.