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16 July, 1942

Today is 16 July. 73 years ago on 16 July, 1942 that the French Police came in the middle of the night to my grandparents house in Virolet, near Poitiers, to arrest my grandfather Traitel . Traitel was born in Poland but had left to escape the persecution of the Jewish population around 1910. When World War II broke out Traitel was called back to Poland to serve in the army. Naturally he refused, he had a wife and family now in France and no desire to return to the country which had treated him so badly. Consequently his Polish citizenship was revoked and he had been refused French citizenship.

When the police came to arrest him they said it was because he had no nationality. His eldest son, then aged 17 years old, remembered the night.

“They told him ‘be sure to take along warm clothes because where you are going it is very cold in the winter.’ They said this to give people a bit of hope, not to make them too nervous. So my father packed warm clothes and said goodbye to us. That was the last time we saw him.”

His middle son, who had just turned 13 said

“When they arrested Father the truck came up the dirt road and right to the front of the house. A German officer came upstairs with two French policemen holding rifles.”

Traitel was taken to the Angers and put on convoy no.8 which arrived in Auschwitz on 23 July. The 411 men in that convoy were tattooed with numbers between 51015 and 51425. It is thought that only 14 of those 411 survived the camp. My grandfather was not one of the survivors. There were also 390 women in the convoy, none of whom survived.

On the same day that my grandfather was arrested there were always massive round-ups taking place all over France and particularly in Paris where 13,152 Jews were arrested and sent to Auschwitz. 53 years later in 1995 President Chirac apologized for the complicit role that French policemen and civil servants played in the raids.

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