The Round Up – La Rafle (2010) – Operation Spring Breeze or The Round Up of Vel d’Hiv

The French/German/Hungarian co-production, The Round Up – La Rafle, is a powerful and intense movie based on true facts. In the nights of July 16 and 17 13000 Parisian Jews were arrested in a raid in Paris and confined in the Vel d’Hiv (Winter Velodrome) or Drancy internment camp and from there to the extermination camps in Poland. Of the 13000 arrested Jews only 25 survived. Many among them, at least 4000, were children. Not one of them survived. The aim was to round-up 25000 Jews but 10000 escaped and were hidden by the people of Paris. The most shameful part was played by the police who actively contributed to make this happen. French President Jacques Chirac apologized in 1995 for the complicit role that French policemen and civil servants served in the raid.

The movie begins with original black and white footage. We hear Edith Piaf sing “Paris” while we follow Hitler on his tour through the city. That sent shivers down my spine. To think that if the Germans had won the war, Hitler would have made Paris his capital. In the pictures he looked like a guy inspecting real estate, deciding on what walls to knock down, what to keep. Horrifying. Here is an account of Hitler’s tour, written by his pet architect Speer.

After the opening we see people in a Parisian street located in Montmartre. The street scenes show that French and foreign Jews amicably lived together with non-Jewish Parisians. Many French people are friendly towards the Jewish population, but others are openly hostile and hate them. The movie focusses at first on a few Jewish families. It shows how secure they felt. They didn’t think the French government would ever give in. But it did. In exchange for privileges it promised to round-up the Jews and deport them eventually.

After the round-up we see the scenes in the Vel d’Hiv and the point of view changes. A young French nurse, Annette Monnod (Mélanie Laurent), has been sent to help alongside a Jewish doctor (Jean Reno). The doctor and a handful of French nurses are the only health care professionals for 13000 people. There is almost no food, no water, no toilets and the hygiene is abominable. Many of the children are ill. There are doctors willing to come and help but they are not let in. Operation Spring Breeze, as this round-up is called, should be kept a secret. While there are many collaborators among the French, there are many more who are hostile towards the Nazis and willing to risk their lives to save Jews.

Annette becomes very attached to the children and does everything to help them survive. She follows them to camp Beaune where they stay until they are finally deported to Auschwitz. Until the last day many think, they are sent to Poland to work. Rumours that those camps are extermination camps are only spreading very slowly.

I really loved this movie. It moved me, I found it very touching and emotional.  I would say that of all the Holocaust movies I’ve seen, this is my favourite. I liked that it focussed on a few Jewish families with different backgrounds. Some rich French Jews, others immigrants and people who fled from other countries. Those individual stories are more interesting and touching than the story of a mass of deported people. In chosing Annette, a French nurse, we see how far the “good” Parisian people went, risking life and health for others. It’s such a shameful chapter in the history of France, its important to remember that there were courageous people as well.

The only thing I didn’t like so much was the end. It should have been different but I cannot tell you why or I would spoil the movie. Considering how excellent the rest is, this is a minor fault. I added The Round-Up to my Children in War Movies List. It’s an excellent example. Other Holocaust movies can be found here: 13 Holocaust Movies You Should See.


12 thoughts on “The Round Up – La Rafle (2010) – Operation Spring Breeze or The Round Up of Vel d’Hiv

  1. […] The Round-Up – La Rafle (2010, FR/GE/HU): WWII, Paris, the round-up of 13000 Jews in the Vel d’Hiv (here is my review) […]

  2. […] The Round Up – La Rafle (2010, FR/GE/HU) In the night of July 16 1942, 13000 Parisian Jewsare arrested and confined in the Vel d’Hiv before being sent to Drancy and later exterminated in Auschwitz. True story. See my review […]

  3. Guy Savage says:

    Thanks Caroline: I have to be in a particular mood for a holocaust film, but this one sounds good. I’d seen the adverts and wasn’t sure.

    • It’s just the very last minutes that are a bit questionable but the beginning is stunning. And the whole story is so awful. I felt so ashamed that this happend in Paris. My father is too young, he was born during the war and they had to flee from Paris to Brittany because their house was bombed, so nobody really ever spoke about this. I was aware of the role the Vel d’Hiv played but not how many people were arrested.

  4. the war movie buff says:

    Thanks for the review. I was not aware of this incident. It’s not on Netflix yet, but I reserved it. The summary highlights the story of three little boys. I do not get that from your review. What’s up?

    • The children are there, yes but I didn’t watch it like that. I don’t think just because children are in a movie that makes them the main charcaters. This isn’t like The Boy in the Stiped Pijamas. In Germany the movie is called “The Children from Paris” but the children are not on their own, they are with their families. Although Annette follows the children..It’s like watching A beautiful Life and say it’s the story of a little boy whose father… or The story of a man and his boy… Just a question of poin of view. Plus the slightly off key ending is tied to the children and is for me just a sentimental device.
      I’m looking forward to your reaction.

  5. the war movie buff says:

    You’ll be waiting a long time, I fear. I will go with your summary over the Netflix blurb. I trust you more.

  6. nem baj says:

    Well, if this movie can make a few people open some history, philosophy or survivors’ books, it will have done at least some good. Otherwise, in my view this is unfortunately another voyeur film, a ‘feelgood drama’ – much like Schindler’s List, actually.

    The Roundup has two major problems. First, it has no point of view, hence everything is… for show. We’re constantly pushed outside what we are given to watch. That panoramic shot in the stadium is a shame considering the subject! What’s the use, and what’s next? Actually, most of the shots are either live documentary or soap-opera.

    Secondly, although the film is remarkably crafted in matters of scenery and costume details, most of the main characters – children included – are completely anachronistic in their language, appearance and social behavior. I suspect this may be a deliberate move to create empathy, but this doesn’t help at all, except for making us believe that this is just a cleverly illustrated ‘bad dream’, so we can feel good when we all wake up in the end.

    Of course this is just me, but for those reasons I consider movies like Monsieur Klein (1976) and The Pianist (2002) to be much, much better attempts to grasp through fiction something that will never be truly told.

    • I think it ceratainly will make a few people go and look up things and as far as that goes, it worked.
      I didn’t find it as feel good as you or anachronistic but I might not have been attentive. I’m not sure whether you watched the original French or the subtitled version? Maybe there is a difference?
      The Pianist is certainly a better movie but I would argue Schindler’s list is much more melodramatic. I will have to watch Mr Klein, I don’t think I’ve seen it.
      Thanks for your comment, it gives me something to ponder.

      • nem baj says:

        Actually, you did have reservations about the ending, didn’t you? My point is that the ending can hardly be separated from the flaws of the whole film. I watched the French version of The Roundup, but I’m not sure it is related. To me, the characters simply do not match who they’re supposed to be, and thus the situation is senseless.

        For instance the relationships beetween children and parents, beetween women and men, beetween adults and senior citizens, were much more formal then. Here we are presented with today’s families with ties based mostly upon individual feelings, and not upon the sense of community and social hierarchy that existed at the time.

        Moreover, the characters look so ‘integrated’ in French society that the dividing lines beetween French, German and Eastern Jews do not exist, whereas they were so important at the time. Within a terrible wartime economy for most Parisians, they are foreign refugees, yet the fact that many ‘locals’ resented their presence on economic grounds is not shown at all. And so on.

        Actually, the people we see in this film do not look ‘foreign’ at all, and this is in my view a huge mistake. For I think that questions arise precisely when most ‘common sense’ reasons tell many of us that some groups of people are to be considered as ‘aliens’.

      • I thought you were referring to the way they spoke and sometimes when you read the subtitles, they give the wrong feel, especially for French and Italian movies. My copy has no subtitles, it’s Fench only, therefore I wouldn’t know.
        I see what you mean about the behaviour, could be, that’s trues, yes.
        I had even huge reservations about the ending. i think it’s quite bad but I could forgive it.
        I felt that there was a lot of hostility from some Parisians and had a feeling they were not as integrated as that.
        I’m not sure what you mean when you say they didn’t look foreign? I thought they looked Estern European but it wasn’t very pronounced. Maybe they wanted to avoid cliché.
        I see your points but I would have to watch it again.

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