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Within the footsteps of the forgotten roundup of the Previous Port of Marseille

A life devoted to patiently placing collectively a titanic puzzle, piece by piece. To place phrases, conditions, photos on a heavy silence. That of his father, modeled on that of France. For years, Antoine de Gennaro has been making an attempt to grasp how the lives of his father Alphonse, his grandparents and his great-grandfather modified ceaselessly, one morning in January 1943. An episode that nobody talked about in his household, and of which only a few individuals from Marseille are nonetheless conscious at this time.

It was simply 80 years in the past. Between January 22 and 24, 1943, a sequence of roundups have been carried out within the previous quarters of Marseilles on the orders of the Nazis, Hitler having determined to “purify” the “canker of Europe”, with the participation of the French police. . This Sultan operation led to the evacuation of roughly 20,000 individuals and the compelled switch of 12,000 individuals to a detention camp in Fréjus. Almost 800 Jews have been despatched to die within the Nazi extermination camps, and a complete working-class district referred to as “little Naples”, behind the Previous Port, was forcibly emptied of its inhabitants, a lot of them Italian immigrants. .

“Like 90% of deportees, my father was silent”

Amongst these Italian immigrants was the household of Antoine de Gennaro. His grandparents run a café close to rue du Panier. On January 24, 1943, his grandmother Augusta, his great-grandfather Alfonso and his father Alphonse, then 17 years previous, have been arrested. They’re first despatched to the camp of Fréjus. “My great-grandfather was a 70-year-old man,” says Antoine de Gennaro. He died on January 27, 1943 on the Fréjus camp attributable to bronchitis. There wasn’t sufficient room within the camp, so he slept on straw in the course of winter. »

His grandmother and father have been deported to 2 completely different camps, and each survived. On his return to Marseille, his father weighed 31 kg. And for years, Antoine de Gennaro will know little extra. “My father died after I was 26,” he explains. At the moment, we did not have the identical relationship with our mother and father. He spoke little or no about what he skilled. Like 90% of deportees, he was silent. I simply knew the hell of deportation. I requested my father a number of occasions what had occurred. He replied that he would inform me when the time got here. And that point by no means got here. I deeply remorse it. »

A grievance for against the law towards humanity

So, Antoine de Gennaro begins analysis. “I wished to put in writing a ten-page memoir for my kids,” he confides. I am at 165 pages. By dint of analysis, letters, paperwork gleaned right here and there, Antoine de Gennaro reconstructs thread after thread the unfolding of Historical past. “It is the largest roundup, forward of that of Vel d’Hiv,” he recollects. It was the identical system and the identical characters. However for the Vel d’Hiv, they primarily arrested Jews of international origin. The Previous Port roundup is 90% French. The German authorities take this resolution as a way to counter the assaults towards the Nazis that occurred shortly afterwards in Marseille. A primary roundup was first organized within the Opera district on January 22 and 24, a district the place there have been many Jews due to the proximity to the synagogue. On January 24, the raid was prolonged to the close by Saint-Jean district. After the evacuation of 1000’s of individuals, the Nazis proceed to the destruction of 1,500 buildings on 14 hectares within the district.

“Raving a neighborhood just isn’t harmless,” insists Antoine de Gennaro. It was an actual property operation deliberate by the Germans and the French for an urbanization mission. And so they selected a neighborhood with a majority of Italians, unusual individuals. It’s a racist act. At the moment a member of the younger collective Saint-Jean 24 January 1943, Antoine de Gennaro fights for justice to do its work. After a grievance from the collective, an investigation was opened in 2019 for crimes towards humanity. “It is essential to acknowledge what occurred,” says Antoine de Gennaro.

The person additionally makes it a degree of honor to lift consciousness among the many youngest about this episode, and can take part within the commemorative ceremonies deliberate in Marseille on January 29, with particularly the inauguration of an exhibition which traces this darkish episode within the Previous Port. of the historical past of the Phocaean metropolis. “We’ve got to ensure that it doesn’t fall into oblivion, proclaims Antoine de Gennaro. While you see what is going on in Europe, Brazil or the USA, with guys attacking the Capitol, there’s purpose to ask questions… ”

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