“The Roundup”: A subtly gripping film about the Holocaust

In July 1942, the Germany’s Nazi occupiers of France enlisted the local police and French Vichy leaders to carry out the mass arrest and deportation of thousands of foreign and stateless Jews who were living in Paris. Called the Vel d’Hiv Roundup, here’s a snippet of its entry in the online Holocaust Encyclopedia, maintained by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (link here):

  • “To preserve the fiction of a French police force independent of the German occupiers, French policemen carried out the mass arrest of some 13,000 Jewish men, women, and children.”
  • “In order to avoid a public outcry on Bastille Day, a French national holiday, the roundup was moved from July 13–15 to July 16–17.”
  • “The majority of those arrested were deported to Auschwitz.”

I confess that I didn’t know much about this episode of WWII history, despite my deep interest in the era. A few days ago, however, I discovered this 2010 French film, “La Rafle,” or “The Roundup,” which tells the story (imbd link here). Right now it’s streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

This is one of the most subtly gripping movies that I’ve seen depicting events associated with the Holocaust. The acting and production values are superb. Some roles are composite characters, while others represent specific historical figures.

Among this excellent cast, Jean Reno (Dr. David Scheinbaum), Mélanie Laurent (nurse Annette Monod), Gad Elmaleh (Schmuel Weismann) and Hugo Leverdez (young Jo Weismann) stood out to me.

But if there is a bigger “star” of the movie, it’s the physical depiction of the Vel d’Hiv, a sports stadium where the arrestees were kept. I won’t say anything more about this, other than it provides a different angle on the horrific experience of the Holocaust.

I highly recommend this film. But be forewarned: Although it does not depict the worst of the Nazi atrocities, it is a hard movie to watch. I viewed it in shorter chunks over three evenings.