Members of the French community in Israel attending a ceremony at Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem
Members of the French community in Israel attending a ceremony at Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial yesterday, 70 years after the round-up of French Jews and their deportation to Auschwitz. Photo by AFP
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PARIS - Hundreds of people gathered at the site of a World War II internment camp outside Paris on Monday to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the mass roundup of Jews for deportation from occupied France.

French police, acting on orders from Nazi Germany, arrested 13,152 Jews, mostly women and children, in occupied Paris and its environs on July 16-17, 1942.

Most of the prisoners were deported to Auschwitz. Only a few dozen survived.

The Vel d'Hiv Round-up, as it is known after the indoor cycling arena where the prisoners were held for the first five days, was one of the worst acts of collaboration with Nazi Germany by the regime of Marshal Philippe Petain.

Monday's ceremony took place at the site of a former transit camp in Drancy, northeast of Paris, which was the staging post for the deportations.

Rabbi Moche Lewin called on the assembly, which included a handful of survivors of the raids, to keep the memory of the victims alive "for the salvation of humanity."

His appeal came as a survey by CSA pollsters showed between 57 percent and 67 per cent of French people under the age of 35 saying they had never heard of the Vel d'Hiv Round-up.

France did not officially recognize its complicity in the persecution of Jews until 50 years after the war, when then-President Jacques Chirac admitted the state had "committed the irreparable."

President Francois Hollande is set to preside over an official commemoration Sunday at the site of the cycling arena near the Eiffel Tower. The arena was destroyed by fire in 1959. A monument to the deportees marks the site where it stood.