Round up of Marseille

The Round up of Marseille (22-24 January 1943) took place in the Old Port of Marseille under the Vichy regime during the German occupation of France . Assisted by the French police , directed by René Bousquet , the Germans organized to raid to arrest Jewish people. The police checked the identity documents of 40,000 people, and the operation sent 2,000 Marseillese people first to Frejus , then to the camp of Royallieu near Compiegne , in the Northern Zone of France, and then to Drancy internment camp , last stop beforeextermination camps . The operation also encompasses the expulsion of an entire neighborhood (30,000 persons) before its destruction. Located in the Old Port, the 1st district was considered by the Germans to be a “terrorist nest” because of its small, windy and curvy streets. [1] For this occasion, SS leader Carl Oberg , in charge of the German Police in France , made the trip from Paris, and transmitted to Bousquet orders directly from Himmler . It is a notable case of the French police’s collaboration with the German occupiers.

Destruction of the Old Port

The operation was intended to reshape the area of the Old Port , a popular neighborhood, and curvy windy streets were considered dangerous by the German authorities. The Germans used for this an urbanist plan prepared by French architects who supported the ideology of the “National Revolution” ( National Revolution ) supported by Vichy. They decided to almost totally destroy the 1st arrondissement of Marseille. According to Himmler’s orders the arrested population is concentrated in the Northern Zone of France, in particular Compiègne. The Old Port is also being searched by the German police, assisted by their counterparts, and then the buildings dynamited .

Mandated by the head of Vichy, Pierre Laval , Bousquet asked on January 14, 1943 that the operation be postponed for a week to be better organized and strengthened by police force. Furthermore, while the Germans were about to limit themselves to the 1st arrondissement of Marseilles, Bousquet spontaneously proposed to extend the operation to the entire city. According to historian Maurice Rajsfus , he also requested complete freedom of action for the French police, which he obtained from SS Karl Oberg .

According to historian Jacques Delarue , who was a witness of the operation, 200 police inspectors from Paris and elsewhere, 15 companies of GMR (the ancestors of the current CRS anti-riot police), and squads of French constabularies ( Gendarmerie ) and of mobile guards ( mobile guards) were brought to Marseille for the operation. In total, “approximately 12,000 police men found themselves concentrated in Marseille.” [2]On 22 January 1943 the Old Port was completely locked-out. The city, except for the more wealthy, residential, neighborhoods, was searched house-by-house over a period of 36 hours. “In total, following tens of thousands of controls, nearly 2,000 Marseillese … found themselves in the death trains.” wrote historian Maurice Rajsfus. 1,500 buildings were destroyed.

The Prefecture of the Bouches-du-Rhone published a public statement on 24 January 1943:

For reasons of military order and to guarantee the safety of the population, the German military authorities officially ordered the French administration to proceed with the evacuation of the north end of the Old Port. For its part, the French administration has a strong role in the management of the country. The French administration worked hard to avoid mixing the two operations. Sizeable police forces carried out numerous searches in the quarter. Entire neighborhoods were surrounded and identity checks were made. More than 6,000 individuals were arrested and 40,000 identities were checked. [3]

The newspaper The Petit Marseillais of 30 January 1943 added

Let us be clear that the operations for the evacuation of the Old Port were carried out exclusively by the French police and that they did not give rise to any incidents. [4]

German newspapers also acclaimed the operation. Walther Kiaulehn wrote in German military newspaper Signal :

In the future, when we shall write the history of Marseilles, we will be undergoing this remarkable feat by having evacuated the old patrician neighborhood, which had been dishonored by the 20th century, the operation had used French and German policemen, as a group of engineers and physicians. [5]

French police head Rene Bousquet, in fur-trimmed coat, posing with Nazi German officials

A photo taken during this operation, and known since the beginning of the 1980s, shows head of French police René Bousquet posing with regional German police head Bernhard Griese of the SS, a high level officer of Totenkopf , Marcel Lemoine , prefect prefectural and Pierre Barraud , delegate prefect to the prefecture administration of Marseilles. [6]

While 30,000 Were Expelled from Their neighborhood, people from the criminal underworld, Such As Paul Carbone , HAD Voluntarily surrendered In the Beginning of the week, to be jailed while the “horrible show” happened [7] Several Hundreds of Jews of Marseille, whether French or foreign, were first felt at Fréjus , than at the camp of Royallieu near Compiègne, and finally at Drancy Internment camp , from where they were sentenced to the extermination camps. In total, 2,000 Jews were put on the death trains. On March 23, 1943, Röthke of the SS noted that the French Jews arrested in Marseille were almost all “criminal scoundrels ), “as the French police are often told to me without being asked for”, and that “when they were transferred from Compiegne to Drancy, they were so dirty and flea-bitten that the “The direction of the camp judged an immediate intervention necessary to avoid epidemics in the camp”. [8]

See also

  • Vichy France
  • Collaborationism
  • René Bousquet


  1. Jump up^ Maurice Rajsfus, 1995,The Vichy Police. French police forces serving the Gestapo, Le Cherche Midi publisher, 1995, p.210
  2. Jump up^ Jacques Delarue,Trafficking and Crimes under the Occupation(Livre de Poche, 1971), p.262
  3. Jump up^ Quoted by Maurice Rajsfus, 1995, p.213. French:“For military reasons and in order to guarantee the security of the population, the German military authorities have notified the French administration of the order to proceed immediately to the evacuation of the northern district of the Old Port. For reasons of internal security, the French administration had, for its part, decided to carry out a large police operation to rid Marseille of certain elements whose activity posed great risks to the population. The French administration has tried to avoid that these two operations could be confused. Very large police forces carried out numerous searches in the city. Whole neighborhoods were identified and identity checks were made. More than 6,000 individuals have been arrested and 40,000 identities verified. “
  4. Jump up^ English: “It should be noted that the evacuation operations of the northern district of the Old Port were carried out exclusively by the French police and that they did not give rise to any incident.” (Ibid.)
  5. Jump up^ Quoted by Rajsfus, p.213. French: “In the future, when we write the history of Marseille, we will highlight this remarkable fact that by evacuating the patrician neighborhood disgraced by the twentieth century, the organizer had used French and German police, like a group of engineers and doctors. “
  6. Jump up^ Rajsfus, p.215
  7. Jump up^ Jean Bazal,Marseilles Galante(Tacussel, 1989), quoted by Jean-Louis Parisi inA city on the run, Marseille(éditions de l’Aube, 1992), p.132, quoted by Rajsfus, 1995, p. 216
  8. Jump up^ Quoted by Rajsfus, 1995, p.212

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