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  • Writer's pictureGrant de Graf

A Heart-Stopping Escape: Annette Muller's Survival Amidst the Vel' d'Hiv' Roundup

Updated: Feb 12

In the annals of history, few events evoke such sorrow and horror as the Vel' d'Hiv' Roundup in France during the dark days of 1942. This haunting chapter of the Second World War witnessed the systematic arrest and deportation of thousands of Jews, leaving an indelible mark on the collective memory of France. Among the many tragic tales that emerged from this period, one story of resilience and courage stands out - that of Annette Muller, a young Jewish girl who managed to outsmart the relentless forces of persecution.

The Vel' d'Hiv' Roundup, named after the Vélodrome d'Hiver, a cycling stadium in Paris, took place on July 16 and 17, 1942. Ordered by the Vichy government, collaborating with the Nazi occupiers, the roundup aimed to purge the city of its Jewish population. Over 13,000 Jews, including 4,000 children, were arrested and confined in inhumane conditions at the Vel' d'Hiv' stadium before being deported to concentration camps.

Among those caught in the merciless dragnet was Annette Muller, a bright-eyed and innocent girl, who was just eleven years old at the time. Her family was targeted during the roundup, and they faced the grim prospect of being separated and sent to the camps. However, in the face of unimaginable peril, a glimmer of hope emerged from an unexpected source - Annette's father.

Realizing the grave danger his family was in, Annette's father made a fateful decision - a decision that would alter the course of their lives. As the deportation train lurched forward, destined for the unimaginable horrors of Auschwitz, he whispered to Annette and her younger brother, urging them to take a leap of faith. In a daring act of desperation, he instructed them to jump from the moving train, placing their lives in the hands of fate.

Summoning every ounce of courage, Annette and her brother made the heart-stopping escape from the deportation train. As they landed on the ground, bruised and shaken, they knew that survival meant leaving their childhood innocence behind. They were now fugitives, hunted by a ruthless regime that showed no mercy to those it deemed "undesirable."

Annette and her brother sought refuge in the shadows, navigating the treacherous landscape of occupied France. Their only hope lay in the kindness of strangers, and the fate of their survival rested on the shoulders of the French citizens who chose to stand against the tide of hatred. These brave individuals risked their lives to shelter Jewish children like Annette and her brother, defying the authorities and upholding the values of humanity and compassion.

For months, Annette lived a precarious existence, always on the move, shifting from one safe house to another. But amidst the darkness, she found moments of solace in the camaraderie and support of the underground network that protected Jewish children. Despite the constant fear and uncertainty, Annette clung to the flicker of hope that she would one day be reunited with her family and see the end of the war.

As the war raged on, Annette and her brother miraculously managed to evade capture. With the liberation of France in 1944, they emerged from the shadows and were finally free from the specter of persecution. Their resilience and courage in the face of adversity were nothing short of extraordinary.

After the war, Annette Muller went on to share her harrowing story, determined to ensure that the horrors of the Holocaust were never forgotten. Through her advocacy and courage, she became a powerful voice for Holocaust remembrance and a testament to the enduring strength of the human spirit.

Today, as we look back on the Vel' d'Hiv' Roundup and remember the thousands of lives lost and shattered, let us also draw inspiration from the tale of Annette Muller. Her indomitable will to survive and her unwavering hope in the darkest of times serve as a poignant reminder of the resilience of the human spirit and the importance of standing up against hatred and intolerance. May her story continue to echo through the ages, urging us to strive for a world where such atrocities are never repeated.

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