March 20, 2023
The Old Port of Marseille, blown up in 1943 by the Nazis. INTERCONTINENTAL/AFP

INTERVIEW – Antoine Mignemi, son of an Italian immigrant, remembers 80 years after the operation of “purification” of the old city led by the Nazis. He was 5 years old at the time of the Old Port roundup.

Marseille commemorates this Sunday, 80 years later, the roundups of January 1943, including the little-known one in the Saint-Jean district. After the terrible roundup of Jews from the Opera district – 782 of whom were gassed on their arrival at the Sobibor camp – the Nazis and the French police of Vichy surrounded the historic center of the city next to the Old Port. This operation ofpurification” of the “Marseille pigsty», in the words of SS chief Heinrich Himmler, led to the evacuation of 20,000 people, of whom 12,000 were transferred to a retention camp in Fréjus and 800 deported to Germany. The head of the SS intends, with this operation and by completely dynamiting the district, to put an endto the great masses of criminals of Marseilles“.

Le Figaro met one of them, Antoine Mignemi, who was taken to Fréjus with his parents when he was five years old. He was president of the Collectif Saint-Jean on January 24, 1943.

THEFIGARO.- What memories do you have of this day of January 24, 1943?

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