Politics, Society and Christianity in Vichy France

By W. D. Halls | Go to book overview

8
Christians and Jews--II

The year 1942 saw an acceleration of anti-Jewish activity. By then it was plain the Germans intended to clear Western Europe of all Jews, and eventually make the whole continent 'Judenfrei'. The suggestion to create the CGQJ had come from them, although the statement by Barthélémy, the Justice minister, writing long after the event, that 'the so-called anti-Jewish legislation of Vichy' was entirely of German origin is palpably inaccurate. 1 By now, however, the Germans had completed their own arrangements to deal with the Jews in France. For the Wehrmacht, Dr Michel, of the German military administration, ran a Jewish section to deal with economic matters under Dr Blanke, whose main aim was to promote the German war machine. For Wilhelmstrasse, a section of the Consul-General's office in the charge of the malevolently anti-Jewish diplomat, Zeitschel, handled Jewish questions. But the most significant German agency for dealing with the Jews was the SS, particularly after the arrival in Paris in June 1942 of SS Brigadeführer Oberg, whose Judenreferat was staffed until July by the notorious Dannecker, and then by Rothke. None of this complex organisation could, however, function without the active support of French officials, particularly Bousquet, appointed Secretary-General for the Police Nationale in May 1942. It was, for example, the French police that were responsible for rounding up the Jews; in any case Pucheu, then Interior minister, had set up the special police for Jewish Affairs (Police des Questions Juives) in the previous autumn. By 1942 the co-operation between occupiers and occupied had become much closer. Vichy's own initiatives against the Jews and their complicity in German ones rendered the position of Christians even more uncomfortable. In early 1942 Vallat was reported as saying that he did not know whether he was Commissaire aux Questions juives or Commissaire aux Questions des prâtres, so persistent had become their interventions on behalf of individual Jews? 2 On New Year's Day Gerlier, held to be the most flexible and prudent member of the episcopal bench, 3 admonished Catholics: 'No Christian should add to this pitiful

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