Vichy France and the Jews

Vichy France and the Jews

Vichy France and the Jews

Vichy France and the Jews

Excerpt

During the four years it ruled from Vichy, in the shadow of Nazism, the French government energetically persecuted Jews living in France. Persecution began in the summer of 1940 when the Vichy regime, born of defeat at the hands of the Nazis and of a policy of collaboration urged by many Frenchmen, introduced a series of antisemitic measures. After defining who was by law a Jew, and excluding Jews from various private and public spheres of life, Vichy imposed specifically discriminatory measures: confiscating property belonging to Jews, restricting their movements, and interning many Jews in special camps. Then, during the summer of 1942, the Germans, on their side, began to implement the "final solution" on the Jewish problem in France. Arrests, internments, and deportations to Auschwitz in Poland occurred with increasing frequency, often with the direct complicity of the French government and administration. Ultimately, close to seventy-six thousand Jews left France in cattle cars—"to the East," the Germans said; of these Jews only about 3 percent returned at the end of the war.

Vichy France bears an important part of the responsibility for this disaster, as the records of both French and German governments make clear. The deportations from France from 1942 to 1944 were made possible not only by direct French assistance but also by the course of earlier persecution; there were important links between the Nazis' "final solution" and the previous work of French governments—policies usually supported by French public opinion.

Our story begins at one of the clear dividing points of French history. In the 1930s, under the Third Republic, tolerant and cosmopolitan France had been a haven for thousands of refugees, many of them Jewish, who fled from Germany and eastern Europe, from fascist Italy, and from the battleground of the Spanish civil war. Then came France's . . .

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