France: The Dark Years, 1940-1944

By Julian Jackson | Go to book overview

15
Vichy and the Jews

At his trial for collaboration in 1947, Xavier Vallat, Vichy's Commissioner for Jewish Affairs, defended himself by arguing that he had always been an anti-Semite. As a defence, this is not as paradoxical as it sounds. Vallat's point was that he could not be accused of having worked for Germany since his anti-Semitism was authentically French, 'inspired by my personal conception of the Jewish problem'. That Vallat could even consider offering this defence is striking evidence of the fact that, although the fate of the Jews was not entirely ignored at the Liberation,1 anti-Semitism in itself was considered secondary to the crime of collaboration.

Today the situation is reversed. The experience of the Jews is central to contemporary perceptions of the Occupation. This can create new distortions: it would be as wrong to read the entire history of the Occupation through the prism of anti-Semitism as it would to leave it out entirely. Little of the regime's propaganda targeted the Jews. It commissioned no anti-Semitic posters; there was no anti-Semitism in any of the official film documentaries produced by the regime;2 no speech by Pétain directly mentioned the Jews. When Vichy issued its first Jewish Statute in October 1940, it did so almost apologetically. The accompanying communiqué announced that the government 'respects Jewish persons and property … There is no question of easy vengeance but of indispensable security.' The Statute would be applied in a 'spirit of humanity.3

The tone was different in the Occupied Zone where the collaborationist press was violently anti-Semitic. Au pilori declared in March 1941: 'Jews are not men. They are stinking beasts. One gets rid of fleas. One fights against epidemics. The main centre of anti-Semitic propaganda in Paris was the IEQJ, nominally run by a thuggish French officer, Paul Sézille, but financed entirely by Germany. Its most ambitious undertaking was the notorious exhibition on the Jew and France at the Palais Berlitz. As always, however, it would be wrong to exagger-

1 H. Rousso, 'Une justice impossible: L'Épuration et la politique antijuive de Vichy', Annales ESC,
48/3 (1993), 745–70.

2 Bertin-Maghit, 'Le Documentaire de propagande', 32.

3 Singer, Vichy, l'université et les juifs, 73–4.

4 Cotta, La Collaboration, 141.

-354-

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France: The Dark Years, 1940-1944
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents ix
  • List of Maps and Figure xvi
  • Abbreviations xvii
  • Introduction: Historians and the Occupation 1
  • Part I - Anticipations 21
  • 1: The Shadow of War: Cultural Anxieties and Modern Nightmares 27
  • 2: Rethinking the Republic: 1890-1934 43
  • 3: Class War/Civil War 65
  • 4: The German Problem 81
  • 5: The Daladier Moment: Prelude to Vichy or Republican Revival? 97
  • 6: The Debacle 112
  • Part II - The Regime: National Revolution and Collaboration 137
  • 7: The National Revolution 142
  • 8: Collaboration 166
  • 9: Collaborationism 190
  • 10: Laval in Power: 1942–1943 213
  • Part III - Vichy, the Germans, and the French People 237
  • 11: Propaganda, Policing, and Administration 246
  • 12: Public Opinion, Vichy, and the Germans 272
  • 13: Intellectuals, Artists, and Entertainers 300
  • 14: Reconstructing Mankind 327
  • 15: Vichy and the Jews 354
  • Part IV - The Resistance 383
  • 16: The Free French 1940-1942 389
  • 17: The Resistance 1940-1942 402
  • 18: De Gaulle and the Resistance 1942 427
  • 19: Power Struggles 1943 447
  • 20: Resistance in Society 475
  • 21: Remaking France 506
  • Part V - Liberation and After 525
  • 22: Towards Liberation: January to June 1944 529
  • 23: Liberations 544
  • 24: A New France? 570
  • Epilogue: Remembering the Occupation 601
  • Appendix: The Camps of Vichy France 633
  • Bibliographical Essay 637
  • Index 647
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