Christians and Jews--I
A waning enthusiasm for the Révolution Nationale had refocused Christians' attention on disquieting earlier innovations in Vichy policy. Chief among these was the treatment of the Jews, which was eventually to prove the major stumbling-block to the Church's acquiescence in the course the regime was pursuing. However, having in the past disregarded the Augustinian doctrine of the common humanity of all men, it had itself by no means an unblemished record concerning the Jews.
Constitutionally a secular state, the Third Republic kept no tally of the number of Jews living in France: for it, Judaism was a religion like any other. Statistics are therefore unreliable. However, it is estimated that, whereas in 1919 they numbered some 150,000, by 1939 this had increased to 300,000, representing 0.7 per cent of the population 1 The 1919 figures included Jewish families established in France before the Revolution, nineteenth and early twentieth century immigrants, and those living in Alsace-Lorraine, by then restored to France. During the 1920s some 50,000 more arrived from Eastern Europe, and between 1930 and the outbreak of war a wave of refugees from Germany and Austria swelled the numbers by another 100,000. Of the total number in 1939, some 110,000 lived in Algeria, officially a part of metropolitan France; of the rest, it is estimated that perhaps as many as 150,000 were technically foreigners or recently naturalised. The most recent arrivals did not integrate easily into a French environment, and xenophobia and anti-Semitism went hand in hand.
Anti-Semitism was episodic in French political life. Drumont's extremist, fanatically anti-Jewish newspaper, La Libre Parole, had reached a peak circulation of half a million in the 1890s. Action Française, with its policy of 'la France seule', a movement founded at the height of the Dreyfus Affair, remained a permanent focus for anti-Semitism in the inter-war period. When the Protocols of the Elders of Zion were shown in The Times ( August 1921) to be a forgery, Bainville wrote: 'What does that prove about the Bolsheviks and the Jews? Absolutely nothing!'