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The Holocaust in France

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The Holocaust in France

1941 poster from Marseilles announcing the order for Jewish to register officially

The Holocaust in France refers to the persecution and attempted extermination of Jews and Roma between 1940 and 1944 in occupied France during World War II. The persecution begun in 1940, and culminated in deportations of Jews from France to death camps in Germany and Poland from 1942 which lasted until July 1944. Only 75,000 Jews were deported from France out of the 340,000 Jewish individuals in France in 1940. Although most deported Jews died, the survival rate of the Jewish population in France is up to 75% which is one of the highest survival rate in Europe.[1]´[2]


France had a population of about 150,000 Jewish nationals during he Interwar period,[3] in addition France hosted a large population of foreign Jews who had fled persecutions in Germany. By 1939, the Jewish population had increase to 330,000 due to the refusal of the United States and the United Kingdom to accept any more Jewish refugees following the Évian Conference. After the occupation of Belgium and the Netherlands in 1940, France hosted a new wave of Jewish immigrants and Jewish population climaxed to 340,000 individuals.[3]

At the declaration of war, French Jews were mobilized into the French military like their compatriots, and, like in 1914, a significant number of foreign Jews enlisted in regiments of foreign volunteers.[4] Jewish refugees from Germany were interned as enemy aliens. In general, the Jewish population of France was confident in the ability of France to defend them against the occupiers, but some, particularly from Alsace and the Moselle regions fled westwards into the unoccupied zone from July 1940.[5]

The armistice agreement of 22 June 1940, signed between the Third Reich and the government of General Pétain did not contain any overtly anti-Jewish clauses, but did indicate that the Germans intended the racial order existent in Germany since 1933 to spread to France:

  • Article 3 warned that in the regions of France occupied directly by the Germans, the French administration must "by all means facilitate the regulations" relating to the exercise of the rights of the Reich;
  • Articles 16 and 19 warned that the French government had to proceed to repatriate refugees from the occupied territory and that "The French government is required to deliver on demand all German nationals designated by the Reich and who are in France, in French possessions, colonies, protectorates and territories under mandate"

Under the terms of the armistice only part of France was occupied; the Pétain government controlled southern France, the departments of French Algeria, and France's overseas territories such as North Africa, the Levant, etc...

Anti-Semitic measures by German and Vichy administrations

From the Armistice to the invasion of the Zone libre

An anti-Semitic exhibition, entitled "The Jew and France", in Paris, 1941

From the summer of 1940, expropriation of rich Jewish families.[6] The Vichy regime took the first anti-Jewish measures slightly after the German authorities in the autumn of 1940. The Statut des Juifs ("statue on Jews") of 3 October was prepared by Raphaël Alibert. According to a document made public in 2010, Pétain himself made slight moderations to the term of the law.[7] The statut forbade French Jews from working in certain professions (teachers, journalists, lawyers etc.) while a Law of 4 October 1940 envisaged the incarceration of foreign Jews in internment camps in southern France such as the one at Gurs. These internees were joined by convoys of Jews deported from regions of France, including 6,500 Jews who had been deported from Alsace-Lorraine during Operation Bürckel.

During Operation Bürckel, Gauleiters Josef Bürckel and Robert Heinrich Wagner oversaw the expulsion of Jews into unoccupied France from their Gaues and the parts of Alsace-Lorraine that had been annexed in the summer of 1941 to the Reich.[8] Only those Jews in mixed marriages were not expelled.[8] The 6,500 Jews affected by Operation Bürckel were given at most two hours warning on the night of 22–23 October 1940, before being rounded up. The nine trains carrying the deported Jews crossed over into France "without any warning to the French authorities", who were not happy with receiving them.[8] The deportees had not been allowed to take any of their possessions with them, these being confiscated by the German authorities.[8] The German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop treated the ensuing complaints by the Vichy government over the expulsions in a "most dilatory fashion".[8] As a result, the Jews expelled in Operation Bürckel were interned in harsh conditions by the Vichy authorities at the camps in Gurs, Rivesaltes and Les Milles while awaiting a chance to return them to Germany.[8]

The [9] At the same time, the Germans began compiling registers of Jews in the occupied zone. The Second Statut des Juifs of 2 June 1941 systematized this registrations across the country. Because the yellow star-of-david badge was not made compulsory in the unoccupied zone, these records would provide the basis for the future round-ups and deportations. In the occupied zone, a German order enforced the wearing of the yellow star for all Jews aged over 6 on 29 May 1942.[10]

In order to more closely control the Jewish community, on 29 November 1941, the Germans created the Union Générale des Israélites de France (UGIF) in which all Jewish charitable works were subsumed. The Germans were thus able to learn where the local Jews lived. Many of the leaders of the UGIF were also deported, such as René-Raoul Lambert and André Baur.[11]

The arrests of Jews in France begun from 1940 for individuals, and general round ups begun in 1941. The first raid (rafle) took place on 14 May 1941. The Jews arrested, all men and foreigners, were interned in the first transit campas at Pithiviers and Beaune-la-Rolande in the Loiret (3,747 men). The second round-up, between 20–1 August 1941, led to the arrest of 4,232 French and foreign Jews who were taken to Drancy internment camp.[12]

Deporations begun on 27 March 1942, when the first convoy left Paris for Auschwitz.[13] Women and children were also targeted, for instance during the Vel' d'Hiv Roundup on 16–7 July 1942, in which 13,000 Jews were arrested by the French police. In the occupied zone, the French police was effectively controlled by the German authorities. They therefore carried out the measures ordered by the Germans against Jews, and in 1942, delivered non-French Jews from internment camps to the Germans.[14] They also contributed to the sending of tens of thousands fo them to extermination camps, via Drancy.[15]

In the unoccupied zone, from August 1942, foreign Jews who had been deported to refugee camps in south-west France, in Gurs and elsewhere, were again arrested and deported to the occupied zone, from where they were sent to extermination camps in Germany and Poland.[16]

From the invasion of the Zone libre to 1945

French Jews being deported from Marseilles, 1943

In November 1942, the whole of France came under direct German control, apart from a small sector occupied by Italy. In the Italian zone, Jews were generally spared persecution, until collapse of the Italian fascist regime led to the German occupation of all Italian territory in September 1943.

The German authorities took increasing charge of the persecution of Jews, while the Vichy authorities were forced towards a more sensitive approach by public opinion. However, the Milice, a French paramilitary force inspired by Nazi ideology, was heavily involved in rounding up Jews for deportation during this period. The frequency of German convoys increased. The last, from the camp at Drancy, left the Gare de Bobigny on 31 July 1944.[17]

In French Algeria, General Henri Giraud and later Charles de Gaulle, the French exile government restored (de jure) French citizenship to Jews on 20 October 1943.[18]


Of the approximately 330,000 Jews in metropolitan France in 1939, 75% survived the Holocaust, which is one of the highest survival rate in Europe.[19] France has the third highest number of citizens who were awarded the Righteous Among the Nations, an award given to "non-Jews who acted according to the most noble principles of humanity by risking their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust".[20]

About 75,000 Jews were deported, most of them died.[21]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Yad Vashem [1]
  3. ^ a b
  4. ^ Blumenkranz 1972, IV, 5, 1.
  5. ^ Philippe 1979, p. 227.
  6. ^ « De la haine dans l'air », par Jérôme Gautheret et Thomas Wieder, Le Monde, 27 juillet 2010
  7. ^ "Pétain a durci le texte sur les Juifs, selon un document inédit". Le Point. 3 October 2010. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f Krausnick 1968, p. 57.
  9. ^ See Mission d'étude sur la spoliation des Juifsreport by the
  10. ^ Philippe 1979, p. 251.
  11. ^ Philippe 1979, chapter « La Guerre ».
  12. ^ "Les rafles de 1941". Source : Claude Singer, Historien, enseigne à l'université de Paris I (DUEJ). Revue "Les Chemins de la Mémoire n° 119 - Juillet-Août 2002 pour Mindef/SGA/DMPA. Chemins de mémoire, site du Ministère de la Défense. 
  13. ^ Blumenkranz 1972, p. 404.
  14. ^ Tal Bruttmann, « Au bureau des affaires juives. L'administration française et l'application de la législation antisémite », La Découverte, 2006
  15. ^ Blumenkranz 1972, pp. 401-5.
  16. ^ René Souriac et Patrick Cabanel (1996). Histoire de France, 1750-1995: Monarchies et républiques. Presses Universitaires du Mirail. p. 215.  
  17. ^ Bénédicte Prot. "Dernier convoi Drancy-Auschwitz". Retrieved 16 September 2012. 
  18. ^ Jacques Cantier, L'Algérie sous le régime de Vichy, Odile Jacob, 2002, page 383
  19. ^ Yad Vashem [2]
  20. ^ Yad Vashem, About the Righteous, Statistics Accessed 20 September 2011.
  21. ^


Further reading

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