Deportation of Jews during the Marseille roundup, 23 January 1943
Deportation of Jews during the Marseille roundup, 23 January 1943

The Holocaust in France was the persecution, deportation, and annihilation of Jews and Roma between 1940 and 1944 in occupied France, metropolitan Vichy France, and in Vichy-controlled French North Africa, during World War II. The persecution began in 1940, and culminated in deportations of Jews from France to Nazi concentration camps in Nazi Germany and Nazi-occupied Poland. The deportation started in 1942 and lasted until July 1944. Of the 340,000 Jews living in metropolitan/continental France in 1940, more than 75,000 were deported to death camps, where about 72,500 were murdered.

Anti-semitism was prevalent to at least some extent throughout Europe at the time. As in other German-occupied and aligned states, the Nazis in France relied to a considerable extent on the co-operation of local authorities to carry out what they called the Final Solution. The government of Vichy France and the French police organized and implemented the roundups of Jews.[1] Although the vast majority of the deported Jews were killed, the overall survival rate of the Jewish population in France was up to 75%, which is one of the highest survival rates in Europe.[2][3]


In the summer of 1940, around 700,000 Jews lived in French-ruled territory, of which 400,000 lived in French Algeria, then an integral part of France, and in the two French protectorates of Tunisia and Morocco.[4] On the eve of World War II, Metropolitan France had a population of over 300,000 Jews, around 200,000 of whom lived in Paris.[5] France also hosted a large population of foreign Jews who had fled persecutions in Germany. By 1939, the Jewish population had increased to 330,000 due in part to the refusal of the United States and the United Kingdom to accept any more Jewish refugees following the Évian Conference. After the German occupation of Belgium and the Netherlands in 1940, Metropolitan France received a new wave of Jewish immigrants and its Jewish population peaked at 340,000 individuals.[5]

At the declaration of World War II, French Jews were mobilized into the French military like all their compatriots, and as in 1914, a significant number of foreign Jews enlisted in regiments of foreign volunteers.[6] Jewish refugees from Germany were interned as enemy aliens together with other German citizens. 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.[7]

The armistice of 22 June 1940, signed between the Third Reich and the government of Marshal Philippe Pétain, did not contain any overtly anti-Jewish clauses, but it did indicate that the Germans intended the racial order existent in Germany since 1935 to spread to Metropolitan France and its overseas territories:

Under the terms of the armistice, only part of Metropolitan France was occupied by Germany. From the city of Vichy, the government of Marshal Pétain nominally ruled Vichy France, the name of France of Vichy Under the Occupation (la France de Vichy), a new French State (l'État français), but only governed the southern part of metropolitan France, the three departments of French Algeria, and the French empire (France d'outre-mer), France's overseas territories such as the two French protectorates of Morocco and Tunisia, Indochina, the Levant, etc. Nazi Germany and the Vichy regime saw the French empire as an integral part of non-occupied Vichy France, and its anti-Jewish decrees were immediately implemented there, because of the Vichy vision of the empire as a territorial continuation of metropolitan France[8]


Conditions of armistice

The map clearly shows the division of France as per all the historical realities of the era: Nazi Germany annexed Alsace Lorraine, and occupied northern metropolitan France and all the Atlantic coastline down to the border with Spain. That left the rest of France, including the remaining two-fifths of southern and eastern metropolitan France and Overseas France North Africa, unoccupied, and under the control of a collaborationist French government based at the city of Vichy, and headed by Marshal Philippe Pétain.
The map clearly shows the division of France as per all the historical realities of the era: Nazi Germany annexed Alsace Lorraine, and occupied northern metropolitan France and all the Atlantic coastline down to the border with Spain. That left the rest of France, including the remaining two-fifths of southern and eastern metropolitan France and Overseas France North Africa, unoccupied, and under the control of a collaborationist French government based at the city of Vichy, and headed by Marshal Philippe Pétain.
An anti-Semitic exhibition, entitled "The Jew and France", in Paris, 1941
An anti-Semitic exhibition, entitled "The Jew and France", in Paris, 1941
Two Jewish women in occupied Paris wearing Yellow badges in June 1942, a few weeks before the mass arrest
Two Jewish women in occupied Paris wearing Yellow badges in June 1942, a few weeks before the mass arrest
Yellow badge made mandatory by the Nazis in France
Yellow badge made mandatory by the Nazis in France

From the summer of 1940, Otto Abetz, the German ambassador in Paris, organized the expropriation of rich Jewish families.[9] The Vichy regime took the first anti-Jewish measures slightly after the German authorities in the autumn of 1940. On 3 October 1940, Vichy passed the Law on the status of Jews to define who was a Jew, and to issue a list of occupations prohibited to Jews.[10] Article 9 of the law stated that it applied to France's possessions of French Algeria, the colonies, the Protectorates of Tunisia and Morocco, and mandates territories. The October 1940 law was prepared by Raphaël Alibert. A 2010 document makes it clear that Pétain personally made the law even more aggressively antisemitic than it initially was, as can be seen by annotations made on the draft in his own hand.[11] The law "embraced the definition of a Jew established in the Nuremberg Laws",[12] deprived the Jews of their civil rights, and fired them from many jobs. The law also forbade Jews from working in certain professions (teachers, journalists, lawyers, etc.) while the law of 4 October 1940 provided authority for the incarceration of foreign Jews in internment camps in southern France such as 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.[13] Only those Jews in mixed marriages were not expelled.[13] 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.[13] The deportees had not been allowed to take any of their possessions with them, these being confiscated by the German authorities.[13] The German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop treated the ensuing complaints by the Vichy government over the expulsions in a "most dilatory fashion".[13] 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.[13]

The General Commissariat for Jewish Affairs, created by the Vichy State in March 1941, supervised the seizure of Jewish assets and organized anti-Jewish propaganda.[14] 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 registration across the country and in Vichy-North Africa. 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.[15]

On 2 October 1941, seven synagogues were bombed in Paris. Still, the vast majority of synagogues remained opened during the whole war in the Zone libre. The Vichy government even protected them after attacks as a way to deny persecution. In Alsace-Lorraine, many synagogues were destroyed or converted.[16]

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 was also deported, such as René-Raoul Lambert and André Baur.[17]

Drancy camp

The arrests of Jews in France began in 1940 for individuals, and general round ups began 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 camps at Pithiviers and Beaune-la-Rolande in the Loiret (3,747 men). The second round-up, between 20 July and 1 August 1941, led to the arrest of 4,232 French and foreign Jews who were taken to Drancy internment camp.[18]

Deportations began on 27 March 1942, when the first convoy left Paris for Auschwitz.[19] Women and children were also targeted, for instance during the Vel' d'Hiv Roundup on 16–17 July 1942, in which 13,000 Jews were arrested by the French police. In the occupied zone, the French police were effectively controlled by the German authorities. They carried out the measures ordered by the Germans against Jews, and in 1942, delivered non-French Jews from internment camps to the Germans.[20] They also contributed to the sending of tens of thousands from those camps to extermination camps in German-occupied Poland, via Drancy.[21]

At the time, it was announced that the Reich had created a homeland for Jews somewhere in Eastern Europe, to which all of the Jews of Europe would be "resettled", and was portrayed as a utopia. In the spring of 1942, the claim that "resettlment in the East" meant going to the mysterious Jewish homeland in Eastern Europe was widely believed in France, even by most Jews, and though most French people did not believe the supposed homeland was really the paradise that the Nazis had promised, few could imagine the truth.[22]

In the unoccupied zone, from August 1942, foreign Jews who had been deported to refugee camps in south-west France, in Gurs, Récébédou, and elsewhere, were again arrested and deported to the occupied zone, from where they were sent to extermination camps in Germany and occupied Poland.[23]

From the invasion of the Zone libre to 1945

In late summer 1942, Adam Rayski, the editor of the Communist underground newspaper J'accuse, came into contact with a former soldier in the Spanish Republican Army who had fled to France in 1939.[24] The soldier had in turn been deported from the Gurs internment camp to work as a slave laborer on a project run by the Organisation Todt in Poland before escaping back to France.[24] The soldier told Rayski that he learned during his time in Poland that there was a camp located in Silesia named Auschwitz where all of the Jews been sent for "resettlement in the East" were being exterminated.[24] After much doubt and debate with the other journalists of J'accuse, Rasyki wrote a cover story on 10 October 1942 edition of J'accuse stating that about 11,000 French Jews had been exterminated at Auschwitz since March 1942.[24]

French Jews being deported from Marseilles, 1943
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 the fall of the Fascist regime in Italy led to the establishment of the German-controlled Italian Social Republic in northern Italy in September 1943.[citation needed]

The German authorities took increasingly direct charge of the persecution of Jews, while public opinion forced the Vichy authorities towards a more sensitive approach. 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, just one month before the Liberation of Paris.[25]

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.[26]


About 75,000 Jews were deported to Nazi concentration camps and death camps and 72,500 of them were murdered,[2] but 75% of the approximately 330,000 Jews in metropolitan France in 1939 escaped deportation and survived the Holocaust, which is one of the highest survival rates in Europe.[3] 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".[27]

Government admission

For decades, the French government declined to apologize for the role of the French police in the roundup or for other state complicity. Its argument was that Philippe Pétain dismantled the French Republic when he instituted a new French State during the war and that the Republic had been re-established when the war was over. It was not for the Republic, therefore, to apologise for events that happened while it did not exist and which had been carried out by an illegitimate state which it did not recognise. Former President François Mitterrand, for example, maintained this position. The claim was much more recently reiterated during the 2017 presidential election campaign by Marine Le Pen, leader of the extreme righ National Front Party.[28][29]

The subject of the "Final Solution" was therefore ignored for decades. The narrative, promoted by de Gaulle starting in 1944, that almost the entire French nation had been united in resisting the occupation with the exception of a few dishonorable traitors made it difficult to acknowledge the role of French civil servants, policemen and gendarmes in the "Final Solution".[30] The first book to mention the subject at any length was Vichy France: Old Guard and New Order, 1940-1944 (1972) by the American historian Robert Paxton, through the focus in his book was Vichy France in general.[30] The first book dedicated entirely to the subject was Vichy France and the Jews (1981), which was co-written by Paxton and the Canadian historian Michael Marrus.[30]

On 16 July 1995, President Jacques Chirac stated that it was time that France faced up to its past and he acknowledged the role that the state had played in the persecution of Jews and other victims of the German occupation.[28] Those responsible for the roundup, according to Chirac, were "4,500 policemen and gendarmes, French, under the authority of their leaders [who] obeyed the demands of the Nazis."[31] Chirac commented in his speech about the Velodrome d'Hiver roundup: "[T]hose black hours soiled our history forever. ... [T]he criminal madness of the occupier was assisted by the French people, by the French State. ... France, that day, committed the irreparable."[30][32][33]

To mark the 70th anniversary of the roundup, President François Hollande gave a speech at a monument to the Vel' d'Hiv Roundup on 22 July 2012. The president recognized that this event was a crime committed "in France, by France," and emphasized that the deportations in which French police participated were offenses committed against French values, principles, and ideals. He continued his speech by remarking on French tolerance towards others.[34]

In July 2017, also in commemoration of the victims of the roundup at the Vélodrome d'Hiver, President Emmanuel Macron denounced his country's role in the Holocaust and the historical revisionism that denied France's responsibility for 1942 roundup and subsequent deportation of 13,000 Jews. "It was indeed France that organised this [roundup]", he said, French police collaborating with the Nazis. "Not a single German took part," he added. Neither Chirac nor Hollande had specifically stated that the Vichy government, in power during WW II, actually represented the French State.[35] Macron on the other hand, made it clear that the Government during the War was indeed the French State. "It is convenient to see the Vichy regime as born of nothingness, returned to nothingness. Yes, it's convenient, but it is false. We cannot build pride upon a lie."[36][37]

Macron did make a subtle reference to Chirac's 1995 apology when he added, "I say it again here. It was indeed France that organized the roundup, the deportation, and thus, for almost all, death."[38][39]

See also


  1. ^ Marrus, Michael Robert; Paxton, Robert O. (1995) [1st pub. Basic Books (1981)]. Vichy France and the Jews. Stanford University Press. pp. xv, 243–245. ISBN 978-0-8047-2499-9. OCLC 836801478.
  2. ^ a b "Le Bilan de la Shoah en France [Le régime de Vichy]".
  3. ^ a b Croes, Marnix. "The Holocaust in the Netherlands and the Rate of Jewish Survival" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 22 October 2014. Retrieved 6 June 2021.
  4. ^ "The Jews of Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia". the-jews-of-algeria-morocco-and-tunisia.html. Retrieved 6 September 2021.
  5. ^ a b "La persécution nazie".
  6. ^ Blumenkranz 1972, IV, 5, 1.
  7. ^ Philippe 1979, p. 227.
  8. ^ Ruth Ginio (2006). French Colonialism Unmasked: The Vichy Years in French West Africa. University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 080325380X.
  9. ^ « De la Haine Dans l'air », par Jérôme Gautheret et Thomas Wieder, Le Monde, 27 Juillet 2010
  10. ^ Klarsfeld, Serge (1983). Memorial to the Jews Deported from France, 1942-1944: Documentation of the Deportation of the Victims of the Final Solution in France. B. Klarsfeld Foundation. p. xiii. OCLC 970847660. 3) A law of October 3, 1940, on the status of Jews excluded them from most public and private professions and defined Jews on the basis of racial criteria.
  11. ^ "Pétain a durci le texte sur Les Juifs, Selon un document inédit". Le Point. 3 October 2010. Archived from the original on 16 May 2013.
  12. ^ Yahil 1990, p. 173.
  13. ^ a b c d e f Krausnick 1968, p. 57.
  14. ^ See report by the Mission d'étude sur la spoliation des Juifs
  15. ^ Philippe 1979, p. 251.
  16. ^ Aubry, Antoine (7 August 2016). "Que sont devenues les synagogues françaises pendant l'Occupation?". (in French). Retrieved 16 January 2022.
  17. ^ Philippe 1979, chapter "La Guerre".
  18. ^ "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. Archived from the original on 15 March 2014.
  19. ^ Blumenkranz 1972, p. 404.
  20. ^ Tal Bruttmann, « Au bureau des affaires juives. L'administration française et l'application de la législation antisémite », La Découverte, 2006
  21. ^ Blumenkranz 1972, pp. 401–05.
  22. ^ Sprout 2013, p. 214.
  23. ^ René Souriac and Patrick Cabanel (1996). Histoire de France, 1750-1995: Monarchies et républiques. Presses Universitaires du Mirail. p. 215. ISBN 2858162743.
  24. ^ a b c d Zuccotti 1999, p. 149.
  25. ^ Bénédicte Prot. "Dernier convoi Drancy-Auschwitz". Archived from the original on 29 June 2013. Retrieved 16 September 2012.
  26. ^ Jacques Cantier, L'Algérie sous le régime de Vichy, Odile Jacob, 2002, page 383
  27. ^ "About the Righteous, Statistics". Yad Vashem. Retrieved 20 September 2011.
  28. ^ a b Simons, Marlise (17 July 1995). "Chirac Affirms France's Guilt In Fate of Jews". The New York Times. Retrieved 10 May 2019.
  29. ^ McAuley, James (10 April 2017). "Marine Le Pen: France 'not responsible' for deporting Jews during Holocaust". The Washington Post. Retrieved 10 May 2019.
  30. ^ a b c d Paris, Edna (30 September 2019). "Jacques Chirac's courage: Acknowledging France's role in the Holocaust". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 18 July 2021.[page needed]
  31. ^ "Allocution de M. Jacques CHIRAC Président de la République prononcée lors des cérémonies commémorant la grande rafle des 16 et 17 juillet 1942 (Paris)" (PDF). www.jacqueschirac-asso (in French). 16 July 1995. Retrieved 17 July 2014.
  32. ^ Chirac, Jacques (16 July 1995). "Allocution de M. Jacques CHIRAC Président de la République prononcée lors des cérémonies commémorant la grande rafle des 16 et 17 juillet 1942 (Paris)" [Speech by Mr. Jacques CHIRAC President of the Republic during the ceremonies commemorating the large roundup of July 16 and 17, 1942 (Paris)]. Présidence de la République. Paris. Archived from the original on 15 September 2008. Retrieved 22 July 2021. Il est difficile de les évoquer, aussi, parce que ces heures noires souillent à jamais notre histoire, et sont une injure à notre passé et à nos traditions. Oui, la folie criminelle de l'occupant a été secondée par des Français, par l'Etat français. ... La France, patrie des Lumières et des Droits de l'Homme, terre d'accueil et d'asile, la France, ce jour-là, accomplissait l'irréparable.
  33. ^ "Twenty-eight special session" (PDF). United Nations General Assembly. 24 January 2005. p. 20.
  34. ^ Willsher, Kim (22 July 2012). "François Hollande sorry for wartime deportation of Jews". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 May 2019.
  35. ^ Carrier, Peter (2005). Holocaust Monuments and National Memory Cultures in France and Germany Since 1989. Berghahn Books. p. 52. Retrieved 10 May 2019 – via Internet Archive. plaque velodrome d'hiver boulevard de Grenelle.
  36. ^ Associated Press (16 July 2017). "'France organised this': Macron denounces state role in Holocaust atrocity". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 May 2019.
  37. ^ Goldmann, Russell (17 July 2017). "Macron Denounces Anti-Zionism as 'Reinvented Form of Anti-Semitism'". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 18 October 2017. Retrieved 10 May 2019.
  38. ^ McAuley, James (16 July 2017). "Macron hosts Netanyahu, condemns anti-Zionism as anti-Semitism". The Washington Retrieved 10 May 2019.
  39. ^ "Netanyahu in Paris to commemorate Vel d'Hiv deportation of Jews". BBC News Services. 16 July 2017. Retrieved 10 May 2019.


Further reading