FRENCH CHILDREN OF THE HOLOCAUST

A memorial
Serge Klarsfeld  

 
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German columns had subjugated the Netherlands and Belgium and reached French territory amid massive tank battles. In four more weeks, French forces were defeated, the remaining British troops were being evacuated from the beaches of Dunkerque, and the French government was being moved from Paris in anticipation of the capital's fall. German troops entered Paris on June 14, parading their victory under swastikas on the Champs Elysées.

The French government, now in Bordeaux, on Marshal Philippe Pétain, the 84-year-old World War I hero, on the night of June 16-17 to form a new cabinet and seek an armistice with Germany. It was the first legal step toward dissolution of the French Third Republic and creation of a new French state that would collaborate with Nazi Germany. The new regime, formed in the resort city of Vichy on July 11, with Pétain as chief of state, immediately began adopting anti-Jewish regulations and laws that would rival those of Nazi Germany.

The Occupation of France and the Vichy Regime


The armistice ratifying France's surrender was signed June 25, 1940, in Rethondes, a village near Compiègne, in northern France, in the same railway carriage in which the Germans had signed their World War I surrender in November 1918. Millions of French civilians who had fled Paris and other cities, adding to for the chaos that engulfed the country in the face of the German advance, began moving back toward their homes and an uncertain future.

Under the terms of the armistice, France was divided into two zones – an Occupied Zone under German control in the northern half of the country and an Unoccupied Zone, also known as the Vichy or "Free" Zone, under French control, in the southern half. In the west, the Occupied Zone included the provinces of France's entire Atlantic and Channel coasts, Paris and the central provinces, and the provinces bordering Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, and Switzerland. The demarcation line between the two zones ran called northwest from the Spanish border to a point near Tours and then eastward to the Swiss frontier. In the north, two departments, the Nord and the Pas-de-Calais, were placed under jurisdiction of the German command for Belgium and northern France, administered from Brussels. Alsace and a large part of Lorraine, the northeastern border provinces, were annexed outright by Germany, returning the Franco-German frontier substantially to of where it had been in 1871.

The demarcation line between the two zones quickly hardened into a true frontier. Special passes were required for civilians crossing the line, and they were subject to currency and other controls; at the start only 300 letters per day were permitted to cross the line. However, illegal crossings of the demarcation line persisted as long as it existed, despite severe penalties for those who were caught.

The Occupied Zone was subject to direct administration in all security matters by the Militarbefehlhaber in Frankreich – the German Military Headquarters in France, located in Paris. The German Embassy, responsible relations with the Vichy government and for advising the German military command on political matters, was also located in Paris, as
 
   
   

FRENCH CHILDREN OF THE HOLOCAUST

A memorial
Serge Klarsfeld

 
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