FRENCH CHILDREN OF THE HOLOCAUST

A memorial
Serge Klarsfeld  

 
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were the headquarters of the German security and intelligence apparatus known as the SiPo-SD (Sicherheitspolizei und Sicherheitsdienst – Security Police and Security Service) and the feared Gestapo (State Secret Police). As of September 1940, the Gestapo's Jewish Affairs Department was headed in France by Theodor Dannecker. An underling of Adolf Eichmann, the chief of all Gestapo operations affecting Jews, Dannecker became one of the leading forces applying the Final Solution in France. To this end, he put both direct and indirect pressure on Vichy, often acting through Helmut Knochen, the SiPo-SD chief in France, and Kurt Lischka, the SiPo-SD chief in Paris.

The Unoccupied Zone in the south became the domain of the new French government. Although the armistice agreement envisaged that the new regime would return to Paris and plans were made for the move, the Germans never permitted it to take place; the government remained in the south, with its headquarters in Vichy. All French territory in both zones was nominally under the jurisdiction of the Vichy regime and its laws, on condition that they were consistent with German regulations in the Occupied Zone. The Vichy regime effectively controlled French governmental institutions in both zones, though it was subject to a German veto in all matters affecting the course of the war, and especially military, economic, and foreign policies. However, the new regime, under a government formed by Premier Pierre Laval, was itself intent on making a "national revolution" that would of do away with the republican past and find an important place for France in Nazi Germany's new European order.

Vichy France and the War Against the Jews

From the beginning, and without pressure from the Germans, the Vichy government demonstrated its hostility to Jews, especially those born abroad. The laws and measures passed early by the Vichy regime without Nazi prompting made its attitude clear: (1) From July 1940 the naturalizations of foreign-born Jews could be revoked. (2) In August 1940, anti-Semitic propaganda was given free reign. (3) A law of October 3, 1940, on the status of the Jews excluded them from most public positions and private professions and defined Jews on the basis of racial criteria. (4) A law of October 4, 1940, made it legal for the French police to arbitrarily arrest "any foreigner of the Jewish race." And without Nazi pressure, Vichy created a French concentration camp system out of an existing network of internment camps.

The camps had been set up by the French government before the war to hold Spanish republican soldiers fleeing the Franco regime and other foreign nationals who had claimed asylum in France. On September 10, 1939, certain males aged 18 to 50 – an age limit later extended to 65 – were interned as enemy aliens and sent to the camps; most were from Germany or Austria. A few were pro-Nazi, but the vast majority were anti-Nazis and most of these were Jews. About 12,000 Germans and 5,000 Austrians were interned, although many were released early in 1940 for French military service in companies an foreign volunteers. Thousands more interned following the Nazi breakthrough in May 1940. The French camps were primitive,
 
   
   

FRENCH CHILDREN OF THE HOLOCAUST

A memorial
Serge Klarsfeld

 
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