FRENCH CHILDREN OF THE HOLOCAUST

A memorial
Serge Klarsfeld  

 
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verminous, and often short of food. Many prisoners died in them.

Vichy also reacted to German pressure. At Dannecker's urging, French officials took a census of Jews in occupied territories at the end of 1940; Jews in the Unoccupied Zone were counted after the publication of a second law on the status of Jews (June 1941), which broadened the definition of a Jew. Again under pressure from the Germans, the Vichy government set up the Commissariat General aux Questions Juives (CGQJ), which was, in effect, a ministry of Jewish affairs. A special police for Jewish affairs and a Jewish umbrella organization similar to those created in other occupied countries, the Union Générale des Israelites de France (UGIF), also were established.

The first mass arrests of Jews were made in Paris in May 1941; 3,733 men, most of them Polish Jews, were seized and sent to Pithiviers and Beaune-la-Rolande, two camps in the Loiret Department, near Orléans. Another roundup took place in the streets of Paris on August 20, 1941; 4,078 men, including more than a thousand French Jews, were sent to Drancy, a suburb northeast of Paris, where a camp was set up under abominable conditions in an unfinished apartment complex. On December 12, 1941, another 700 French Jews were arrested and sent to a camp at Compiègne, where conditions were the same. All of these camps were in the Occupied Zone.

The first deportation of Jews from France to the Auschwitz concentration camp, in Polish territory annexed by Germany, took place March 27, 1942, allegedly in retaliation against terrorist attacks. Four more convoys left in June, and at a meeting in Berlin on June 11 plans were made to arrest Jews on a wider scale. Heinrich Himmler, chief of the SS and German police, had reinforced his police forces in France and had appointed a high ranking officer, SS General Karl Oberg, to command all German SS and police units in France. Helmut Knochen, head of the SiPo SD, was concerned with keeping peace in France to guarantee France's collaboration with the war effort.

Premier Laval, who had been replaced by Admiral François Darlan in December 1940, had returned to power in April 1942 with a program of deepened collaboration. His new Commissioner for Jewish Questions, Louis Darquier de Pellepoix, was a fanatic anti Semite, and his Secretary General (chief) of the National Police, René Bousquet, was anxious to reach an agreement with the Germans to reinforce Vichy's control of French police in the Occupied Zone. The price paid by Bousquet was a French police commitment to pursue the Reich's and Vichy's common enemies – Jews, Communists, and Gaullists. Dannecker intended to deport both French and non-French Jews aged 16 to 45 in this phase of deportations. However, he was already planning to deport Jewish children whenever he could persuade Berlin to approve it.

But the French government refused to arrest Jews holding French citizenship in either zone and seemed unwilling to let French police make the arrests demanded by the Germans in the Occupied Zone. Dannecker was furious. Eichmann arrived in Paris on June 30, 1942, but his plans to deport Jews who were French citizens were abandoned the following day by Knochen, the realist. Knochen feared Vichy would prevent its police forces from cooperating in occupied territory;
    
   

FRENCH CHILDREN OF THE HOLOCAUST

A memorial
Serge Klarsfeld

 
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