Apr. 12, 2019
- Book Review: Jews in France Living Under Occupation, 1940-44 – Ronald C. Rosbottom
The goal of Jacques Semelin’s careful study, The Survival of the Jews in France, 1940-44, is to show that France as a nation deserves more credit for helping save the majority of its Jewish population from death during the German occupation. There were 320,000 Jews living in France in 1940, including 135,000 immigrants. Of this total, a quarter were deported and murdered by the Nazi killing machine. But 75% survived – a stark contrast with countries such as Poland and the Netherlands, where the percentages were substantially reversed. Semelin’s thesis is that innumerable acts of “micro-resistance” and “civil resistance” created a “supportive web of social relationships” that benefited most Jews.
Semelin, professor emeritus of history at Paris’ Institut d’Etudes Politiques, holds that the Vichy government was either too inefficient or too “French” to substantially aid the Germans in their deportation of Jews, despite the fact that most Jews were arrested by the French police, not the Germans. Many Jews were spared because they had money to buy protection or freedom, but even casual anti-Semites helped individual Jews, especially children, out of hatred for the Germans or the Vichy collaborators.
But we must counter with stubborn questions. How did the authorities – German and French – still manage to murder 80,000 Jews, including 11,000 children? (Wall Street Journal)