Vichy France - State Collaboration With Germany - Vichy's Racial Policies and Collaboration

Vichy's Racial Policies and Collaboration

Further information: Révolution nationale

As soon as it was established, Pétain's government took measures against the undesirables: Jews, métèques (immigrants from Mediterranean countries), Freemasons, Communists, Gypsies, homosexuals, and left-wing activists. Inspired by Charles Maurras' conception of the "Anti-France" (which he defined as the "four confederate states of Protestants, Jews, Freemasons and foreigners"), Vichy persecuted these supposed enemies.

In July 1940, Vichy set up a special Commission charged with reviewing naturalizations granted since the 1927 reform of the nationality law. Between June 1940 and August 1944, 15,000 persons, mostly Jews, were denaturalized. This bureaucratic decision was instrumental in their subsequent internment.

The internment camps already opened by the Third Republic were immediately put to new use, ultimately becoming transit camps for the implementation of the Holocaust and the extermination of all "undesirables", including the Roma people (who refer to the extermination of Gypsies as Porrajmos). A law of 4 October 1940 authorized internments of foreign Jews on the sole basis of a prefectoral order, and the first raids took place in May 1941. Vichy imposed no restrictions on black people in the Unoccupied Zone; the regime even had a mulatto cabinet minister, the Martinique-born lawyer Henry Lemery.

The Third Republic had first opened concentration camps during World War I for the internment of enemy aliens, and later used them for other purposes. Camp Gurs, for example, had been set up in southwestern France after the fall of Spanish Catalonia, in the first months of 1939, during the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939), to receive the Republican refugees, including Brigadists from all nations, fleeing the Francists. After Édouard Daladier's government (April 1938 – March 1940) took the decision to outlaw the French Communist Party (PCF) following the German-Soviet non-aggression pact (aka Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact) signed in August 1939, these camps were also used to intern French communists. Drancy internment camp was founded in 1939 for this use; it later became the central transit camp through which all deportees passed on their way to concentration and extermination camps in the Third Reich and in Eastern Europe. When the Phoney War started with France's declaration of war against Germany on 3 September 1939, these camps were used to intern enemy aliens. These included German Jews and anti-fascists, but any German citizen (or Italian, Austrian, Polish, etc.) could also be interned in Camp Gurs and others. As the Wehrmacht advanced into Northern France, common prisoners evacuated from prisons were also interned in these camps. Camp Gurs received its first contingent of political prisoners in June 1940. It included left-wing activists (communists, anarchists, trade-unionists, anti-militarists, etc.) and pacifists, but also French fascists who supported the victory of Italy and Germany. Finally, after Pétain's proclamation of the "French state" and the beginning of the implementation of the "Révolution nationale" ("National Revolution"), the French administration opened up many concentration camps, to the point that, as historian Maurice Rajsfus wrote: "The quick opening of new camps created employment, and the Gendarmerie never ceased to hire during this period."

Besides the political prisoners already detained there, Gurs was then used to intern foreign Jews, stateless persons, Gypsies, homosexuals, and prostitutes. Vichy opened its first internment camp in the northern zone on 5 October 1940, in Aincourt, in the Seine-et-Oise department, which it quickly filled with PCF members. The Royal Saltworks at Arc-et-Senans, in the Doubs, was used to intern Gypsies. The Camp des Milles, near Aix-en-Provence, was the largest internment camp in the Southeast of France; 2,500 Jews were deported from there following the August 1942 raids. Exiled Republican, antifascist Spaniards who had sought refuge in France after the recent victory in Spain of Franco's nationalist side, were then deported, and 5,000 of them died in Mauthausen concentration camp. In contrast, the French colonial soldiers were interned by the Germans on French territory instead of being deported.

Besides the concentration camps opened by Vichy, the Germans also opened some Ilags (Internierungslager), for the detainment enemy aliens, on French territory; in Alsace, which was under the direct administration of the Reich, they opened the Natzweiler camp, which was the only concentration camp created by the Nazis on French territory. Natzweiler included a gas chamber which was used to exterminate at least 86 detainees (mostly Jewish) with the aim obtaining a collection of undamaged skeletons (as this mode of execution did no damage to the skeletons themselves) for the use of Nazi professor August Hirt.

The Vichy government enacted a number of racial laws. In August 1940, laws against antisemitism in the media (the Marchandeau Act) were repealed, while the decree n°1775 September 5, 1943, denaturalized a number of French citizen], in particular Jews from Eastern Europe. Foreigners were rounded-up in "Foreign Workers Groups" (groupements de travailleurs étrangers) and, as with the colonial troops, used by the Germans as manpower. The Statute on Jews excluded them from the civil administration.

Vichy also enacted racial laws in its French territories in North Africa (Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia). "The history of the Holocaust in France's three North African colonies (Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia) is intrinsically tied to France's fate during this period."

With regard to economic contribution to the German economy it is estimated that France provided 42% of the total foreign aid.

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