Sammelrezension: Joly: L’Etat contre les juifs/Semelin: The Survival of the Jews in France

Semelin, Jaques: The Survival of the Jews in France, 1940–44.London 2018.

Joly, Laurent: L’Etat contre les juifs. Vichy, les nazis et la persécution antisémite (1940–1944). Paris 2018

Rezensiert für den Arbeitskreis Historische Friedensforschung bei H-Soz-u-Kult von: Luca Fenoglio, Stanley Burton Centre for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, University of Leicester.

In L’État contre les JuifsLaurent Joly offers an overview of Vichy’s anti-Jewish policy and collaboration in Nazi extermination policy between 1940 and 1944. In the 1980s Michael Marrus, Robert Paxton and Serge Klarsfeld explained that Vichy’s collaboration was due to its leaders’ efforts to firmly place France in the European New Order that they believed would emerge from Germany’s victory. Joly works within this analytical framework but brings one key interpretative correction. In the last thirty years historians’ understandable emphasis on Vichy’s responsibility in the arrest of over 80% of the 74,150 Jews deported between March 1942 and August 1944 (p. 144) has had the side-effect of pushing Nazi Germany’s role as initiator and stimulus to the genocide further and further into the background. Joly’s book readjusts the analytical focus by placing Vichy’s anti-Jewish policy and collaboration in the wider context of Nazi Germany’s European programme of extermination and is thus able to reveal “the interconnectedness of French and German policies” towards Jews (p. 12). As one can read in the brief introduction, from 1940 to 1944 French “antisemitic logic and the logic of collaboration intermingle[d]” (p. 13). These two forces were not equal, however. Ultimately, for Joly Nazi Germany’s antisemitism was key, not Vichy’s.

The first four chapters of the book examine the key stages of the collaboration and reveal the ways in which Germany’s decision to pursue genocide on a European scale spurred Vichy on to earn its place in the Nazi New Order. Chapter 1 discusses the genesis of Vichy’s first Statute on Jews of October 1940 (followed by a new one in June 1941), which marked the transition from a policy of systematic but covert discrimination during summer 1940 to one of outright persecution on “racial” grounds. Chapter 2 follows the development of the persecution in the German-occupied north and the Vichy-controlled south in the period before the large-scale round-ups of summer 1942. Chapter 3 dissects the preparation and implementation of the “Vel’ d’Hiv” round-up in Paris (16–17 July) and the mass arrests across the unoccupied zone (26 August), which resulted in the deportation of almost 26,000 Jews to Auschwitz (p. 215). Chapter 4 explores the continuation of collaboration up to summer 1943 when, following Italy’s surrender in September and the definitive turn in the tide of the war, Vichy began its slow but progressive disengagement from Nazi annihilation policy. This attitude was, however, countered by the SS’s increasingly aggressive policy of indiscriminate arrests with the support of diehard collaborators.

While consistent with the antisemitism embedded in Vichy’s political ideology, the progressive radicalisation of anti-Jewish policy from the initial decision to issue racial laws to the systematic spoliation of Jews’ assets (the so-called “aryanisation économique”) until the decision by secretary-general of the police René Bousquet to take charge of the arrest and delivery of tens of thousands of men, women and children to the Nazis for deportation in summer 1942 were all, in Joly’s view, first and foremost the result of Vichy’s national mission to restore full French sovereignty and prove the French State a reliable partner in a Nazified Europe (pp. 114–15).


Empfohlene Zitierweise
Luca Fenoglio: Rezension zu: Semelin, Jaques: The Survival of the Jews in France, 1940–44. London 2018/ Joly, Laurent: L’Etat contre les juifs. Vichy, les nazis et la persécution antisémite (1940–1944). Paris 2018, in: H-Soz-Kult, 21.05.2019, <>.