The Survival of the Jews in France, 1940-1944 - Jacques Semelin
Between the French defeat in 1940 and liberation in 1944, the Nazis killed almost 80,000 of France’s Jews, both French and foreign. Since that time, this tragedy has been well-documented. But there are other stories hidden within it—ones neglected by historians.
In 1940, the Jewish population stood at 300,000. In other words, 75 per cent of France’s Jews escaped extermination. While 45 per cent of the Jews of Belgium perished, and in the Netherlands only 20 per cent survived, close to 90 per cent of Jewish French nationals outlived the war.
The Nazis were determined to destroy the Jews across Europe, and the Vichy regime collaborated in their deportation from France. So what is the meaning of this French exception?
Jacques Semelin sheds light on this ‘French enigma’, painting a radically unfamiliar view of occupied France. His is a rich, even-handed portrait of a complex and changing society, one where helping and informing on one’s neighbours went hand in hand; and where small gestures of solidarity sat comfortably with broader
Without shying away from the horror of the Holocaust’s crimes, this seminal work adds a fresh perspective to our history of the Second World War.
Jacques Semelin is CNRS Research Professor Emeritus of History and Political Science at CERI Sciences Po, Paris, focusing on the Holocaust and mass violence, as well as civil resistance and rescue. He is the author of the classic Unarmed Against Hitler: Civilian Resistance in Europe, 1939–1945, and Purify and Destroy: The Political Uses of Massacre and Genocide.
The Fondation pour la Mémoire de la Shoah supported the English translation of this book.