France

History

France was invaded by the German army in May 1940, and surrendered in June. General de Gaulle, established in London a government-in-exile, Free France, which joined the Allies and supported the Resistance. According to the armistice, France was divided into two parts: the Occupied Zone and the Free Zone. The first encapsulated Northern France and the Atlantic Coast and was placed under German military control. Southern France remained unoccupied and was placed under the control of a new French government, headed by Marshal Philippe Pétain. In response to the Allied landings in North Africa in November 1942, German and Italian forces also occupied the Southern Zone. When Italy attempted to surrender to the Allies in September 1943, the Germans took over the Italian zone of France. The liberation of France began with the Allied landings in Normandy on 6 June 1944. Two months later, on 25 August, the German forces in Paris surrendered.

In the summer of 1940, France had a total population of 40,690,000 inhabitants. Some 300,000 to 350,000 were Jewish, with 145,000 living in the Southern Zone. About half of the Jewish population were not French citizens, but Jews who had moved to France after the First World War or had come as Jewish refugees during the 1930s. Almost immediately after the occupation, Jews in both zones were subjected to a first wave of anti-Jewish measures. In the German-controlled zone, Jews were removed from their jobs, their freedom of movement was restricted, and many were arrested. At the same time, the Vichy government actively commenced persecuting Jews. In October 1940, it passed a set of anti-Jewish laws called the Statut des Juifs (Jewish Statute). In March 1941 the Vichy authorities set up a General Commissariat for Jewish Affairs (Commissariat Général aux Questions Juives). In June 1942, the Germans forced the Jews in the occupied zone to wear the Jewish badge for easy identification, began arresting large groups, and restricted the movements of the remaining community. The “round-ups” (raffles) were carried out with the full cooperation of the French police during the operation Vent Printanier in summer 1942. The most notable was the roundup of the Vélodrôme d'Hiver or Vél d’Hiv in Paris, organized and executed solely by the French police. There, about 13,000 Jews (men, women and children) were rounded up, and some 7,000 of them were jammed into the Vél d’Hiv in deplorable conditions. Many thousands of Jews were arrested and sent to transit camps, mostly to Drancy, Compiègne and Pithiviers, from where they were deported to occupied Poland. The Vichy authorities also arrested and deported approximately 7,000 Jews from their zone in the summer of 1942. Altogether, 42,500 Jews were sent to Poland during 1942. Nearly one third of them came from unoccupied France. German authorities resumed transports of Jews from France in January 1943 and continued the deportations until August 1944. In total, approximately 80,000 Jews were deported from France. Some 70,000 were sent to Auschwitz, while the others were sent to Majdanek, Sobibor and, in smaller numbers, to Buchenwald. Others died in detention on French soil. Only 2,000 of them survived.

Archival Situation

The central organisation for the conservation and consultation of public archives are the National Archives of France (Archives nationales de France). They consist of three services on a national level. The first, general one, includes the agency locations in Paris, Fontainebleau and Pierrefitte-sur-Seine. The two others are specialised and decentralised: the National Overseas Archives (Archives nationales d’Outre-Mer) in Aix-en-Provence which include material on the former French colonies, and the National Labour Archives (Archives nationales du monde du travail) in Roubaix. Territorial and municipal archives conserve their own records, as specified in the Heritage Act (articles L. 212-6 and L. 212-6-1). Municipalities with less than 2,000 inhabitants are required to transfer their archives to the Departmental Archives (Archives départementales), unless the prefect decides otherwise. France has 101 Departmental Archives. Some organisations are allowed to preserve their own archives and treat them according to the rules that apply for public archives. The most important ones are the Ministry of Defence (Ministère de la Défense), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Ministère des Affaires Etrangères), and the Paris Police Headquarters (Préfecture de Police de Paris). Access to public archives is regulated by the Heritage Act (Code du Patrimoine, plus changes in law 2008-696 of 15 July 2008). Certain files only become accessible after a period varying between 25 and 100 years after the date on the document. In addition to these public archives, France also has some private archives.

In France, Holocaust-related sources can certainly, but not exclusively, be found at the Mémorial de la Shoah, the French National and Departmental Archives (Archives nationales, Archives départementales), the archive of the Ministry of Defence, Justice and Foreign Affairs (Ministères de la Défense, de la Justice, des Affaires étrangères), the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, the Fondation pour la Mémoire de la Déportation, the ORT-archives, Cimade, the Fédération Nationale des Déportés et Internés Résistants et Patriotes, Medem, the Alliance Israélite Universelle.

EHRI Research (Summary)

EHRI has merged and updated the existing information about public and private archives in France which hold Holocaust-related materials. In October 2016, the portal contained 116 repository descriptions, including the national archives, the “archives départementales” (departmental archives), archives of the Ministries of Defence, Justice, Foreign Affairs, and several Jewish archives and institutions.

One of the most important, if not the most important, Holocaust-relevant archives in France is the Mémorial de la Shoah in Paris. The archive and documentation centre of the Mémorial, the former Centre de Documentation Juive Contemporaine (CDJC, Centre of Contemporary Jewish Documentation), consist of more than 30 million archival documents, including many originals bearing the signature of the heads of the Third Reich and those responsible for the deportation of the Jews from France. Since 24 December 2015, the French government opened all access to the judicial archives concerning the Vichy regime, collaborationists and the purge during the liberation of France. These historical documents are contained in the archive collections listed there which can be consulted in the reading room of the Documentation Centre. An archival catalogue is available online (not including data relating to the privacy of individuals mentioned).

EHRI Research (Extensive)

A. EHRI approach to France: Pre-existing research (and third-party surveys), available archival guides, expert support

For its identification and investigation work, EHRI was able to rely on its consortium partner Mémorial de la Shoah, and in particular on Karen Taïeb (head of the archives), Cécile Lauvergeon and Ariel Sion (archives and library department).

Two helpful online research tools were identified:

  • Guide des Archives de la Shoah, on the website of the Mémorial de la Shoah (Paris). The guide is based on the traditional overview Centre de Documentation Juive Contemporaine, Guide européen des sources d'archives sur la Shoah (European guide of archival sources on the Shoah), Paris, 1999, Vol.1, 194p. that covers Holocaust-related archives in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Serbia, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
  • A French project called “Territoire et Trajectoire de la Déportation”, which provides geo-mapping on the deportation of Jews from France. The project currently presents two maps: the ‘Carthographie des enfants juifs de Paris déportés de juillet 1942 à août 1944’ (Map of Jewish children deported from Paris between July 1942 and August 1944) and the same map covering the whole of France.

B. Characteristics of France’s archival system and specific challenges

The central organisation for the conservation and consultation of public archives are the National Archives of France (Archives nationales de France). They consist of three services on a national level. The first, general one, includes the agency locations in Paris, Fontainebleau and Pierrefitte-sur-Seine. The two others are specialised and decentralised: the National Overseas Archives (Archives nationales d’Outre-Mer) in Aix-en-Provence which include material on the former French colonies, and the National Labour Archives (Archives nationales du monde du travail) in Roubaix. Territorial and municipal archives conserve their own records, as specified in the Heritage Act (articles L. 212-6 and L. 212-6-1). Municipalities with less than 2,000 inhabitants are required to transfer their archives to the Departmental Archives (Archives départementales), unless the prefect decides otherwise. France has 101 Departmental Archives.

Some organisations are allowed to preserve their own archives, and treat them according to the rules that apply for public archives. The most important ones are the Ministry of Defence (Ministère de la Défense), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Ministère des Affaires Etrangères), and the Paris Police Headquarters (Préfecture de Police de Paris). Access to public archives is regulated by the Heritage Act (Code du Patrimoine, plus changes in law 2008-696 of 15 July 2008). Certain files only become accessible after a period varying between 25 and 100 years after the date on the document.

C. EHRI identification and description results on France

C. I. In France

EHRI has merged and updated the existing information about archives holding Holocaust-relevant materials in France. The portal currently contains 116 repository descriptions, including the national archives, the “archives départementales” (departmental archives), archives of the Ministries of Defence, Justice, Foreign Affairs, and several Jewish archives and institutions.

One of the most, if not the most important, archive on the subject in France, is the Mémorial de la Shoah in Paris. The archive and documentation centre of the Mémorial, the former Centre de Documentation Juive Contemporaine (CDJC, Centre of Contemporary Jewish Documentation), consist of more than 30 million archival documents, including many originals bearing the signature of the heads of the Third Reich and of those responsible for the deportation of the Jews from France. These historical documents are contained in the archive collections listed below which can be consulted in the reading room of the Documentation Centre. An archival catalogue is available online (not including data relating to the privacy of individuals mentioned). The Mémorial’s collections include German, French and other source collections.

The German sources include records from the Headquarters of the Militärbefehlshaber in Frankreich (MBF). The MBF, or German military administration in France, which is divided into two major sections:

  1. Archives of the military command, which cover the collaboration between the occupation authorities and the Pétain government in general, the persecution of the Jews and the general reprisal policy,
  2. Archives of the administrative command, which include the documents dealing with the control of the occupation authorities over the French economy (interference, spoliations, in particular economic aryanisation).
    • German Embassy in Paris, which was very actively involved in the anti-Jewish measures as can be attested by the numerous telegrams and letters sent several times per day to Berlin by Abetz and Schleier (Plenipotentiary Minister at the German embassy in Paris),
    • The Gestapo in occupied France: the most important group of archives analysed is made up of the records of the Anti-Jewish division of the Gestapo in Paris. This group includes letters, telegrams, and reports on internments, deportations and other measures taken against the Jews, such as wearing the yellow star, rescinding naturalisations as well as general reprisals. There are also documents showing the pressure exerted on Italy's policy in the Italian occupied zone. This group also contains documents on the Gestapo in France preserved in the German federal archives (Bundesarchiv Koblenz). These records give us a true picture of the structures and the activity of the Gestapo in France and in particular in the anti-Jewish division, first directed by Dannecker then by Rothke.

The “Archives of the Nuremberg Trials” contain a part of the documentation collected for the investigations of the international military trial as well as the trials conducted by the American military court. For this major group of archives, a specific classification system is used. The main subdivisions are as follows:

  • NO (Nazi Organisation): this reference includes the documents from any Nazi organisation, in particular on the role of the S.S., and the WVHA (Central Office of the Economy and the Administration of the S.S.).
  • NOKW (Nazi "Oberkommando der Wehrmacht"): documents concerning the activities of the German army.
  • NG (Nazi Government): documents illustrating the activity of the State bodies related to those of the Party.
  • NI (Nazi Industry): documents related to industry and the financial institutions of the Third Reich.

The French source collections at the Mémorial include:

  • The archives of the General Commissariat for Jewish Questions, or Archives du Commissariat Général aux Questions Juives (CGQJ), with more than 20,000 documents, including the trial proceedings against its leaders.
  • The archives of Professor Montandon, an ethnologist and "expert on racial issues" with the CGQJ. This piecemeal collection covers the period 1924 to 1944 and primarily concerns his ethnological scientific work and his anti-Jewish propaganda activities from 1938 onwards.
  • The archives of the Institut d'Etude des Questions Juives, a body created in 1941 under the instigation of Dannecker and of which the Mémorial holds the major portion of the surviving documents. The collection includes the correspondence of the Secretary General and describes all the activities of the Institute.

Furthermore, the archives of the Mémorial contain many other documents from the Service of the Armistice, the Prefecture of the Police but also Jewish organisations such as: l'Oeuvre de Secours aux Enfants (O.S.E.), les Eclaireurs Israélites de France (E.I.F.) la Fédération des Sociétés Juives de France (F.S.J.F.), Le Conseil Représentatif des Institutions Juives de France (C.R.I.F.), l'Oeuvre de Protection de L'Enfance Juive (O.P.E.J.), la Commission Centrale de l'Enfance (C.C.E.). Also, many private collections have been donated to the Mémorial.

In the course of the EHRI project, Mémorial de la Shoah was changing its database system. Therefore data integration was not possible in the early stage of the project. Moreover, the describing system of the Mémorial was two-fold: a very general description of its holdings on its website and an item description for internal use. Neither of these met EHRI's specifications of top-level collection descriptions. Therefore, Mémorial de la Shoah started by describing the heart of its collections in French and English. The metadata which were ready have been integrated into the EHRI portal. These data can be further updated and expanded in due course.

In addition to the Mémorial de la Shoah, the EHRI team has provided detailed repository descriptions for several other archives.

C .II. In other countries

The USHMM (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum) holds many copies of many different French archival institutions; Furthermore, the NARA (National Archives and Records Administration) in Maryland/USA possesses all the archives regarding the U.S. embassy in France from 1936 – 1941 and 1944-1953 in “Records of the Foreign Service Posts of the Department of State.” In Germany, Bundesarchiv holds a number of relevant collections, as does the Politisches Archiv des Auswärtigen Amts and the Institut für Zeitgeschichte. In Israel and Russia, Yad Vashem and the RGVA hold records and copies from various organisations and offices in France.