Frequently Asked Questions

  • 1 - What exactly is meant by the Shoah and what historical period does it refer to?

    Shoah is a Hebrew word which means catastrophe.  It is used to describe the genocide of the Jews by the Nazis during the Second World War.

    The word Shoah covers the genocide stricto sensu, that is a period from the beginning of the massacres in the summer of 1941, until the end of the war in Europe in the spring of 1945, when European Jews ceased to be in danger.

    However the persecution of European Jews began long before that, with humiliation and violence day after day, legal and social exclusion, and also spoliation which started in the very few weeks following the Nazis taking power in Germany on January 30, 1933.

  • 2 - How many Jews were assassinated during the Shoah?

    Today, historians who have studied the Shoah estimate the number of Jewish victims to be around five to six million. It is not possible to be absolutely precise because the Nazis did not keep a systematic count of the assassinations and gassings they committed. This was particularly the case in Poland and Russia where the largest Jewish communities in Europe lived before the war, and where many Jews died, either in the ghettos or executed by the Einsatzgruppen or in the killing centers.

    More precise figures exist for some countries. For instance in France, the deportation lists left in the archives by the Nazis provide a basis for calculation. Nearly 76,000 Jews from France were deported to the killing centers but to this figure must be added the Jews who died for resistance activities on French soil or shot as hostages in concentration camps, or again those who died in French internment camps, so altogether nearly 80,000.

    • According to the American historian Raul Hilberg, 5,100,000 Jewish victims died during the Shoah. He gives the following breakdown:
      Died in the ghettos: 800,000
    • Died by execution (Einsatzgruppen): 1,300,000
    • Died in extermination camps: 2,700,000
    • Died in concentration camps: 300,000

    The Washington Holocaust Museum estimates the number of Jewish victims at over 5,860,000.
    In any event, the figure of approximately six million victims is put forward and accepted by most competent authorities.
    In fact, 50% of the European Jews were assassinated and 40% of global Jewry, which at the time was mainly European.

  • 3 - How many Jewish victims of the Shoah were there in each country?

    According to “The Encyclopedia of the Holocaust” the number of Jewish victims per country was as follows:

    Austria: 50,000, i.e. 27% of the Jewish population in 1939.
    Belgium: 28,900, i.e. 44%
    Bulgaria: 0
    Bohemia/Moravia: 78,150, i.e. 66.1%
    Denmark: 60, i.e. 0.7%
    Estonia: 2000, i.e. 44.4%
    Finland: 7, i.e. 0.3%
    France: 77,320, i.e. 22.1%
    Germany: 141,500, i.e. 25%
    Greece: 67,000, i.e. 86.6%
    Hungary: 569,000, i.e. 69%
    Italy: 7680, i.e. 17.3%
    Latvia: 71,500, i.e. 78.1%
    Lithuania: 143,000, i.e. 85.1%
    Luxembourg: 1950, i.e. 55.7%
    Netherlands: 100,000, i.e. 71.4%
    Norway: 762, i.e. 44.8%
    Poland: 3,000,000, i.e. 90.9%
    Romania: 287,000, i.e. 47.1%
    Slovakia: 71,000, i.e. 79.8%
    USSR: 1,100,000, i.e. 36.4%
    Yugoslavia: 63,300, i.e. 81.2%

  • What is a death camp? A killing center? A concentration camp? An internment camp in France?

    Extermination camps. Death camps. Killing centers.
    A large number of books on the subject and also primary and secondary school textbooks use the term “extermination camps” to describe the places where European Jews were gassed.
    There were six such camps, all of them on Polish territory in 1939 which later became territory under the rule of the Third Reich:

    • Auschwitz-Birkenau
    • Belzec
    • Chelmno
    • Majdanek
    • Sobibor
    • Treblinka

    These camps were built for the destruction of the Jewish population in Europe. The historian Raul Hilberg prefers the term “killing centers” which he considers to be a more accurate description. Apart from Auschwitz-Birkenau and Majdanek which were mixed camps, meaning that some of the detainees were kept there to be used as forced labor, the other four (Belzec, Chelmno, Sobibor and Treblinka) were built solely for the purpose of installing gas chambers or gas vans; only a few dozen resident prisoners were charged with the task of processing the dead victims (collecting and sorting clothes, cleaning the gas chambers, cremation, etc.). In the circumstances, camp is hardly the right word since deportees were gassed immediately upon arrival and never stayed for any length of time.

    Concentration camps
    The concentration camps were created as soon as the Nazis took power in Germany in 1933. Dachau, near Munich, was the first to open in March 1933. Originally they were supposed to “reeducate” opponents to the regime and people who were considered to be antisocial through hard labor.  When war started, many more camps were set up on German territory to take in members of the resistance and opponents to the regime from all over Europe. The principle of death by forced labor in the service of Germany then became the rule.

    Internment camps in France
    The first internment camps in France were established to take in the Spanish Republican refugees in 1938. They soon held Germans and Austrians, most of whom had sought asylum in France because they were anti-Nazi or Jewish but were considered to be enemy aliens by the French authorities. A number of them were later handed over to the Nazis by the Vichy government following the fall of France in May-June 1940.

    Starting in the spring of 1941, the first Jewish men rounded up in Paris were sent to these internment camps. After that and up until the liberation of France, over 75,000, men, women and children, were held in these camps after being arrested in the major roundups such as the Vélodrome d’Hiver (July 16-17, 1942) and Marseilles (January 21, 1943) or individual arrests. They were then deported in cattle cars to the killing centers in Poland.

    The great majority of convoys leaving France (77 convoys) left from Drancy in the Paris area (67 convoys) which thus became the antechamber of death. Pithiviers, Beaune-la-Rolande and Compiègne were the main French internment camps in which detainees waited to be deported but were not put to work.

  • 5 - What does the expression "Final Solution" mean and where does it come from?

    The term “Final solution to the Jewish question” (in German: “Endlösung den Judenfrage”) refers to the Nazi plan for destruction of the Jews. The expression is deliberately nebulous since the Nazis wanted to conceal the reality of their plan, the actions of the “Einsatzgruppen” and of the organizers of deportation by using selective and vague wording.  It was used at the Wannsee conference by the Nazi dignitaries. This “Final Solution”, a Nazi priority, targeted the eleven million Jews in Europe. The plan included their arrest, transfer to the East where those who were not eliminated “naturally”, that is by forced labor and deprivation, would be given “appropriate treatment”, in other words gassed in gas chambers or vans. Historians hold divergent views on what made Hitler and the Nazis decide to exterminate European Jews under the cover of this selective vocabulary. The debate between “intentionalists” and “functionalists” which raged between historians in the 70s and 80s now seems out of date. The intentionalists considered that the will to exterminate European Jews was clearly stated in long-established, deliberate and programmed plans which Hitler had made public when he rose to power in 1933. For the functionalists, the theory is that it was the start of conflict in the USSR which changed the nature of the war. It then became a war of total annihilation, escalating through radicalization into the decision to program “the final solution to the Jewish question”.

    Today however, although the intentionalist theory is no longer held in much regard, some historians see in the origins of exclusive German nationalism the favorable ground in which blossomed biological anti-Semitism bent on eradication as early as the end of the 19th century. It is in this fertile soil, in circumstances related to war in the East, that the decision to implement the “Final Solution” was taken.

  • 6 - When was the "Final Solution" decided and when did it begin?

    The “Final Solution” seems to have been decided during the summer of 1941 at the time when the first major massacres in the East took place.  According to recent studies, the decision came soon after the invasion of the USSR by German troops.  Although European Jews had been persecuted, expelled and put to death haphazardly until June 1941, once war had started in the East, massacres became systematic and marked the beginning of the “Final Solution”.

    Christopher Browning maintains that Hitler decided on extermination during the summer of 1941 buoyed by the rapid success of his offensive in the East. Philippe Burin, on the contrary, insists that Hitler had come to understand during the summer of 1941 that his plan for a lightning victory in the East was doomed to failure. Hitler was faced with the prospect of a long war, which he then rationalized as a war of the Reich against a global coalition (United States, USSR, United Kingdom) inspired by “international Jewry”, who should be made to pay as soon as possible for the blood already shed and to be shed later by German soldiers. It was at this point that Hitler is believed to have decided to exterminate European Jews.

    The “Final Solution” was first handed over to special groups who were to follow the advances of German forces in the East: the Einsatzgruppen. Later and in parallel, starting in December 1941, gas vans began to operate in the Belzec killing center in Poland. In 1942, the six killing centers were running at full capacity.

  • 7 - What difference was there between persecution of the Jews and persecution of other groups the Nazis viewed as enemies of the Third Reich?

    The Jews were the single group designated for systematic extermination by the Nazis.  Anyone they designated as a member of this group was in danger of death throughout the Nazi-dominated world, whatever the personal circumstances (man, woman, child, old and sick, handicapped, etc.). The Gypsies (Roma) were also victims of mass eradication, but not systematically throughout the Nazi-occupied territories.

    The families of other groups classified as enemies of the Reich by the Nazis were not threatened for the sole reason that they belonged to a given, defined group. Families of opponents were not liable to be sent to concentration or extermination camps.  Furthermore, among such groups, most people had chosen themselves to become enemies of the Nazis through military or political action.  The Jews were guilty by their very nature; others were viewed as guilty because of their commitment or actions.

  • 8 - What did the German people know about the persecution and extermination of the Jews?

    Persecution of the Jews became public policy in Germany as soon as the Nazis came to power. For example, the boycott of Jewish shops launched on April 1, 1933 was known to the whole of German society. The Nuremberg racial laws enacted in 1935 excluding Jews from German society were published and implemented openly. The pogrom of the Night of Broken Glass on November 9-10, 1938, was the scene of the arrest of 30,000 people, the death of several dozen, the destruction of hundreds of places of worship and synagogues.
    Wearing the yellow star badge was made compulsory in September 1941 and rounding up Germans of the Jewish faith or of Jewish origin in certain buildings was visible and known to all.

    The Nazis did try to conceal the “Final Solution” behind a deliberately nebulous designation.  We can believe that for a large number of Germans, the Jews who had disappeared from German society had probably been sent eastwards to be resettled or to work and that their exact fate was not very clear. However, it does seem very likely that large sections of German public opinion had some information about what was happening. Professor Victor Klemperer, despite being shut away in his apartment, cut off from any source of information and contact with German society, mentions Auschwitz in his diary on March 16, 1942, and adds that atrocities are being committed there.

    There were a number of workers of the Reichsbahn (German railways) who were driving the death convoys or saw them go past, the employees of numerous administrative services dealing with these matters, not to mention the actors themselves: policemen of the Ordnung Polizei tasked with butchering the Jewish populations of Poland and Russia, members of the Einsatzgruppen. Altogether, there were many people who knew and many must have spoken of what was happening to those around them. For that matter, it is very interesting to note the reactions of members of the clergy, in particular protests by C.A. von Galen, Bishop of Münster, which as soon as they were voiced officially, succeeded in bringing to a stop the T4 program for eliminating the handicapped and antisocials.

  • 9 - Were the people of occupied Europe aware of the special treatment reserved for the Jews? How did they react? Did they collaborate with the Nazis against the Jews?

    The behavior of people in Europe occupied by Nazi Germany in the face of the persecution and deportation of Jews differed widely and it is very difficult to describe exhaustively these various attitudes. In every country, there were some people who elected to be zealous auxiliaries to the Nazis in their efforts to track down Jews with action that ranged from denunciation to active participation within police units or activist organizations. But there were also many people who helped Jews.

    Although the Jews lived in different circumstances in various countries, in every occupied country Nazi Germany was able to secure effective collaboration to assist in its policies of discrimination, persecution and deportation. This was particularly true in Eastern Europe where an age-old anti-Semitic tradition encouraged collaboration in the pursuit of annihilation of European Jewry.
    The Jews of Eastern Europe suffered much more than elsewhere from active collaboration on the part of local population. The poignant accounts regarding the situation of Jews in Poland, in particular Calel Perechodnik’s extraordinary testimony, show to what extent part of the Polish population was satisfied with the plight of the Jews.

    Furthermore, Jews in that region were exterminated on the spot, in the plain view of the whole population who were well aware of what was happening to the Jews. The Nazis were even served by auxiliary forces, Balts in particular, and local anti-Semitic movements, for example the Romanian Iron Guard and the Hungarian Arrow-Cross participated in anti Jewish actions. Elsewhere in Europe, in particular Western Europe, people were less informed about the details of the “Final Solution”.

    However, it must be emphasized that in all occupied Europe, individuals saved thousands of people at the peril of their own life by hiding, protecting or helping them to flee. Groups engaged in assistance and resistance such as Zegota in Poland, the resistance in Assisi in Italy or the Joop Westerweel group in the Netherlands also helped Jews to escape from the slaughter.

  • 10 - What did the Allies and people in the free world know?

    The declared anti-Semitism of the Nazi regime was known and obvious very early on in the United States and in Europe.  The media reported on it extensively.

    Once war was declared and the “Final Solution” under way, the Nazis did not allow as much information to seep out.  However, less than a year after the systematic destruction of European Jewry began, information began to filter through.

    The first report to be explicit regarding a systematic plan of mass murder of Jews was smuggled out of Poland by the Bund activists (Socialist Jewish labor union) and into England in the spring of 1942.  In the summer of 1942, Gerhart Riegner, representative of the World Jewish Congress in Geneva, sent a cable to the British and American governments which confirmed the previous report.

    Furthermore, messages from Richard Lichtheim (1885-1963), representative of the Jewish Agency in Switzerland, to the Vatican and various Allied governments informed them of dramatic developments. It was not until the end of 1942, that multiple confirmations put an end to lingering doubts. The American government then confirmed to American Jewish authorities the contents of various reports from Eastern Europe sent out by governments in exile for example. Jan Karski, emissary of the Polish resistance, had managed to infiltrate the Warsaw ghetto, and met with the highest authorities to tell them what was happening.

    The British Air Force even took some photographs of the Birkenau extermination camp in which the smoke from the crematoria chimneys was clearly visible. The Allied powers adopted a joint declaration on December 17, 1942, denouncing the massacres of the Jews.  The House of Commons observed a minute of silence to honor the victims.
    In fact, most of the facts regarding extermination of the Jews were known to the Allies as early as 1942.

  • 11 - How did the Allies react to the persecution of the Jews?

    The Allied response to the persecution and annihilation of European Jews was never proportionate to the gravity of the situation.
    Before war was declared, tens of thousands of Jews tried to flee Nazi Germany.  Between 1933 and 1937, 150,000 German Jews left Germany, including 20,000 to 30,000 who went to France, where soon they were no longer admitted. Another 27,000 went to the United States which was still entrenched behind the national quota policy.

    The United Kingdom, sticking to the 1939 White Paper, did not intend to open up Palestine to Jewish immigration for fear of Arab hostility.

    The 1938 Evian conference, called by President Roosevelt, aimed to find host countries for refugees fleeing the Nazis.  Countries invited to Evian by the United States and the United Kingdom held the view that none of them would need to modify their laws on immigration. The conference therefore ended in failure and despite the creation of the ICR (Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees), Jews wanting to leave Germany and Europe were left stranded.

    During the conflict itself, a single declaration condemning atrocities committed by the Nazis against the Jews was made by the Allies on December 17, 1942.

    The Bermuda conference (April 1943) convened by the United States and the United Kingdom aimed to harmonize Allied policies and to discuss the refugee problem.  Although delegations expressed compassion, no concrete decision was taken and countries did not relax their immigration policies.  The conference did not lead to any agreement on the rescue of European Jews and therefore only confirmed their status as a lost cause. Faced with this attitude of indifference, the Bund leader, a member of the Polish government in exile, Samuel Zygelbojm, committed suicide in London on May 12, 1943, hoping that his action would alert the free world. In fact, the United States and the United Kingdom were never ready to take on the possible migratory consequences of a rescue plan.
    In January 1944, the War Refugee Board was created with the purpose of helping victims of Nazi persecution.  Its activities, mainly financed by private donations from American Jews, consisted in sending parcels and rescuing people when that was possible.

    Concrete steps could have been taken, such as bombing the killing centers that the Allies knew about.  But they refused to bomb the Auschwitz-Birkenau camps, nor even the railway lines leading to it, although they knew of the existence of the camp and its location, thanks in particular to aerial photographs taken by the Royal Air Force.  Factories close to the various camps in the complex were bombed.  Nothing was ever attempted to specifically rescue the Jewish population, none of the killing centers were ever attacked and liberation of the camps was never a military objective.
    In fact, the Allies had no intention of devoting specific diplomatic efforts to the Jewish question, or of allocating either military personnel or logistics.

  • The Allied response to the persecution and annihilation of European Jews was never proportionate to the gravity of the situation.

    The Nazis tried to keep the intentions of the “Final Solution” secret and avoided any overt mention of the subject.

    Everything was done to deceive the victims so as to prevent and avoid the risk of resistance.  Deportation convoys were always referred to as “movement of population” and “transfer to the East” and they were told that their situation in the East would be preferable to their living conditions in Polish ghettos or that they were going away to work. As soon as they arrived in the camps, some of the detainees were even forced to write home to family or friends to describe the pleasant conditions in which they now were going to live.

    Moreover, the fact that human beings could design and construct buildings for the purpose of mass murder on an unprecedented scale seemed unimaginable and inconceivable.  In the circumstances, the rare individuals who managed to escape from convoys or even camps got very little attention if any at all. Another factor was that the Jewish communities of Europe were very isolated from each other and information circulated only with the greatest difficulty.

  • 13 - How many Jews got away from Europe before the Shoah began?

    It is particularly difficult to provide exact figures and only approximations can be put forward regarding the number of Jews who were able to escape from Europe before the war started.

    From 1933 to 1939, the number of German and Austrian Jews who fled their country is estimated at over 350,000.  Some of them went to countries that were later occupied by the Nazis (Anne Frank’s family was an example). Almost 20,000 went to Shanghai where no entrance visa was required. During that same time frame, a little over 80,000 Polish Jews immigrated to Palestine and over 50,000 European Jews went to Latin America (Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay). In 1938-1939, 35,000 Jews from Bohemia-Moravia emigrated after the advent of the Nazi protectorate.

    It is however impossible to draw up precise migratory statistics because many countries are unable to provide specific figures on the community or faith to which migrants of that period belonged.
    In 1940, 11 million European Jews were under the threat of the Nazis.

  • 14 - Who was involved in the "Final Solution"?

    The Jews and only the Jews were concerned by the “Final Solution”, as is made clear by the expression used by the Nazis: “Die Endlösung den Judenfrage”, meaning “the final solution to the Jewish question”.

    For the Nazis, according to definitions enacted on November 14, 1935 following the adoption of the Nuremberg racial laws on September 15, 1935, “for the protection of German blood and German honor”, individuals with at least three Jewish grandparents were considered Jewish; or with two grand-parents if they were themselves of the Jewish faith or were married to a Jew or were born of a marriage or of an extra-marital relationship between a Jew and a non-Jew after September 15, 1935.

    In France, the Vichy government defined membership of the “Jewish race” in two status documents.
    The law was enacted on October 3, 1940 and stated in article 1 that “is considered Jewish any person with three Jewish grandparents or two grandparents of the same race if his/her spouse is also Jewish”.

    The second status document dated June 2, 1941 modified the definition and broadened it.  Article 1 stated that is considered Jewish “Any person, of any religious persuasion or without one, who is the descendant of at least three grandparents of the Jewish race.  Is considered as a member of the Jewish race a grandparent who had observed the Jewish faith”.

    Article 2 aggravates the previous paragraph by adding that “is considered Jewish: he or she who is of Jewish faith, or who was so on June 25, 1940, and who is the descendant of two grandparents of the Jewish race.  Non-Jewish faith is established by proof of membership to one or another of the other religions recognized by the State before the law dated December 9, 1905.  Actions of disavowal or annulment of recognition of a child defined as Jewish are without effect as regards the measures above”.

  • 15 - Did the Jews try to fight the Nazis or defend themselves?

    Despite the great hardship suffered by Jews trying to survive in occupied Europe, many did engage in armed combat against the Nazis. There were different kinds of conflict and commitment, due in particular to the personality of the combatants but also to the different circumstances they were living in.

    Jews who were already active members of political parties joined in the struggle their own party was waging. This was for example the case in France where many communist members of the FTP-MOI (Francs-tireurs et partisans – Main d’oeuvre immigrée, a movement of immigrant workers) were shot by the Germans. Among them, Rayman, Wasjbrot, Elek, Fingerweig and other young members of the Affiche Rouge movement who had become active resistance fighters as early as 1942. In fact, Jews who were members of political parties acted in accordance with the policy laid down by the clandestine leadership of their party.

    Groups of Jewish partisans were active in a number of regions throughout occupied Europe, particularly in the East, for example at Baranovichi, Minsk, Naliboki forest and Vilnius. In France, in the period between the autumn of 1943 and the spring of 1944, Robert Gamzon organized the EIF maquis (Eclaireurs Israélites de France, Jewish Scouts of France) whose clandestine activity was intense. They organized a fighter group in the Tarn department called Marc Haguenau, after the name of the Secretary General of the EIF assassinated by the Gestapo in 1944.
    A maquis of the Jewish Army, part of the free fighters of the Montagne Noire was called “Peloton Trumpeldor”. These two maquis fought side by side for the liberation of south-west France. So, although these groups of Jewish resistance fighters in occupied Europe did not always play a very significant military role, their resistance activities contributed to rescuing a number of Jews, and caused perhaps limited although significant losses to the Germans whose pride was occasionally injured by the fact that the Jews, a people they saw as a race of slaves, could actually fight back, cause them losses and die fighting.

    And so it happened that the Nazis were surprised by the insurrection of the Warsaw ghetto which began on April 19, 1943, and lasted five weeks. This is the finest example of Jewish armed resistance. The uprising was not an isolated case as a number of ghettos rose in rebellion.
    The Jewish resistance was also active at the very site built for their destruction. There were revolts in the killing centers: Treblinka (August 2, 1943), Sobibor (October 14, 1943) and Birkenau (October 7, 1944).  Every time, extermination ceased shortly afterwards in each of these centers.  There were also uprisings in Janowska camp, near Lvov (November 19, 1943) and at Babi Yar (September 29, 1943).

  • 16 - What were the "Judenräte" (Jewish Councils)?

    Created on September 21, 1939, following a decision by the head of the RSHA (Reich Security) Reinhard Heydrich, the “Judenräte” were Jewish councils designated by the Nazis in each ghetto or Jewish community of occupied Poland. They were run by the local Jewish notables and were in charge of not just the administration of the ghettos but also and above all of applying the Nazi decrees concerning the Jews.  In the circumstances, the “Judenräte” were in the most uncomfortable position possible in the eyes of the people they were in charge of. They were under constant pressure from the Nazis threatening to deport or kill the inhabitants of the ghettos or even the families of the members of the “Judenräte”, so that they were obliged to accept the demands of the Germans in order to try and save who or what they thought might yet be saved. Some of them behaved in a controversial fashion, such as for instance Mordechai Rumkowski in Lodzor, Jacob Gens in Vilno. This ambiguity in the role of the “Judenräte” was the subject of widely published disputes between philosophers Hannah Arendt and Gershom Sholem. In the book that H.Arendt wrote on the Eichmann trial, she accused the “Judenräte” of collaborating with the Nazis to slaughter European Jews. In fact, there is reason to believe today, without any attempt at denying the existence of obvious abuses and excesses, that many of those in charge within the “Judenräte” did their best, in the eye of the storm, to save as many lives as they could.  Their total helplessness in the face of the Nazi machine of destruction now seems very obvious but even then, was felt by many of the “Judenräte” themselves. Hillel Seidmann, for instance, in his testimony, gives us a clear impression of a steamroller which no one could resist. On July 22, 1942, the head of the Warsaw Judenrat, Adam Czerniakow, was given orders to deliver 6000 Jews a day for deportation, failing which the Nazis threatened to execute immediately 100 hostages, including Czerniakow’s own wife. After unsuccessful attempts to save children in orphanages, he chose to commit suicide. In the message he left for his wife, he explained: “I can no longer bear all this. My act will prove to everyone that it is the only thing to do”. On that same day began the mass deportation of Warsaw Jews to the Treblinka killing center.

  • 17 - Did international organizations like the Red Cross help the victims of Nazi persecution?

    Throughout the Second World War, that is, between September 1939, and the summer of 1944, the Red Cross did little to help Jewish victims of Nazi persecution.
    From September 1939 to June 1941, the German Red Cross sent food parcels to people in need. People imprisoned in the Polish ghettos were not allowed to receive these parcels since the Nazis considered them a threat to the security of the Reich and the German Red Cross obeyed Nazi orders.

    Nor did the Red Cross take any particular action when the “Final Solution” was launched. They tried to continue sending parcels but made no official protest regarding the imprisonment and slaughter of European Jews. Since the Red Cross was a non-governmental charitable organization, Jewish bodies worldwide, in particular from the United States, questioned their attitude. The Red Cross replied that it could not risk taking action or making protests as they were being requested to do, since the result could be a deterioration of the plight of European Jews.

    Not before the summer of 1944 did the Red Cross send an appeal to Marshal Horthy, the Regent of Hungary, asking him to stop the deportation of Hungarian Jews which had been continuing for quite some time. This followed in the footsteps of the American President F.D. Roosevelt and King Gustav V of Sweden, who had written to Horthy personally.
    A little time before that, the Red Cross had obtained permission to visit the Theresienstadt camp in Bohemia. It was following the arrival in that camp of Jews from Denmark on October 5, 1943, that the Danish and Swedish Red Cross enquired about the fate of deported people. The Nazis therefore decided to accept their request to visit without revealing the real situation. Under the orders of the camp commander, SS Colonel Karl Rahm, the camp was renovated and over 7500 Jews were deported to reduce crowding, including hundreds of orphans and sick people that the Red Cross was not to be allowed to see.

    On the day of the visit, nine months after the first request had been made, on June 23, 1944, the Nazis had finally completed all their preparations so that the Red Cross representatives were treated to the sight of bakers making bread, stalls of fresh vegetables and happy workers. They even staged a show for the benefit of the delegation. As a result, the Red Cross produced a report that raised protest from Jewish organizations.
    In the weeks following the visit, the families detained at Therensienstatdt were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau and assassinated.

  • 18 - What were the Nuremberg trials?

    After the war, there were in fact not one, but two series of trials to judge the Nazi criminals. The Nuremberg Tribunal was set up on August 8, 1945, by the London quadripartite (United Kingdom, USSR, United States and France) agreement.

    The first series of trials opened on November 20, 1945 and lasted until October 1, 1946. The International Military Tribunal was composed of representatives from France, the U.K., the USSR and France. The 22 Nazis who were members of the party, of the German armed forces or of the German state and who had been captured by the Allies were put on trial. These men were to answer for four kinds of crime: “common plan or conspiracy”; “crimes against peace”, that is decide, prepare, or organize war; “war crimes”, that is violation of the rules of war by having for example executed prisoners of war and acted against the Geneva Convention; “crimes against humanity”, that is organizing the deportation or systematic extermination of unarmed populations, in particular in concentration and extermination camps.
    Twelve of the accused were condemned to death on October 1, 1946, including Martin Bormann in absentia, and Hermann Goering who committed suicide in his cell on October 15. The ten others were hanged on October 16.

    They were Hans Frank, Wilhelm Frick, Alfred Jodl, Ernst Kaltenbrunner, Wilhelm Keitel, Alfred Rosenberg, Fritz Sauckel, Arthur Seyss-Inquart, Julius Streicher, Joachim von Ribbentrop.

    Other convictions were as follows:

    Karl Doenitz: 10 years
    Hans Fritzsche: acquittal
    Walter Funk: life sentence
    Rudolf Hess: life sentence, committed suicide in 1987 at the age of 92.
    Erich Raeder: life sentence
    Hjalmar Schacht: acquittal
    Albert Speer: 20 years
    Konstantin von Neurath: 15 years
    Franz von Papen: acquittal
    Baldur von Schirach: 20 years.

    Four organizations were condemned for criminal activities: the NSDAP (the Nazi party), the SS, the SD (the Reich security) and the Gestapo.

    The second set of trials, 11 in all, was held by the Nuremberg Military Tribunal between December 9, 1946 and April 13, 1949. The indictment was drafted by the American military authorities in Germany. The judges were all American but the tribunal was deemed to be international. The trials considered the cases of  approximately 185 people, including the doctors who had carried out medical experiments on detainees and prisoners of war in concentration camps; judges who committed murder or other crimes under the guise of judicial procedure; industrialists who took part in the plunder of occupied countries and the forced labor programs; senior SS officers who had been in charge of concentration camps, applied Nazi racial laws and acted to exterminate Jews and other groups in the territories of eastern Europe; and finally, senior civil servants and military personnel who implemented the policies of the Third Reich.
    A certain number of doctors and SS officers were condemned to death by hanging.
    A hundred and twenty people were sentenced to prison terms and there were thirty five acquittals.

  • 19 - Who were the Nazi war criminals and how many were there? How many stood trial?

    We do not know the exact number of Nazi war criminals, or the number of soldiers, policemen or auxiliaries who participated in the assassination and execution of hundreds of thousands of people. To avoid leaving evidence, the Nazis themselves destroyed many documents and many of those who were responsible or obeyed orders were never identified.
    Some war criminals are obvious, in particular those who took a direct part in the massacres: the SS of the Einsatzgruppen, the police forces of the Ordnungpolizei (forces for maintaining order), the SS guards in the killing centers, the military who were present or even participated in the massacres in Poland and the USSR. To which must be added the people who planned, ran or supervised these slaughter operations: the leaders of the Nazi party, the Nazi State and the Reich Security forces who initiated the “Final Solution” and the massacres. In fact, there were thousands of participants in the “Final Solution”, not forgetting the zealous Nazi collaborators who lent them a helping hand.
    After the sentences passed by the Nuremberg Military Tribunal on the main Nazi leaders who had been captured (November 20, 1945 – October 1, 1946), the Allies continued to try Nazi criminals in tribunals in each of the Occupation Zones. Between 1945 and 1949, 5025 Nazi war criminals were convicted by the American, British and French tribunals in Germany. To these should be added those tried by the Soviets, the number of which is unknown to us.

    Trials were also held on the basis of a list drawn up by the United Nations Commission for the Investigation of War Crimes, by tribunals in Allied countries and also those of countries run by the Nazis during the war. In total, nearly 80,000 Germans and several tens of thousands of collaborators were convicted of crimes against humanity.
    Poland judged 40,000 people, including in 1947, the Auschwitz camp commander, Rudolf Hoess, who was sentenced to death and executed on the scene of his crimes at Auschwitz.  Germany itself began trials as early as 1945 and by 1969, nearly 80,000 Germans had been investigated and over 6,000 had been convicted. The SS guards of Auschwitz stood trial in Frankfurt in 1963.  In 1958, the Federal Republic of Germany created a special agency in Ludwigsburg tasked with investigating crimes committed by Germans outside Germany. The Agency instigated hundreds of important enquiries (1200 between 1958 and 1985). However, the sentences passed by German tribunals were sometimes controversial because some verdicts seemed to be lenient in comparison with the crime committed.

    Israel organized the abduction and trial of one of the main perpetrators involved in the “Final Solution”, Adolf Eichmann, who had been hiding in Argentina under a false identity. He was tried, sentenced to death and executed in Jerusalem in 1961.
    Individuals and non-governmental organizations were also involved in locating and capturing numerous war criminals who had successfully fled justice. Serge and Beate Klarsfeld were the instigators of the arrest of former Nazi criminals such as Kurt Lischka, Herbert Hagen, and Ernst Heinrichsohn in the early 70s, Klaus Barbie in 1987 and others. The Simon Wiesenthal Center helped to capture approximately a thousand Nazi criminals. However, thousands of Nazi war criminals escaped justice altogether, either because they were killed before standing trial, or because they disappeared without trace under their own or false identities in South America, in Germany or even in the United States. For example, Alois Brunner, an SS in charge of the Drancy camp and responsible, inter alia, for the deportation of French Jews, was judged in absentia in France in 2001 and given a life sentence.  At the time, the Simon Wiesenthal Center had located him in Syria.

  • 20 - Who are the Righteous among the Nations?

    The Righteous among the Nations are non-Jews who helped the Jews during the Holocaust. They chose to save Jews sometimes at the risk of their own lives and the lives of their families. The majority of Europeans remained silent without intervening and some collaborated with the Nazis, but a few others chose to lend a helping hand to the Jews in distress. There were “Righteous among the Nations” in each of the countries where the Jews were threatened.

    The State of Israel (founded in 1948) and Yad Vashem, the National Shoah Memorial in Israel, created special distinction by law in 1963, to be awarded to individuals who came to the aid of Jews threatened by Nazism. Each case is presented to Yad Vashem by survivors who were saved by non-Jews and is studied carefully before the award “Righteous among the Nations” is granted. The award is given based on testimony of individuals who were saved or on the basis of eye-witnesses and reliable evidence.
    Today, the Yad Vashem Institute has awarded the medal of the Righteous to more than 20,000 individuals (20,757 as of 1/01/05). People receiving this award are given the medal of the righteous and an honorary certificate, or they are presented to a close relative in case of posthumous distinction. Their names are engraved on the Wall of
    Honor in the Garden of the Righteous in Yad Vashem. This is the highest honor awarded to non-Jews by the State of Israel on behalf of the Jewish people. Two European towns have been granted the award “Righteous among the Nations”: Chambon-sur-Lignon in the Haute-Loire Department (France) and Niewlande (Netherlands).

    Poland is the country which has the highest number of Righteous in absolute terms, but the Netherlands has the highest number proportionally to the population. The total of 20,757 corresponds to the number of people who saved Jews. But this figure is certainly far from reality because many never came forward or were never discovered because the Jews they had aided were dead.

    According to the Israeli government, the criteria for recognition as Righteous are as follows:

    • To have provided aid in situations where Jews were powerless and threatened by death or deportation to concentration camps.
    • The rescuers were aware that by providing aid, they were risking their life, their safety and their own freedom (the Nazis considered aiding Jews a serious crime).
    • The rescuers required no compensation or payment in exchange for their aid.
    • The aid provided has been confirmed by the person saved or attested by direct eye-witnesses and if possible by authentic records or archives.
      Non-Jews helped Jews in a variety of ways including:
    • Providing lodging in one’s home or in religious or lay institutions hidden from the outside world and thus invisible to the public eye.
    • Helping a Jew pass for non-Jew by providing false identity papers or baptism certificates (delivered by the clergy in order to obtain authentic identity papers)
    • Helping a Jew reach a safe haven or cross a border into a safe country, in particular guiding adults and children in their clandestine journey through occupied territories and helping them across the border.
    •  Temporary adoption of Jewish children for the duration of the war.

    The exact number of Jews saved thanks to the aid of non-Jews is not known but is believed to be several tens of thousands. In France the number of Righteous who have been recognized is about 2,500.

  • 21 - How did Germany's allies treat the Jews?

    Although the Italians and the Japanese were Allies of Germany, they did not participate in the “Final solution”. The Italian fascist regime adopted anti-Semitic laws as of August 3, 1938, upon the insistence of the Germans. However, the government of Mussolini refused to participate in the “final solution” and refused to deport Italian Jews. In addition, in the geographic zones that they occupied in France, Greece and Yugoslavia, the Italians protected the Jews and prevented their deportation.

    Thus, following the occupation of the southern zone of France by Germany and Italy on November 11, 1942, the anti-Semitic laws demanded by the Nazis were contested by the General Consul of Italy, M. Calisse, who administered at the time a major part of the south-east (Nice, Savoy amongst others). Calisse refused that the stamp “Jew” be printed on identity cards. In addition, in Corsica which was occupied by Italy as of November 1942, none of the few dozen Jews living there were deported. However, when Mussolini fell in September 1943, and the Badoglion government came to power, the Germans took over in Italy in order to avoid the territory falling to the Allies in the framework of a separate peace agreement.

    The Italian Jews and those who had thus far been under Italian protection came under the threat of deportation which began at that time. Close to 8,000 Italian Jews, that is almost 20% of the Jewish population of the country died, either deported to Auschwitz or assassinated in massacres such as the one which took place in March, 1944, in the Ardeatine caves near Rome when the Nazis assassinated 335 people including 75 Jews.

    The Japanese authorities were also more tolerant of Jews in Japan until 1941, and until 1943, in the territories they occupied.  They refused to take the measures against the Jews that the Nazis were demanding.  Jews were thus able to find refuge in Japan until the spring of 1941, and the Jews in China under Japanese occupation were well-treated.  Starting from the summer of 1941, however, the Jewish refugees in Japan were transferred to Shanghai without any particular measure being taken against them until February, 1943, when the refugees who had arrived after 1937, were forced to move to the Hongkew ghetto.
    This was in fact a neighborhood composed of about 15 blocks which was rapidly overpopulated with people from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary. Several hundreds of refugees perished of malnutrition and disease although the living conditions cannot be compared to those in the European ghettos controlled by the Germans. A Nazi officer did come to visit the ghetto in order to prepare for the elimination of the Jews of Shanghai, but the plan was not put into effect by the Japanese.  The ghetto was liberated on September 3, 1945.

  • 22 - How were people of Jewish origin, but not classified as Jews, treated?

    The Nazis distinguished German Jews from Germans of Jewish origin, that is, as they called it, who had Jewish blood.  According to the definitions decreed on November 14, 1935, a person was considered totally Jewish if they had at least three Jewish grandparents, or two grandparents if they belonged to the Jewish faith or were married to a Jew, or if they were born of a marriage or extra-marital relationship between a Jew and a non-Jew after September 15, 1935. Persons who had Jewish origins were classified in two categories of “Mischlinge” (mixed race):

    • First degree “Mischlinge” were descendants of two Jewish grandparents.
    • Second degree “Mischlinge” had one Jewish grandparent.

    “Mischlinge” were not allowed to join the Nazi Party or any of the Nazi organizations (SA, SS etc.). In 1940, the first degree “Mischlinge” were expelled from the army.  The expulsion order was renewed each year. The second degree “Mischlinge”, who had only one Jewish grandparent, could remain in the army but could not become officers. They were not allowed to be civil servants or to occupy certain professions.  The Nazis devised a plan to sterilize the “Mischlinge” in order to safeguard the purity of the Aryan race but the plan was never implemented.  During the World War, the first degree “Mischlinge” imprisoned in concentration camps were sent to the killing centers.

  • 23 - What is negationism?

    Negationism consists in contesting the reality of the Holocaust, in other words denying the reality of the genocide of the Jews during the Second World War. The scope of the genocide, the means used and the will of the Nazis to commit genocide are contested.

    The basic hypothesis of negationism is false. They claim to prove that the genocide of the Jews never took place. Therefore they start from this false hypothesis and proceed to conclude that they are right. Negationists use various techniques. They start by an obsessive search for “proof” which enables them to disqualify testimony and documents which contradict their claim. They study everything in order to disqualify the whole on the basis of a detail in a testimony or a document. In addition, all sources are suspect and according to them the truth has been manipulated: confessions of Nazi dignitaries or SS during the various trials, testimonies, documents, lists of deportees or statistics concerning lost Jewish communities.

    The testimony and documents of the perpetrators of the Final Solution are minimized, in particular the speech given by Himmler in which he speaks of the “extermination of the Jewish people”. Other speeches or testimony are interpreted to mean that the Jews are simply leaving. The vocabulary used by the Nazis in order to dissimulate the genocide is known to historians to have been a coded language which was taken literally (evacuation in fact means liquidation). The negationists claim that the gas chambers were simply a means of disinfection and delousing, that the cremation ovens were used to cremate the corpses of victims of typhus or other diseases.

    They argue on the basis of technicalities to try to prove that mass murder by gassing is technically impossible and they call on self-styled experts to support these claims.  Lastly, the general context is entirely ignored. The actions of the Einsatzgruppen or program T4 to eliminate criminals which preceded the Shoah are forgotten. The negationists are obsessed with the idea of a plot, fraud and forgery on a global scale that they alone can see and they analyze every document on the basis of this obsession.

    Those who uphold such ideas were first called “revisionists” but are now called “negationist”. In fact they themselves had chosen the word revisionist thereby claiming to be historians.  The fact is that history, as written by historians, is continually revised on the basis of new sources or new analyses or theories or new research based on the rules which govern the profession of historian and critical history. However negationists do not use the rules which are not only used in literary critique but also in technical expert debate.

    The negationist writers know nothing of the true profession of historian because their writings are based on forgery and lies. In 1987, the historian, Henry Rousso, decided to put an end to the ambiguity brought about by using the term “revisionism”: “The public at large has discovered (in 1978) the equivocal milieu of the “revisionists”, a word they use shamelessly to describe themselves. However historical revisionism is part of the traditional scientific review method and in this case the rather barbaric term of “negationism”, less elegant perhaps but more appropriate, should be preferred. Indeed here it is a school of thought, an ideology and in no way a scientific or even critical approach”.

    According to Pierre Vidal-Naquet, the negationist theory is based on six points.

    1. There was no genocide and the instrument which symbolizes the genocide, the gas chambers, never existed.
    2. The final solution just meant the expelling of Jews to Eastern Europe.
    3. The number of Jewish victims of Nazism is much lower than what is claimed, which means denying the genocide or any attempt at genocide on the part of Nazi Germany.
    4. Hitler’s Germany does not bear major responsibility for the Second World War. In fact, they share responsibility with the Jews for example, or even the Nazis bear no responsibility whatsoever.
    5. Humanity’s main enemy during the 30’s and 40’s was not Nazi Germany but rather the USSR, Stalin and Bolshevism.
    6. The genocide is an invention of Allied propaganda, essentially Jewish and Zionist, which can be explained by the Jewish propensity to quote imaginary figures but also their desire to derive financial gain.

    In fact such statements mask an ideology.  Anti-Semitism is lurking behind the obsessive anti-Zionism as they refuse to recognize that the Jews were victims.  The Jews are accused of using a lie to reach their ends.  The desire of the Negationists is to erase the singularity of the genocide.  Their goal is to make the Nazi regime seem commonplace and some of them wish to rehabilitate the Nazi regime that committed genocide.

  • 24 - What popular support was there for Nazi anti-Semitism and extermination?

    Obviously the entire German population did not support Hitler and his policy of persecution of the Jews. But the fact is there is no known example of a wide protest against the way the Jews were treated.  However one must take account of the terror of the Nazi regime which threatened anyone who openly criticized their policy. There were Germans who refused the boycott that had been organized on April 1, 1933 and continued shopping in Jewish stores. Others, few in number, helped the Jews hide or escape arrest. Some, who were opposed to Hitler and the Nazis, had no objection to the persecution of the Jews.

    The clergy protested against the fate of the Jews but in no way comparable to the sermon pronounced by the Bishop of Münster, C.A. von Galen, who was indignant at the treatment of criminals and the disabled under program T4. The provost of the cathedral of Berlin, Bernhard Lichtenberg, did pray in public every day for the Jews. He was sent to a concentration camp. Other men of the church were imprisoned for their criticism or for refusing to collaborate with the Nazi anti-Semitic policy; but the majority of the German clergy along with the population at large submitted to the anti-Jewish laws and did not protest in public.

  • 25 - What were the first steps against the Jews taken by the Nazis?

    The first steps taken against the Jews by the Nazis began in April 1933:

    • April 1, 1933: boycott of Jewish shops and businesses by the Nazis.
    • April 7, 1933: the law restoring national service excluded non-Aryans (as defined on April 11, 1933, as anyone with a Jewish parent or grandparent). Initially there were exceptions for the veterans of the First World War and for those who had lost a father or son in combat for Germany or its Allies during the First World War.
    • April 7, 1933: the law referring to admission to the legal professions excluded non-Aryans from the Bar.  The law forbade non-Aryans already admitted to the Bar from practicing law.  Similar decisions were taken for assessors, jury members and commercial court judges.
    • April 22, 1933: The decree dealing with doctor’s service in the national health plan forbade the reimbursement of patient expenses if they had consulted a non-Aryan doctor, except Jewish doctors who were war veterans or had otherwise suffered during the war.
    • April 25, 1933: The law on the overpopulation of German schools required that there be a numerus clausus for Jewish students in secondary schools corresponding to 1.5% of the total student body. In areas where Jews represented more than 5% of the population, they could represent over 5% of the student body.  As was the case for the other measures, there were exceptions initially for children of Jewish war veterans.  Under this law a student was considered Jewish if he had two non-Aryan parents.

    These measures were followed by others adopted throughout the long Nazi dictatorship.

  • 26 - What were the main anti-Semitic laws applied in France during the Occupation?
    Date French Law German Law
    July 22, 1940 Law decree adopted by Vichy to revise the naturalization procedure. Revision of all the French naturalizations since the law of 8/10/1927.  Jews were not specifically mentioned but more than 7,000 had their new citizenship revoked.
    September 27, 1940 1st German decree applied in the occupied zone, requiring the census of the Jews as of 10/20/1940 and referring to “Jewish businesses”.
    October 3, 1940 Jewish status law. Jews were excluded from the civil service, the press and the cinema. The law also excluded the Jews from the liberal professions and is based on the concept of “Jewish race”.
    October 4, 1940 The prefects are given the power to detain “foreigners of Jewish race” in special camps
    October 7, 1940 Abrogation of the “Crémieux decree” dated 24/10/1870 which granted French citizenship to Jews from Algeria. Obligation for the Jews to have their identity card stamped “Jew”.
    October 18, 1940 2nd German decree imposing the census of all Jewish businesses and appointing provisional administrators (commissaires-gérants).
    March 29, 1941 Setting up of the “General Commission for Jewish Affairs” (CGQJ) in charge of economic aryanization and the anti-Jewish laws.
    April 26, 1941 3rd German decree: new definition of the Jew. Jews are barred from certain professions and it becomes illegal to employ Jews.
    May 28, 1941 4th German decree banning the circulation of capital and merchandise in Jewish businesses.
    June 2, 1941 2nd Jewish status law which  completes the elimination of  the Jews of France from civil service, liberal professions, business, industry, handcrafts, the press and the tertiary sector. Severe sanctions are imposed on any offender. Compulsory census of Jews under the second Jewish status law.
    June 21, 1941 Law limiting the percentage of Jewish students in higher education to 3%.
    July 16, 1941 Decree regulating the profession of law. The percentage of Jews must not be higher than 2% of the total number of lawyers.
    July 22, 1941 Law on businesses and property belonging to Jews.  Appointment of liquidators for Jewish businesses.
    August 11, 1941 Decree regulating the medical profession: numerus clausus 2%.
    August 13, 1941 German decree requiring the confiscation of radios belonging to Jews.
    September 28, 1941 5th German decree containing anti-Jewish measures.
    October 19, 1941 Creation of the police for Jewish Affairs which was to collaborate with the CGQJ which gave orders to investigate any infractions to the law of June 2,1941 committed by Jews, and to provide intelligence to the other police forces on suspicious activities of Jews.
    September 24, 1941 Decree regulating the profession of architect: numerus clausus 2%.
    November 17, 1941 Law barring Jews from the banking profession, finance, trade, the press, publishing, and Entertainment.
    November 29,1941 Law creating the UGIF, Union Générale des Israelites de France; all Jewish organizations were forced to join except cultural organizations.
    December 17,1941 A fine of one billion francs is imposed on Jews in the occupied zone to be paid to the German authorities by UGIF.
    December 26, 1941 Decree regulating the profession of pharmacist and midwife: numerus clausus 2% Jews.
    February 7, 1942 6th German decree:  curfew for Jews in the occupied zone from 8pm to 6am.  It becomes illegal to change place of residence.
    March 24, 1942 7th German decree: a new definition of the Jew.
    March 29, 1942 8th German decree: Jews aged 6 and above must wear the yellow star in the occupied zone.  This decree came into force on June 7, 1942.
    June 5, 1942 Numerus clausus for dentists: 2% Jews.
    June 6, 1942 Jews are forbidden to work in the artistic professions in the theatre, cinema or other forms of Entertainment.
    October 6, 1942 German order requiring Parisian Jews to travel only in the last car of the metro.
    July 1, 1942 Jews are forbidden to own a telephone.
    August 7, 1942 9th German decree forbidding Jews to go to shows and other places open to the public, to go to shops except between 3pm and 4pm.
    July 13, 1942 Publication of a list of public places from which Jews are barred : restaurants, cafés, bars, theatres, cinemas, concerts, music-halls, public telephone booths, markets and fairs, swimming pools and beaches, museums, libraries, public exhibitions, historical monuments, sporting events, racetracks, campgrounds, parks.
    November 9,1942 Jews of foreign nationality are forbidden to leave their town of residence unless they have a laissez-passer from the police.
    December 11,1942 Law requiring the stamp “Jew” on identity cards and ration cards for both foreign and French Jews.
  • 27 - To whom did the Jewish status laws, adopted by the French State, apply? To whom did the German anti-Semite measures apply?

    In France, the Vichy government defined the Jewish race in two statutes. The first statute was published on October 3, 1940 and states in article 1: “shall be considered Jewish any person who descends from three Jewish grandparents or two Jewish grandparents if their spouse is also Jewish”.

    The second statute adopted June 2, 1941, modified and enlarged the scope of this definition. Article 1 states “shall be considered Jewish any person, regardless of their religious affiliation, who has at least three grandparents of the Jewish race, or only two, if their spouse descends from two grandparents of the Jewish race.  A grandparent of the Jewish faith shall be considered as belonging to the Jewish race”.
    Article 2 aggravates the previous statute by adding “shall be considered as a Jew, any person who belongs to the Jewish religion or who did belong as of June 25, 1940, and who descends from two Jewish grandparents”. Non-affiliation to the Jewish faith is established by proof of belonging to one of the other religions recognized by the State before the law adopted on December 9, 1905.  Annulment or disavowal of the recognition of a child considered as a Jew has no effect under the preceding provisions”.

    The 1st German decree adopted on September 27, 1940, recognized as Jewish “anyone who belongs or belonged to the Jewish faith or who has more than two Jewish grandparents. Grandparents who belong or have belonged to the Jewish religion are considered as Jews”.
    Thus the laws of Vichy proclaimed the notion of Jewish race whereas the German decree referred to the Jewish religion.

    The 3rd German decree dated April 26, 1941 revised the previous definition and stated in article 1: “shall be considered as Jewish any person who has at least three grandparents of “pure Jewish race”. A grandparent who belonged to a Jewish religious community is considered ipso jure as of “pure Jewish race”.  Any person who has two grandparents of “pure Jewish race” and who, at the time of publication of the present decree, belongs to a Jewish religious community or who should join later, or b) is married to a Jew or does so at a later date. In case of doubt, shall be considered as Jewish any person who belongs or has belonged to a Jewish religious community”.

    The 7th German decree dated March 24, 1942, gives a new definition of the Jew:
    1) Shall be considered as a Jew, any person who has at least three grandparents of pure Jewish race.  Shall be considered as of pure Jewish race ipso jure, any grandparent who belongs to the Jewish religion.  Shall be considered as Jewish any person who has two grandparents of pure Jewish race who:

    1. Belonged to the Jewish religion as of June 25, 1940, or who joined at a later date or
    2. Was married to a Jewish spouse as of June 25, 1940, or who married a Jew after that date.

    In case of doubt, shall be considered as Jewish any person who belongs or has belonged to a Jewish religious community”.

  • 28 - How many Jews were deported from France?

    28 – How many Jews were deported from France?

    Serge Klarsfeld, published the “Mémorial de la déportation des Juifs de France” (Memorial of the deportation of the Jews of France) and compiled a list of deported Jews. Individuals who were to be deported were listed in the files kept by the Jewish Affairs Office of the Gestapo. However, some people who were deported were not included on these lists because they were added at the last minute by the Nazi authorities.

    According to S. Klarsfeld, it is estimated that 76,000 Jews were deported from France between March 27, 1942 and August 18, 1944. For the vast majority (close to 74,000) they were deported in the 79 convoys of deported Jews who left mainly from Drancy, but also from the camps in the Loiret department, from Compiègne and Angers.

    In addition to these men and women must be added the Jews deported from the North (Nord and Pas de Calais departments) through Belgium (about 1,000 people), the Jewish spouses of prisoners of war deported to Bergen-Belsen with their children (277 people), the Jews deported from Noé, Saint-Sulpice and Toulouse to Buchenwald on July 30,1944 (at least 350 people), the Jews deported to Auschwitz in the convoys of “Aryans” on July 8,1942 and April 30,1944 (at least 100 people), the Jews deported individually (at least 100) and the Jews deported with the convoys of resistance fighters.

    There were more than 11,000 children among the deported including about 2,000 under six years of age. The number of survivors in 1945, most of whom had been deported in 1944, is estimated at about 2,500, that is 3%.

    As regards nationality, Polish Jews were the hardest hit because about 25,000 were deported. Next come the German Jews (about 7,000) the Russian Jews (about 4,000), the Romanians and Austrians (about 3,000 each) the Greeks (about 1,500) the Turks (about 1,300) and the Hungarians (about 1,200).

    The French Jews deported numbered 24,700 including at least 8,000 children born in France of foreign or stateless parents of which 8,000 had been naturalized.
    According to the most recent figures, there were 87,800 political deportees, sent mainly to the camps in Buchenwald, Dachau, Mauthausen, Sachsenhausen for the men and Ravensbrück for women.  By 1945, close to 60% of them had perished in the Nazi camps.

  • 29 - Where were the main French internment camps in France holding Jews in transit before deportation?

    The first internment camps in France opened in March 1939, to house the Spanish republican refugees in the south-west of France in Rivesaltes, Récébedou,  Noé, Argelès and Gurs.
    When war broke out in September 1939, many Spaniards had gone home. Shortly after the declaration of war the camps were rapidly filled with foreigners arrested by the police during a nation-wide roundup organized during the first days of the state of emergency. 15,000 foreigners were interned in French camps including hundreds of eminent anti-Nazi refugees. In May 1940, when the Germans entered France, many foreign refugees, men and women suspected of being enemies or spies, were again victims of so-called “administrative internment” in the camps in the south-west by order of the French authorities. Among theses people, there were many foreign Jews, in particular German and Austrian Jews.

    Jews were rounded up along with the other foreigners and the fact of being Jews seemed to have increased their vulnerability. Foreign Jews were usually stateless and poor, speaking with a strong accent and they represented about 70% of the 40,000 civilians interned in unoccupied France toward the end of 1940. The camp system became a fact of life and the officials became accustomed to assembling large groups of foreigners, a majority of which were Jews. The change of regime in July 1940 did not therefore mark a sharp change because the policy of Vichy toward refugees did not represent a significant change from that of the end of the Third Republic. It was just a continuation and reinforcement of this policy except for the fact that the new regime made it more legitimate to express anti-Jewish sentiment by doing away with Republican laws and customs.

    After the fall of France and during the occupation, new internment camps were opened in the occupied zone when Jews were targeted both by the occupation authorities and also by the French authorities. Thus camps were opened in the Loiret department, in Compiègne and Drancy which were the main internment and transit camps for Jews deported from France.

    The camp in Drancy

    Drancy was one of the main French internment camps where Jews transited before deportation.  The “cite de la Muette” in Drancy, a U-shaped housing complex built in 1935-36 to provide low-cost housing for the social housing office (HLM) of the Seine department received the first Jews rounded up in Paris starting in August 1941. 62 of the 77 convoys to the death camps left France from the nearby stations in Le Bourget (until July 1943) and Bobigny: a total of 65,000 people were deported. In 1942, 32 convoys out of the total of 43 left from Drancy. Out of the 17 convoys deported in 1943 and the 14 in 1944, the only one which did not leave from Drancy was the August 11, 1944 convoy which left from Lyon. Out of these 62 convoys, only six did not go to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Convoy 50 and 51 were sent to Magdanek and Sobibor, convoys 52 and 53 to Sobibor, and convoy 73 to Kaunas in Lithuania.

    The last convoy which took Aloïs Brunner back to Germany left for Buchenwald with 51 deportees on board.
    Drancy was run by the French authorities until the month of July 1943. The three French officers in charge one after the other, were appointed by the Prefecture of the police in the Seine department. The French administration of the camp was under continual surveillance by the “Sicherheitpolizei” (Security Police) and the “Sicherheitdienst” (security administration). On July 2, 1943, the Nazi, Aloïs Brunner, was appointed head of the camp which came under Nazi administration and the French gendarmes simply guarded the outside of the camp. From then on, the camp functioned just like the Nazi concentration camps.

    The Pithiviers and Beaune-La-Rolande camps

    Both of these camps were administered by the French authorities as one entity and were under the authority of the Prefect of the Loiret department. The two camps were only 23 kilometers apart and were intended for the internment of Jews. About one hundred gendarmes and customs officers guarded the two camps.

    The Pithiviers camp was about 500 meters from the city. Initially this camp had been a “Frontstalag” for French prisoners of war although it had been planned as a German war prisoner camp; it was composed of 19 barracks including two for the infirmary.
    The Beaune-la-Rolande camp was on a plateau east of the town and included 18 barracks, 14 of which were used for the prisoners. It occupied an area of three hectares and was surrounded by a double row of barbed wire.

    The first Jews detained in the Loiret camps were sent from the Austerlitz station in Paris following the first wave of arrests in Paris on May 14, 1941. 1,693 Jews were imprisoned in Pithiviers and about 2,000 in Beaune-La-Rolande.

    After the Paris roundups in July 1942, families with children were transferred by train to the Loiret camps, which became overpopulated and epidemics broke out. Between July 31 and August 7, 1942, four convoys composed of adolescents and adults left the Loiret camps for Auschwitz. At each departure the gendarmes separated the women and children hitting them with rifle butts. The 1,800 children from Pithiviers and the 1,500 from Beaune-La-Rolande were kept in the Loiret camps, torn from their parents and left to fend for themselves. They were then deported in seven convoys which left from Drancy between August 19 and September 2, 1942. The children were transferred from the Loiret camps (south of Paris) to Drancy (north of Paris) in four convoys between August 19 and August 25, 1942.

    On the very day the first convoy of children was transferred from the Loiret to Drancy, some of the children were deported from Drancy to Auschwitz in convoy n° 21. From then on, until convoy n°27 on September 2, 1942, the orphans from the Loiret camps were deported to Auschwitz and assassinated upon arrival.
    Six convoys left from Pithiviers: convoy n°4 on June 25, 1942, n°6 on July 17, n°13 on July 31, n°14 on August 3, n°16 on August 7, and lastly, convoy n°35 on September 21, 1942.  Six convoys left from Beaune-la-Rolande: convoy n°5 on June 28, 1942, and convoy n°15 on August 5, 1942.

    The camp in Compiègne

    The camp was a quadrilateral, each side 400 meters long and was located in the outskirts of Compiègne in a place called Royallieu. The Germans set up the camp using existing barracks and it was first used for French and British prisoners before becoming an internment camp as of June 22, 1941. There were four sub-camps where different categories of detainees were held. The most important quarters and the most stable were reserved for political prisoners occupying a dozen buildings.  In addition to the political prisoners, there were foreign detainees, Americans and Russians who were held in special buildings.  The Jews were kept apart from the rest of the camp and the conditions were worse than for the others; they were separated by a double wall preventing any contact with the other prisoners.  The camp in Compiègne was the only transit camp in France which had always been under German administration.  It is known for being the first center for the deportation of French political prisoners.
    The Jews represented about 12% of the prison population.  They were detained in Compiègne at the start of the Occupation and then later they were systematically sent to Drancy.

    The sub-camp for Jews in Compiègne was inaugurated the night of December 12-13, 1941, when 743 Jews arrested that same day were transferred there along with 300 foreigners from Drancy in the same train.  From then on, there were repeated transfers between the Drancy and Compiègne camps as prisoners were sent back and forth.  49,860 deportees left Compiègne in 54 different convoys; 52 were sent to concentration camps and about one thousand people were deported each time between March, 1942 and August, 1944. As the years passed the convoys were more and more numerous: 5 in 1942, 22 in 1943, and 27 in 1944. The transports led to the following destinations: 16 convoys to Buchenwald, 8 convoys to Mauthausen, 5 convoys to Ravensbrück.  The first two convoys of Jews deported to Auschwitz left from there on March 27 and June 5, 1942.

  • 30 - What is anti-Semitism?

    The term anti-Semitism refers only to anti-Jewish prejudice. The word first appeared in the 1860s in Germany and was used and propagated by the German agitator Wilhelm Marr, who wrote the anti-Jewish pamphlet entitled, “The victory of Judaism over Germanness from the non-religious point of view” published in 1879. Marr and other contemporaries, like Ernest Renan, in France considered at the time that the Jews belonged to the “Semite race” whereas in fact the adjective “semite” refers to a linguistic family (Hebrew, Arabic, Aramean, Babylonian, Assyrian, and Ethiopian) and not to a people.

    Marr limited the meaning of “Semite” to Jews alone. Once the term was coined it referred only to hatred of the Jews. Today it is commonly used to refer exclusively to hostility toward Jews. When Marr coined the term and propagated the modern meaning of anti-Semitism, the hatred of the Jews as a race, developed. This was the same period as the birth and rise of the “Nation-States”, which were sometimes considered as “racially homogeneous”: Jews were considered as a “foreign body” within the nation endangering national unity and that needed to be removed. The “völkisch” movement in Germany at the end of the 19th century adhered to this attitude.

    The fact that the term “anti-Semitism” was the result of a racist ideology and has become an accepted term in day to day language reveals its ambiguity. The very use of the term accredits the myth that it claims to combat by giving credence to the fantasy of a difference between Aryans and Semites.

  • 31 - Where do the prejudice and legends at the basis of Anti-Semitism come from?

    The foundation of the modern anti-Semite ideology plunges its roots down to the writings of the Fathers of the church, such as Saint John Chrysostome or Saint Augustine. However, it was in the Middle Ages that the Christian vision of the diabolical Jew began to disseminate. The turning point in the history of anti-Jewish sentiment corresponds to the Crusades in the 12th and 13th centuries. At the time, in Western Europe, the myths referring to the satanic practices of the Jews led to their being ostracized. They were said to practice child murder, to replay the crucifixion of Christ (ritual murder) either to drink the blood or steal the organs.

    According to the French historian, Jean Delumeau (in La Peur en Occident (Fear in the western World), 1978, chapter 8, entitled “The Jew: Absolute Evil”), the myth of the Jew as a cannibal, along with myths about witches, the devil or the plague, represented one of the major fears of the Christian West in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. This fantasy originates in the activity reserved by both Princes and the Church for the Jews very early in history: money lending.

    The idea came about that since the Jews were allowed to practice usury and lend for interest which was forbidden to Christians by the Church and therefore left for the Jews, they were sucking the blood in economic terms of the Christians. This is how accusations began to develop against the Jews. Ritual murder is mentioned for the first time in 1144, in Norwich, England, when the Jews were accused of having replayed the passion of Christ with an infant, thus linking ritual murder to deicide. The crime was said to have been premeditated by an assembly of Rabbis, thus giving rise to the idea of a plot which spread rapidly throughout Europe.

    In the 19th century it reappeared and was popularized by a false document created by the political police of Czar Alexander III, “The Protocols of the elders of Zion” which followed and continued in the tradition of false plots fomented by anti-Semites throughout the 19th century. Abbe Barruel gave a precise description of the worldwide plot in a book “Mémoires pour servir à l’histoire du jacobinisme”, (Memoirs in the service of the history of Jacobinism) published in 1797. The main accusation was against the Free-masons who had played a central role in the triggering of the French Revolution but there is no mention of the Jews.

    It was in Germany, however, that the theme of the “Jewish plot” emerged in the novel “Biarritz” by Hermann Goedsche published in 1868.  The book describes nocturnal gatherings in the Jewish cemetery in Prague, where the heads of the 12 tribes of Israel were to have met presided by the Devil announcing that the Jews were to dominate the earth. In France a copy inspired by this novel was published in July, 1881, by “Le Contemporain” under the title: “Discourse of the Chief Rabbi”.  The book was relatively successful at the time and a number of other books were published during the period expanding on the same idea.

    As of the 12th century a somber legend of the Jew as a thief and molester, who burned the Communion host in order to kill Jesus yet again, appeared.  This legend developed after the Council of Lateran in 1215 which dealt with the Eucharist.
    The accusation of cannibalism or “blood crime” appeared for the first time in Fulda in today’s Germany in 1235: the five children of a Christian miller were found dead, two Jews were accused and 30 Jewish families had their throats cut. The purpose was to de-humanize the Jews by accusing them of inhumane crimes.

    These accusations were the follow-up to the horrible massacres which took place during the Crusades in what is Germany today (Speyer, Cologne, Treffen, and Worms) in 1096, during the first Crusade when Jews were assassinated in their thousands. In 1248, during the 7th Crusade, the Jews of Worms were massacred and this had an impact on the mentality of the day.

    In the 19th century, during the nationalistic struggles and the founding of Nation States, the diabolical vision of the Jew became secularized and led to what might seem like collective paranoia expressed in the distinction between “them” and “us”. This led to systematic separation, banishment and even death. This evolution is related to the biological metaphor of the nation, considered as a homogeneous body which the Jews could corrupt and soil. It is this concept which led to the discourse of genocide. “Rid the nation of the Jews” became the slogan because the Jews were accused of plotting against the interests of the country and against the country itself.

  • 32 - Can anti-Semitism be considered as a particular form of racism?

    Racism refers to the hatred of those who consider that they belong to a group defined as racially different. Anti-Semitism, which refers to the hatred of Jews, is almost always used in tandem with the idea of conspiracy, plot, contaminated blood which gives rise to a discourse involving the devil and death.  In addition the fascination of some individuals for the very object of their fear is a source of agitation for anti-Semites; contrary to racists who hate and disdain, anti-Semites harbor no disdain but do hate.

    The philosopher, Emmanuel Lévinas explained as follows the difference between racism and anti-Semitism: “Anti-Semitism is not simply the hostility felt by a majority towards a minority, nor just a xenophobia or some form of racism, even if it is the ultimate reason for these phenomena which are derived from it.

    For anti-Semitism is the repugnance felt towards the unknown of the other’s psyche, the mystery of his interiority or, beyond any conglomeration into a whole or organization into an organism, the pure proximity of the other man-in other words, social living itself. “Beyond the Verse, Talmudic readings and Lectures”, Emmanuel Lévinas, translated by Gary D. Mole, Indiana Press, 1994, p. 190. (Original French title: l”Au delà du Verset. Lectures et discours talmudiques 1982).