The content of this website is about Vichy France and its involvement and participation in the Holocaust during World War Two. This web site was created in November 2003 by two students at UCSB in an introductory course on the Nazi Holocaust (History 33d homepage).
The Final Solution, the Nazi decision to exterminate, via a myriad of methods, the Jews of Europe, extended well beyond the borders of Germany and was accomplished at the hands of others besides the Germans. The French reaction to defeat at the hands of the Germans is a unique example of German-occupied countries.
When the Germans conquered France in 1940 they split the country into two parts for the purpose of occupation. The north they directly occupied by garrisoning thousands of troops in France. This was done partially because Paris lay in the north and the Germans wanted direct control over the French capital but mostly their motivation was the fact that it would be from northern France that the Germans would launch any sea-born invasion of Great Britain and conversely it would be northern France that the allies would most likely invade. The Germans kept the governing of the south in French hands creating a similar situation to that of Italy where fellow fascist leaders cooperated with the Germans under a pretext of autonomy.
In a desperate, largely one-sided, attempt to secure a prominent place in the post-war German ruled-Europe, the French embarked on a project of Collaboration in which they willingly turned over Jews to the Germans for the Final Solution. France was one of only two countries that willingly turned over their own citizens to the Nazis. Even the Italians under Mussolini took a greater stance to protect their Jews. In fact, until German occupation of Italy, Jews in the Italian occupied section of France along the Mediterranean coast enjoyed freedom and protection well beyond that available to them in either the French Occupied or Unoccupied zone. While there is some truth to Vichy claims that this collaboration was inflicted by German demands, the Holocaust in France was a encouraged by French anti-Semitic trends which created a climate where the French offered assistance to the German forces, who without such aid could not have carried out, to such ends, the Final Solution in France.
Furthermore, under the pretext of “shielding” France from the worst of German occupation, the Vichy Government willingly participated in the rounding up and deportation of the Jews. While the Vichy Government did in fact make some efforts to improve the situation of the average French person, they by in large failed in this task and were more often than not subject to the whims of the Germans. In the end, Vichy’s attempt to improve the situation for most French people ended in a failure and the deportation of millions of French people, Jew or not, to Germany either for extermination or labor.