Hitler who had not expected to conquer France and the Low Countries in six weeks, tackled the problems of occupation as they came without preconceived ideas.There were no demographical plans for the shifting of populations, as in the case of Poland, and for a time France was scarcely considered in connection with the Jewish problem in the light of National Socialist theory.
With France divided into two zones the Occupied area and Vichy, Hitler intervened in an action that treated the Vichy zone as a dumping ground for unwanted Jews from Germany.
However, this spurred the Reich Main Security Office (RSHA) now tried to bring the Vichy Government into line with the regulations as enforced against the Jews in the Reich.
Joyfully seconded by Ambassador Abetz and his diplomatic assistants, Schleier and Zeitschel, Heydrich began to install the machinery of the “Reichsvereinigung” and the “Judendezernat”, that is to say a single body to represent all Jewish interests, handcuffed to a special police department, through whom alone the authorities could be approached.
This was the classic model, evolved by Heydrich and Eichmann in Vienna and Prague. In France that result was never achieved and, because of it, less than 62,000 out of a possible 300,000 Jews were deported in the course of the war. This was only the mechanical reason for the failure, the mechanism broke down because of its psychological unsuitability, it took the Gestapo a very long time to learn that the most collaborationist French officials persisted in regarding a French – born Jew, and even a naturalised Jew, as a Frenchman.
It is nevertheless true that, in the bargaining game to which they were forced, the Vichy Government were always prepared to sacrifice the stateless or refugee Jews from the Reich and Poland.
Thus, while less than a tenth of the Jews who were deported possessed French nationality, most of the refugee population were exterminated. The refugees unfortunately lent themselves to this discrimination. Having lived largely on Jewish charity, they were deprived of their source of supply by the flight of wealthy and influential native Jews in the summer of 1940.
It was easy for the Gestapo to gather up the shreds of the welfare organisations so as to make another “Reichsvereinigung”, but this writ did not extend beyond the stateless Jews.
The French Jews retained some means of livelihood, they were at home, some had Aryan friends and they were debrouillards. They could even escape identification by the Gestapo’s “physiognomy brigade”.
When the Gestapo created a co-ordinating committee for the Jewish relief organisations – the traditional first step towards a Jewish Council or Judenrat – they had to appoint as directors two Jews living in Vienna and the committee was boycotted by French- born Jews.
Late in 1941, the co-ordinating committee of the two zones were amalgamated as UGIF – Union Generale Israelite Francais. This did not mean that the UGIF became a Judenrat in the East European sense, though in December 1941, the Paris branch had to aid in collecting the 1,000 million Franc fine and, at the time of the deportations, it distributed relief from Jewish assets confiscated by the Germans. But UGIF never sponsored a Jewish police force to arrest Jews, not even in July 1943, when Anton Brunner sent his Jewish decoy-gangs from the transit camp at Drancy.
A brief explanation on Drancy might be helpful:
Read more here: http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/nazioccupation/frenchjews.html
The Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team
Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto 2009 H.E.A.R.T