Vichy Regime

Photograph: Lion Feuchtwanger Les Milles
Author Lion Feuchtwanger in the Internment Camp Les Milles, 1940
© Feuchtwanger Memorial Library, University of Southern California

Vichy Regime

As a result of the successful German Western Offensive in 1940, France became a divided country. The Netherlands, Belgium and France were defeated by Germany in an offensive attack carried out from May to 25 June, 1940. The French-German ceasefire, signed in Compiègne on 22 June, 1940, set the conditions by which France would be divided. The north including the capital Paris, the areas north of the Loire and the Atlantic coast down to the Spanish Boarder were under the German Occupation Regime, while the south remained unoccupied. Marshall Philippe Pétain formed the conservative government of the “État Français” (French State) in the resort town of Vichy.

As of October 1940 the Jewish Statutes came into force in German-occupied France which repressed Jewish employment in government, journalism and the film industry. The Occupation Government worked actively to pursue and deport Jews. In July 1942, nearly 13.000 Parisian Jews were herded into the Cycling Sport Arena Vél d’Hiv. In the south, there were raids. Those arrested were parceled out to different camps and finally deported to Germany.

In 1940, escape attempts began through neutral Spain and Portugal to points overseas. But the path to immigration remained very difficult: Since 1927, direct naturalization or citizenship was again being called into question through a law passed on 22 July, 1940. Also, it was not rare for the Pétain government to revoke the French Citizenship of emigrants who once had held it. As of November 1941, the German government revoked the citizenship of all Jews living in foreign countries, thereafter rendering many Jewish emigrants "a people without a country". Due to pressure from the Gestapo, the issuance of exit visas was severely reduced. Without the “visa de sortie” (exit visa) all that remained for emigrants was to leave illegally. Many fled over the Pyrenees. Otherwise, they would be running the risk of being arrested and deported. After their arrest, the prisoners were forced to sign an “Auslieferung auf Verlangen” (Demand for Extradition) back to Germany.

Emigrants received help among others from the Centre Américain de Secours of the Emergency Rescue Committee.

Further reading:
Baruch, Marc Olivier: Das Vichy-Regime. Frankreich 1940-1944. Leipzig: Reclam 1996
Vormeier, Barbara: Frankreich. In: Krohn, Claus-Dietrich / von zur Mühlen, Patrik (Hg.): Handbuch der Deutschsprachigen Emigration 1933-1945. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft 1998, p. 213-251