An examination of the wartime correspondence of hundreds of Jewish individuals living or interned in France, citizens who denounced or advocated for them, and the response of French officials to these petitions reveals a multifarious discourse regarding who was capable of belonging to the French state. Letters from the camps of France offer an exceptionally rare window into the perceptions and self-conception of the interned as they engaged with friends, family, and colleagues, petitioned officials, demanded the restoration of their legal status, and endeavored to disprove accusations that they constituted a separate and unassimilable group. France experienced an immigration crisis and a period of intense political friction directly prior to the Second World War. These factors stirred anxiety over moral ‘degeneration’ and a perceived loss of socio-economic control, inspiring exclusionary policy and policing of immigrant and refugee communities.
This correspondence requested recognition and release, the provision of aid for the interned and their families, and for French and Jewish organizations to explain anti-Jewish measures. Within their letters and entreaties Jews in France consistently confirmed their loyalty and patriotism while decrying the abhorrent nature of the classification, ‘aryanization,’ arrest, and deportation measures. Within correspondence from the concentration camps traumatic violence, extreme deprivation, and the fervent need to acquire resources for survival (provisions, medicine, news) frequently took precedence. Internees pursued petition as part of their multi-pronged survival strategies. Although it is difficult to gauge intention within such a complex and controlled medium, the sense of shock present in the letters implies authors were often convinced their citizenship, service, or in the perilous case of the ‘ juifs étrangers’ their motivation to assimilate, held emancipatory power. While officials of the French State rarely responded directly to personal letters, these demands were taken up by leaders of Jewish organizations, the Union générale des Israélites de France, the Consistoire central, aid societies, and delegations of veterans and wives of prisoners, in their meetings with Vichy and Commissariat général aux questions juives officials. These petitions mobilized familial, friendship, and professional networks in their defense, and give insight into how strategies of adaptation and perceptions of the persecution shifted over time.
Hundreds of letters of personal correspondence and petition between camp internees and Jewish and French officials from the Drancy, Beaune-la-Rolande, Compiègne, and Pithiviers camps are primarily found in Centre de Documentation Juive Contemporaine collections in Paris, the USHMM camp collections, and Yad Vashem. Dozens of letters written by Jewish and non-Jewish individuals and organizations advocating for the rights of the Jewish community can be found in the Archives Nationales- Commissariat général aux questions juives collections.
|Advisor:||Fogarty, Richard S., Trachtenberg, Barry|
|Commitee:||Fogarty, Dr. Richard S., Trachtenberg, Dr. Barry, White, Dr. Dan|
|School:||State University of New York at Albany|
|School Location:||United States -- New York|
|Source:||DAI-A 79/10(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||European history, Holocaust Studies, History|
|Keywords:||Advocacy, Correspondence, Genocide, Holocaust, Petition, Republicanism|
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