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Vichy Leader's Persecution of Jews

October 1940 Document Reveals Vichy Leader's Persecution of Jews

On October 3, 2010, historian and lawyer Serge Klarsfeld unveiled the Vichy document titled "Law Regarding the Status of Jews" that was anonymously donated to the Holocaust Memorial in Paris. The October 1940 document exposes the active role of the Vichy regime in persecuting Jews during France's Nazi Occupation. The draft law is annotated in many places by what has been authenticated as Vichy leader Marshal Philippe Pétain's handwriting, showing his responsibility for closing a provision that was meant to spare French Jews from restrictions aimed at foreign Jews only and increasing the types of jobs forbidden to Jews in France.

The document demonstrates Pétain's instrumental role "in establishing the broad anti-Semitic policies that two years later facilitated the arrest and deportation of Jews in France to Nazi death camps — and shatters the long-held contention that he sought to protect France from the worst of the Occupation." According to Klarsfeld, "We now have the proof that [Pétain] intervened to extend the range of bans and to restrain the possibilities of exemption.... It is a confirmation of Pétain’s anti-Semitism because he did not try, contrary to what some claim, to save the Jews, and finally because he did not hesitate to align himself with Nazi racial ideology."

Sources: JTA, TIME