The "Undesirables"

For the French state founded on the 10th of July 1940, the objective was “national revolution”.

Accordingly, the Vichy regime announced certain groups to be enemies. Within weeks a policy had been introduced to remove these groups – above all French and foreign Jews – from society. In October 1940, the Vichy regime promulgated a series of laws which lay the foundation for its antisemitic policy: Jews were to be excluded from public service (“statute of Jews”), moreover, those who originated from the French colony of Algeria were to be stripped of their French citizenship. The legislation also regulated the internment of foreign Jews. There were plans to transport these non-French Jews to the island of Madagascar which belonged to the French Empire.

By the end of 1940, thousands of French Jews had been dismissed from civil service and tens of thousands of foreign Jews were being held in camps.

© André Leconte, 1943, Gallica/Bibliothèque nationale de France
Durchgangs- und Internierungsorte der Jüdinnen und Juden aus Südwestdeutschland, erstellt auf Grundlage der Frankreichkarte « Délimitation de la zone occupée »

France was divided into two zones. The north and the entire coastline were occupied by Germany. The southern part of the country and the Mediterranean coast made up the “free zone” from July 1940. Almost all camps were located there.

© Manchester Guardian
Bericht eines ehemaligen Pariser Korrespondenten, 11.3.1941

Due to the war, the Manchester Guardian could not dispatch any correspondents to the occupied area of France. The journalist who wrote this article, Alexander Werth, therefore had to rely for the most part on a letter written by a German inmate at Gurs in December 1940. The letter related the catastrophic conditions of the camp: Hunger, cold, mud, illness.

With resignation, the letter said that the “not insignificant number of people who killed themselves” had done the right thing.

© Le Matin, Bibliothèque nationale de France BnF
„Das Judenstatut wird verkündet“, 19.10.1940

Le Matin reported extensively on the anti-Jewish law and reproduced the text on its front page. The widely circulated newspaper was closely associated with the Vichy regime and was therefore banned after the liberation of Paris in 1944.