The French internment camp Le Vernet d'Ariège : local administration, collaboration, and public opinion in Vichy France / Kelsey Williams McNiff.
From late 1938 to mid-1939, the French Third Republic held an estimated 350,000 Spanish civilian and military refugees in camps located across France and its North African territories. After the outbreak of war with Germany, the Third Republic detained approximately 40,000 enemy nationals (including Jewish refugees) and political suspects in the camps. The Vichy regime which came to power in the wake of France's defeat continued the Third Republic's internment of political suspects and expanded the repressive character of internment, explicitly targeting foreign nationals, Jewish civilians, and “undesirables.” Vichy detained approximately 120,000 individuals between the summers of 1940 and 1944, and its camps played an important role in domestic repression, collaboration with the German occupation authorities, and French participation in the Holocaust.Recent historical studies of wartime France have examined the relationship between the Vichy regime's repression and that of the late Third Republic which preceded it. To determine Vichy's correct place in France's modern history, they ask whether the late Third Republic paved the way for Vichy's crimes or whether Vichy broke with democratic precedents. As French camps were continuously administered by both governments, the history of internment provides a field of analysis for this continuity question. Part One presents a comparative history of French camps between 1939 and 1945, arguing that despite certain continuities the nature and national function of internment during the late Third Republic and Vichy were distinct.Part Two uses the daily activities of the camp Le Vernet d'Ariège (Ariège) as a window into local administration, collaboration, and public opinion in Vichy France. Known as Vichy's most repressive camp, Le Vernet detained thousands of “dangerous” foreign males, offered economic resources to local communities, facilitated German labor recruitment, and participated in the deportation of Jewish persons from France. Part Two shows that despite widespread apathy government repression, regional involvement in camp activities, and ground-level collaboration with the German occupation authorities proceeded relatively smoothly at Le Vernet until late 1943, when the façade of French sovereignty crumbled. This local history adds a new perspective to the growing literature on the Vichy regime as seen from below.
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