Racial motivations for French collaboration during the Second World War : uncovering the memory through film and memoirs / by Daniela Greene.
After France was defeated by the Germans in June 1940, several politicians of the Third Republic formed a new government under Marshal Philippe Pétain in Vichy. The men in the new regime immediately began to make social and political changes which, in their mind, were long overdue. They believed that they could negotiate with the occupation officials in the North and maintain France's sovereignty, at least in the "free" Southern zone. They also believed, as did a large part of the French people, that the inadequacies of the republican system had lost France the war. It had certainly been unable to regenerate the nation after the First World War. The disillusionment with the ghastly losses of life in that war was widespread and only added to the problems of a postwar agricultural economy which the leaders of the Third Republic had been unwilling and unable to modernize. In the 1920s, a generous immigration policy provided France with desperately needed laborers, but by the early 1930s, the same time the effects of the Depression reached France, the French felt they were being "swamped" by immigrants and Jewish refugees. These were now seen as burdensome foreigners and subversive agitators, and were held responsible for the social and economic difficulties of that decade. The "enemy within" had weakened the nation. Many Frenchmen, including the politicians in the Vichy regime looked for a scapegoat and found it in the foreign and French Jews. The purpose of this study is to analyze the nature of and motivation for French collaboration regarding the legal harassment, exclusion, and deportation of Jews. It focuses on the way in which French traditional cultural anti-Semitism and xenophobia over time developed into racial prejudice. That transformation was re-enforced by the perceived and real economic desperation of the 1920s and 1930s. Another main focus of this study is the way the memory of French contribution to the Holocaust was uncovered through films and memoirs. Particularly, the filmmaker Marcel Ophuls penetrated French national consciousness with The Sorrow and the Pity in 1969. With this confrontational documentary, Ophuls was able to open the discussion about this dark chapter in French wartime history. After they realized that the French were beginning to face their past, numerous survivors came forward to tell their stories.
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