Book on Jewish Ownership of Paris Housing Freezes Sales

The city council here has frozen the sale of city-owned apartments after accusations that some of them may have been seized from Jews during Germany’s World War II occupation of France.

Suspicions were aroused after the release of a book, “Private Estate,” by Brigitte Vital-Durand. The book says the city of Paris owns 150 buildings in the medieval Marais quarter and that some of those buildings had belonged to Jews who were deported to Nazi concentration camps or fled persecution.

Many Jews still live in the Marais area.

CRIF, the umbrella group of French Jewish secular organizations, called for a detailed report establishing the history of each apartment as well as “the possible despoilment of Paris Jewish families under the collaborationist Vichy regime, and on compensation to them.”

Deputy Mayor Jean-Francois Legaret said after a council meeting that all planned apartment sales had been suspended, including the sale of 10 apartments scheduled for this week, “until the history of each acquisition could be studied.”

Earlier, he had said that of the buildings sold since June, none had “belonged to Jews” and that lists of property to be sold in the future “didn’t include any, either.”

Vital-Durand said there was no historical record of ownership of buildings and apartments sold by the city in recent months.

In her book, Vital-Durand says that in 1940, 25,000 people lived in the working class area of the Jewish quarter, but by the end of the war, arrests, evictions and deportations had shrunk the population to 5,000.

Embroiled in a series of scandals over posh low-rent city housing occupied by political cronies, including Prime Minister Alain Juppe, Mayor Jean Tiberi called on people to stop “demonizing the city to commercial and political ends.”

“It would be immoral for the city to own property obtained in this way,” he said. “There is certainly nothing for the city of Paris to blush about concerning its behavior during the war.”

Tiberi ordered the sale of a third of the city’s 1,389 apartments after the scandal erupted.

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