Vichy head toughened persecution of Jews, document shows

Serge Klarsfeld standing in front of a copy of the newly discovered document about the Vichy regime's attitude toward French Jews, Oct. 4, 2010. (Devorah Lauter)

Serge Klarsfeld standing in front of a copy of the newly discovered document about the Vichy regime’s attitude toward French Jews, Oct. 4, 2010. (Devorah Lauter)

PARIS (JTA) – The head of France’s Vichy regime may have pushed for tougher laws against French Jews than were requested by Nazi Germany, a newly discovered document shows.

Philippe Petain is believed to have edited a document to toughen a bill aimed at discriminating against Jews in the fall of 1940, when the French government collaborated with and was under Nazi Germany’s control.

The document — a marked-up early draft of a law that was passed Oct. 3, 1940, and which infamously classified Jews as second-class citizens by forbidding them access to certain jobs — was deposited at the Memorial of the Shoah museum in Paris at the end of last week by an anonymous individual.

Serge Klarsfeld, a lawyer and head of an organization for the memorial of children of deported French Jews, was put in charge of determining the authenticity of the document for the museum. 

On Sunday, Klarsfeld told French media that the handwriting on the document recognizably belongs to Petain.

The corrections on the document call for tougher discriminatory laws against all Jews in France, whereas the original typewritten draft said descendants of Jews born in France or who became citizens before 1860 were exempt from the new law. 

The modifications also increase the types of jobs that are forbidden to all Jews residing in France.

Though France has apologized formally for its collaboration with Nazi Germany, some still believe that French-born Jews were protected by Petain, according to Klarsfeld.

“We now have the proof that he [Petain] intervened to extend the range of bans and to restrain the possibilities of exemption” for Jews, Klarsfeld told the French daily le Monde in an interview published Monday.

“It is a confirmation of Petain’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.”

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