A long-missing master file that helped the Vichy police round up tens of thousands of French and foreign Jews for deportation to death camps early in World War II has been unearthed in the Ministry of Veterans Affairs, Nazi-hunter Serge Klarsfeld announced Tuesday.
The embarrassing relic of France’s collaborationist past had been the object of searches for some 46 years, during which the authorities repeatedly insisted it was lost or destroyed, Klarsfeld said.
The list contains the names and addresses of nearly 150,000 Jews, foreign and native, living in Paris in October 1940, which French police put together for roundup and deportation.
Veterans Affairs Minister Louis Mexendeau announced Tuesday evening that he would order an investigation to determine whether his department made an honest error when it said the file no longer existed or whether it lied.
The file was seized by Judge Jean-Pierre Getti for possible use in the case against wartime collaborator Rene Bousquet, who was secretary-general of the Vichy government and is now under indictment for crimes against humanity for his role in deporting Jews.
The file may also be useful in the investigation of Nazi war criminal Alois Brunner, who commanded the Drancy internment camp outside Paris and is believed to be living in Syria, where he found haven after the war.
France has asked for his extradition, but so far Syria has not responded.
A CHANCE DISCOVERY
The list was compiled under one of the first anti-Semitic edicts enacted by the Vichy regime, which required every Jew to report to local police headquarters to register themselves as Jews. Failure to comply subjected the Jews to confiscation of their property.
About 80,000 French Jews perished in the Holocaust between 1940 and 1945.
Klarsfeld said that in the late 1970s, rumors surfaced that while most of the “Jewish files” were destroyed during the last days of the Vichy regime, the file on Jews living in Paris in 1940, 1941and 1942 was still around somewhere.
But wherever he went, Klarsfeld said, he was told by officials that the file was long ago destroyed. “This was a blatant lie,” he declared.
It was sheer chance that led to its discovery. He said that while researching the deportation of Jews, he came across the personal directory of an employee of the Veterans Affairs Department which contained an entry titled “Group of Files Concerning Jews and Jewish Children, Paris Police Headquarters, October 1940.”
“I asked to see one of the forms and there was no possible doubt,” Klarsfeld told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “It was the very file we had been looking for for the past decades.
“Every authority we had approached gave us the same answer: ‘The file has disappeared. It has probably been destroyed.’ “
Klarsfeld suggested that the file used to arrest and deport Jews was kept at Paris police headquarters until the end of the Nazi occupation in 1944 and then secretly handed over to the Veterans Affairs Ministry.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.