Paris, Occupied France · June 14, 1940

On this date in 1940 German troops marched into Paris, forcing the French govern­ment to move to Tours, then to Bor­deaux, where it set up an im­promptu head­quarters. In a futile plea to U.S. Presi­dent Franklin D. Roose­velt, the French govern­ment under Prime Min­is­ter Paul Rey­naud im­plored the United States for a decla­ra­tion of support or a decla­ra­tion of war against Germany. It didn’t happen. When the majority of French min­is­ters finally con­cluded that it was impos­sible to con­tinue fighting against both Ger­many and now Italy (Italian dic­ta­tor Benito Mus­so­lini had declared war on France on June 10), the prime minis­ter resigned. It was a stun­ning emo­tional and poli­ti­cal collapse. Rey­naud was succeeded by 84-year-old World War I hero Marshal Philippe Pétain (1856–1951), who cobbled together a new Council of Minis­ters on June 16. Then, using the offices of neu­tral Spain, Pétain rushed to learn what Adolf Hitler required to halt mili­tary opera­tions against his country and sign an armis­tice. Hitler punished Ger­many’s cen­tury-old enemy by waiting until June 21 to reply. After the Franco-Ger­man armis­tice was signed on June 22, 1940, Pétain estab­lished a new French state (LÉtat fran­çais) centered in Vichy, cen­tral France. Paris remained the official French capi­tal, to which Pétain always in­tended to return the govern­ment when this became pos­sible. Civil juris­dic­tion of the Vichy govern­ment extended over the whole of metro­poli­tan France except for Alsace-Lor­raine, a dis­puted terri­tory in east­ern France under Ger­man admin­is­tra­tion. While offi­cially neu­tral during the war, Vichy actively col­lab­o­rated with the Nazis. In his capa­city as head of state (Chef de l’État fran­çais, 1940–1944) and prime minis­ter (1940–1942), Pétain sup­pressed Vichy’s par­lia­ment and turned his regime into a non-demo­cra­tic, repres­sive govern­ment aligned with, among other things, Ger­man anti-Semi­tic laws. French police organ­ized raids to arrest Jews and other “unde­sir­ables” in both the northern zone, occupied by the Wehr­macht (German armed forces), and the south­ern, or “free,” zone (Vichy France). One of the most noto­rious raids occurred in Mar­seille in late January 1943. After the war Pétain was con­victed of trea­son and sen­tenced to death, a sen­tence com­muted to life im­pri­son­ment by his war­time enemy, Gen. Charles de Gaulle.

French Jews and the Marseille Roundup, January 22–24, 1943

Pithiviers internment camp, France Marseille Roundup, January 1943

Left: Pithiviers internment camp was a transit camp in Pithiviers, a town in the Loire Valley, south of Paris. One-fourth of the Jews living in France were rounded up by French and some­times German Gestapo police and deported to the death camps of East­ern Europe during the Vichy years. Few Jews in France, especially for­eigners, escaped depor­ta­tion and sur­vived the war without help from cou­ra­geous French men and women who willingly risked their liberty and often their lives by breaking French law.

Right: The Marseille Roundup of Jews took place in the Old Port (“Raeu­mung des Hafen­viertels”), which the Nazis con­sidered a “ter­rorist nest” because of its small, winding, and curvy streets. French police checked the iden­tity documents of 40,000 peo­ple, nabbing 2,000 Mar­seillese who were passed through a series of French tran­sit camps, even­tually ending up at the Drancy intern­ment camp out­side Paris, the last stop before the death camps in the East. The Mar­seille Round­up also en­com­passed the ex­pul­sion of an entire neighbor­hood of 30,000 per­sons after a house-by-house search by Ger­man police, assisted by their French coun­ter­parts. Then the buildings were dynamited.

René Bousquet (right) with Germans, January 23, 1943 German officials at Marseille’s Gare d'Arenc, January 24, 1943

Left: Because of the importance the Nazis attached to the round­up of Mar­seille’s Jews, SS (Schutz­staffel) leader Carl Oberg, in charge of Ger­man police in France, in­cluding the Gestapo and the intel­ligence agency of the SS known as the Sicher­heits­dienst (SD), made the trip from Paris and trans­mitted to René Bousquet, Vichy Secre­tary Gene­ral of the French Police (in fur-trimmed coat with Ger­man officers, Janu­ary 23, 1943), orders directly received from Gestapo chief Hein­rich Himmler in Berlin.

Right: Gen. Hans-Gustav Felber (left); SS‑Sturmbannfuehrer Bernhard Griese, Commander Police Regiment Griese; and Carl Oberg at Mar­seille’s Gare d’Arenc freight train depot during the depor­ta­tion of Jews, Janu­ary 24, 1943. Oberg was the supreme autho­rity in France for managing anti-Jewish policy and the battle against the French Resis­tance. He deported well over 40,000 Jews from France.

Gare d'Arenc station 1, January 24, 1943 Gare d'Arenc station 2, January 24, 1943

Left: Deportation in Marseille at the freight train depot Gare d’Arenc under guard of the SS Police Regi­ment Griese and French police, Janu­ary 24, 1943. French police loaded women, children, the elderly, and the infirm into freight cars and split up fami­lies before the trains departed for transit camps.

Right: The Marseille Roundup was assisted by thugs, thieves, and mur­derers from the city’s under­world, who received 1,000 francs for every Jew caught, plus what­ever they could steal or extort from their victims. The Nazis could also depend on French in­formers to main­tain a steady stream of Jews to fill the deportation convoys.

Remembering the French Holocaust Through Memorials in the French Capital

WWII Chronicles book coverHistory buffs, there is good news! The Daily Chronicles of World War II is now avail­able as an ebook for $4.99 on Con­taining a year’s worth of dated entries from this web­site, the ebook brings the story of this tumul­tu­ous era to life in a com­pelling, author­i­ta­tive, and suc­cinct man­ner. Fea­turing inven­tive naviga­tion aids, the ebook enables readers to instantly move for­ward or back­ward by month and date to dif­fer­ent dated entries. Simple and elegant! Click here to purchase the ebook.