Monday, October 4, 2010

Pétain Did It

Serge Klarsfeld has unearthed a document that, if confirmed, shows that Pétain was personally responsible for hardening the terms of Vichy's infamous Jewish Statute. Robert Paxton sees this as a potentially major discovery. Specifically, Pétain wanted all Jews removed from teaching positions and the courts.


FrédéricLN said...

It IS a major discovery. Ambiguity about the actions of l'Etat français (Vichy, and Pétain as a person) regarding the Jews, is a major component of the ideology or discourse of the "far right". A raw evidence that Pétain personally chose to worsen (not to better) the situation of the Jews, is devastating for this ambiguity.

(Of course they will answer: oh, that's about the status, not the Holocaust. Nevertheless: the fiction of Pétain as a person who did the utmost to protect all French people from tyranny, is over -as far as the document is true, of course, but that doesn't seem to be contested).

Anonymous said...

I even know people (with college degrees) who were arguing, just last summer, that Pétain was a "un brave type" -- certainly a "military type", i.e., rigid, conservative, probably antisemitic, but nothing more than all the conservative army officials of the time, and certainly nothing like the nazis.
In their opinion, he had no hand at all in the final solution.
We're not talking about people on the fringes or even radical in any way. They were fairly moderate.
But apparently, Pétain being a good old guy trying his best to keep France from falling totally into Nazi hands and doing his best to protect everyone, with his worst decisions being dictated by Nazi pressure, that has been taught for so long that many believe that myth is the truth.
So, it IS a major discovery, if only because such myths can't be cherished anymore.

Scaramanga said...


The handwriting hasn't been authentified yet. Today's Le Monde is more cautious than every other paper I've had the occasion to read. Le Monde quotes two historians who are fairly skeptical (in the original sense, i.e. waiting for proof). I have no doubt that Pétain was indeed antisemitic and willing to collaborate fully with the Germans, but this is a matter of principle: it is not yet established beyond doubt that the handwriting is Pétain's. So there is no need to rush for comment.

Anonymous said...

Who else could have scratched out parts of a law, beside the highest ranking person in the state?
Are we to suppose that some civil servant annotated the law for entertainment purposes, and then strangely the law was passed to his wishes, which no one knew of because he worked in a dingy subbasement office next to the printing press?
-- yes I'm exagerating a bit, but there's more to think it's his handwriting, than there is to think it isn't.
Of course we shall wait for the expertise.

Anonymous said...

"I think I'm going to sleep at school"
a superb segment from France Culture about Roma families and a school.