A grassroots-level, chilling dissection of French collaboration in southeastern Vichy.
In Not the Germans Alone (1999), Levendel wrote about his personal heartbreak as a child in 1944 occupied France when his mother was arrested by the Nazis. Here he writes that he learned decades later that the men who took her “spoke French with the accent of Marseille,” thus fueling his desire to discover the truth of who was helping the Germans and why. Along with journalist Weisz, Levendel delves deeply into the prefecture archives of Vaucluse and Avignon. Sifting through administrative records and testimony of postwar tribunals, the authors consider the workings of small-town individuals on the streets, in the businesses of towns like Avignon, Carpentras, Pertuis, Sorgues and Apt, creating a thorough reconstruction of “networks of evil” that allowed Jews to be routinely stripped of their possessions, arrested and deported. Before the Nazi invasion of the Free Zone in 1942, the Vichy government applied rules about Jewish deportation unevenly across its departments. The Commissariat général aux questions juives (CGQJ) was set up in 1941 under German pressure to maintain the census of local Jews and enforce their “economic Aryanization”—i.e., legalized looting. The CGQJ and the local militia were comprised of French citizens from all walks of life who denounced and informed on Jews because of resentment and/or monetary gain. As the war progressed and German resources were stretched, the French moved into the role of “loyal collaborators.” Under microscopic scrutiny, the authors look at dozens of cases, and even 15 “shades of gray” cases where malevolence and benevolence toward the Jews were blurred.
A meticulous, very specific “on the ground” research study.