The French Central Jewish Consistory During the Second World War
The Consistoire Central des Israelite was founded in 1808 as the official forum of Jews living in France. It continued to maintain its legal existence only in the unoccupied zone until the Germans left. The head office was in Lyon and had contacts with communities within the occupied zone. It was religion-oriented and distributed relief aid to refugees in the unoccupied zone. At the end of 1941 Union Generale des Israelites de France – UGIF – was forcibly established as the supreme body. The Consistory refused to join as many rabbis objected to philanthropic activities being carried out by a secular body. Others were prepared to join UGIF. The Consistory contacted a Christian Relief organization aiming to work with it and not with UGIF. Four additional Christian aid centers were subsequently established but aroused fears of conversion. The Consistory did perform rabbinical relief work in the “Aumonerie Generale” and sent and distributed mail. In 1943 the majority of Jewish internees were moved from large camps to smaller ones. Conditions were mostly satisfactory and religious activities were developed. Religious courses and schools were run by the Consistory. Only a few of the ramified activities of the Consistory have been mentioned. Much remains to be studied.