The Polish Government-in-Exile and the Deportation of Polish Jews from France in 1942
Was the attitude of the Polish government-in-exile in London positive or negative towards the Jews facing mass destruction in Poland? Was it based on antisemitism or humanitarianism? Much controversy surrounds these questions. This article explores the response of the Polish government to the Nazi deportation of emigrant Polish Jews from unoccupied France in mid-1942. Already in November 1940, Jews in Vichy France complained of discrimination as regards officially sponsored relief activities by both the Vichy government and the Polish Red Cross. The Polish diplomatic missions in France led by Stanisław Zabiełło, suspecting that non-Polish Jews would fictitiously apply for relief, relentlessly insisted on legal proof of Polish citizenship, which many Jews were unable to produce. Despite contrary expectations by Zabiello, at the end of May 1942, the first mass deportation from occupied France took place and six weeks later Laval permitted Jews from unoccupied France, too, to be deported to the East. Zabiello foresaw the continuation of deportations and decided on coordinated efforts to save Jews on an individual basis, mainly by sending them to Switzerland. Poles in France feared that deportations of Jews might spread to include Polish non-Jews. Subsequently, Polish diplomatic missions in neutral countries in Europe and South America were instructed to protest to the French government. The neutral countries were asked to declare that they were prepared to accept a limited number of Jewish refugees. The response was most discouraging. In November 1942 German forces overran Vichy France and the organized Polish resistance was liquidated.