Jewish Self-Defense and Resistance in France during World War II
Some French historians deny the existence of any purely Jewish resistance organization, ignoring the fact that Jews were the first in France to organize active opposition against the enemy. Initially, the Germans treated the French politely in contrast to the Jews who were considered enemies. Soon the Jews were deprived of elementary rights. An active resistance to these measures grew up. Foreign Jews were particularly targeted. The American Joint Distribution Committee (AJDC) took over the financing of the operation as long as Jews only were involved in the collections. The Jewish underground issued false papers. The Germans increasingly became aware that many of the papers were forged. Already in 1943, Jewish Resistance leaders and their families were sent to Auschwitz. Some 230,000 of France’s 350,000 Jews survived the war. The probable explanation is that the French public took in and hid Jews on a large scale in hostels, monasteries, etc. Jews themselves carried out the bulk of the rescue operations. Although Jews accounted for only one percent of the population of France, their membership in the French Resistance movement was twenty to twenty-five percent. The Jewish communists were among the first to instigate armed resistance and sabotage against the Germans. In 1943, the Conseil Representif des Juifs de France was established as an umbrella organization to unite the different organizations and proved most effective. It still exists today. In the Italian occupied zone, centered on Nice, the Jews were not harassed until 1943 when the Germans invaded and treated the Jews with brutality as they had done elsewhere in France.