Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, But-Not for All
Yad Vashem Studies, Volume XXIX
Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, But Not for All: France and the “Alien” Jews, 1933-1942, Vicki Caron, Uneasy Asylum: France and the Jewish Refugee Crisis, 1933-1942
Vicki Caron’s book is an excellent analysis of French policy towards the refugees during the Third Republic and the Vichy period. It probes the issue from three interlocking points of view: The policy towards the refugees, public opinion – particularly as expressed in the activity of pressure groups for and against the refugees – and the (native) Jewish community of France. What emerges is a much more nuanced and complex picture than that generally accepted: The oppositions – between Vichy and the Third Republic, between Vichy and French public opinion and between French Jews and immigrant Jews – are not as clear-cut. On the contrary, it represents a “twisting road,” leading from the Third Republic to Vichy and to the deportation of the Jews to the “East.” It was the policy of all governments to eliminate the refugee problem, but the refugees had nowhere “to disappear”. Therefore, this policy reached a dead-end and the subsequent nuances were influenced by secondary factors, such as atmosphere and public opinion. However, Caron insists, the Vichy government’s policy exceeded its predecessors: It led the escalation of xenophobia to an overt sweeping anti-Jewish policy not only against “aliens”, but also against French Jews. And thus the Vichy government succeeded in finding a way to breach the dead-end after all.