Love Under Vichy:
A French Paterfamilias and the Jewish Conspiracy
For the anti-Semite, there is no escape from the Jewish “problem.” What could be more tragic-comic than the plight of the respectable French father who, in the documents printed here, appeals to the Vichy government of Petain for help against the sinister foreigner who has stolen the affections of his daughter? Could such a villain be anything but a Jew? And yet—how is one to prove it? The above documents are from the archives of the Vichy government, and are translated from Le Monde Juif, publication of the Centre de Documentation Juive Contemporaine in Paris.
December 21, 1942
Monsieur Darquier de Pellepoix
Commissaire général aux Questions Juives
I find myself in a situation that is more than difficult; it is disastrous.
I am a man sixty-four years of age and I have been a widower since July of 1934. Since that time, I have taken sole charge of the bringing up of my only child, a daughter now nineteen years of age.
I am employed in a factory, and the requirements of my job force me to leave for work at seven-thirty in the morning. I return for lunch at twelve-fifteen and leave again at one-thirty, and I do not finally return to my home until six-fifteen in the evening. My daughter remains alone during the entire time that I am at work.
As a result of events of which I am ignorant, but which seem to have taken place at the school where she is a student, my daughter made the acquaintance of a certain Monsieur S . . . , who lives at present in Clermont-Ferrand in furnished lodgings at No. .60 Rue Bansac. He is thirty-four years of age, having been born in Budapest on the eleventh of August, 1908.
He came to France in 1937 and lived in Paris until June of 1940, leaving Paris on the twentieth of June of that year in order to come to Clermont, where he resided successively at 26 Rue Blatin and 11 Rue Villeneuve before moving to his present address. He came from Germany or Poland; he has not been naturalized; he tells me that he is not a Jew; he has no known means of subsistence.
Without my knowledge, S. . . has laid his hand upon my child—morally, that is—and I find myself powerless to save her unless my country, through its government, will come to my assistance.
Moreover, since I am employed full-time at the B. . . factory, I find myself obliged to give up this employment with the least possible delay, in order to resume my place at the family hearth and do what I can to prevent the total destruction of that family which I first established in 1907.
Now it seems to me—and this is why I am writing to you—that the law of France is absolutely unjust.
I must either destroy my present way of life and leave this city where I have lived all my life, or else I must force this individual himself to leave the city—where he is doing nothing; and I find that the law of France takes his side in this matter, permitting him to remain here so long as I find it impossible to prove that he is a Jew.
There is no doubt that this man is of a keen intelligence. Well knowing the danger that would be involved at present in acknowledging his race, he claims that he is not a Jew. He says he is a Catholic. In support of this claim he produces various documents which are supposed to demonstrate that he has attended the Catholic church for a number of years. Since these documents would tend to prove that he has no fear of entering a church, and since he is aware that I am unable to prove that he is a Jew, he tells me that the aforementioned documents constitute clear proof that he is an Aryan.
I have looked into the legal aspects of the question and I find that the law does indeed tend to support him in this matter, laying upon the government the burden of proving whether or not any individual is a Jew. This being so, it does seem to me that the law is hardly reasonable, for assuming that such a principle is equitable and normal in the case of a French Jew whose family has resided in France for four generations, then it is certainly unjust, contrary to all equity and all common sense, that the burden of proof should still rest upon the government when it is a case of a foreigner born in a foreign country, whose family has always resided in some region of which we know nothing, in a country with which indeed we are forbidden even to communicate. I ask you to be good enough to examine this question. I am quite ready to go to Vichy, if you will be willing to see me, at any time which you may fix, in order to bring you the complete dossier of my life, so that you may know who I am. And I wish to add that you may make any inquiries about me that you see fit, to satisfy yourself that I am telling the truth in every respect.
I address myself to you only after having already brought this problem to the attention of the newspaper Gringoire. I do not intend to go down to destruction without making an attempt to defend myself, and I feel it to be more and more urgent that I should take some action to save my child.
I hope you will pardon me for troubling you in this matter. I have only one excuse: my great unhappiness and my natural desire to make an effort to overcome the situation in which I find myself and to save this daughter—my only child—from whom I have had nothing but joy for nineteen years, and who now is in danger of ruin from conditions which are beyond my comprehension, while the laws of my country do not permit me to come to her rescue.
Please accept, dear sir, my most respectful greetings.
L. . . B. . . .
Vichy, December 22, 1942
Monsieur L. . . . B. . . .
I wish to acknowledge receipt of your letter of the twenty-first current, which has received my full attention.
Although the laws at present in force do not give me the power to compel a presumed Jew to offer proof that he does not belong to that religion, I can tell you that this problem has not escaped my attention and that a draft of a revised regulation has already been made.
So far as your particular case is concerned, I am today ordering an investigation, and I can promise you that we will accord you every assistance in demanding the expulsion of this S . . ., if he is indeed a Jew, which appears to me more than probable.
Do not lose heart. You may rest assured that my department, in spite of all the difficulties that lie in its way, will eventually succeed in resolving the Jewish problem in France.
Please be assured, dear sir, of my most cordial sentiments.
aux Questions Juives
Clermont, January 7, 1943
To: Monsieur le Directeur Général
de la S.E.C., Vichy.
From: Commissariat Général aux Questions Juives, Section d’enquête et de contrôle, Direction régionale de Clermont-Ferrand.
Subject: S. . ., N. . .
Reference: Your No. .6553 of January 6.
The matter is as follows:
In the month of August our service was requested by the Prefecture of Puy-de-Dôme to carry out a discreet inquiry about S. . . and to have him expelled as undesirable.
S. . . is an unmatriculated Polish student at the College of Strasbourg.
In the course of our investigation we learned that S. . . was a sober young man, extremely intelligent, giving full satisfaction to his professors. He did not associate with Jewish students nor with the Gaullist elements at the college, and, in a word, he kept himself steadily to his own concerns. We then learned that he was associating rather closely with the daughter of Monsieur B. . ., director-general of the B. . . factory, and we learned at the same time that it was Monsieur B. . . who had inspired the investigation, having used his influence at the Prefecture towards having this young man expelled from Clermont because he did not approve of his association with his daughter.
Since last July, S. . . has been the object of numerous investigations involving all the police agencies of Clermont, always at the behest of Monsieur B. . . .
At the outset we called S. . . in for an interview. He, of course, was unable to offer legal proof that he was not a member of the Jewish race. Nevertheless, he did not seem to us a Jewish type, and he was able to produce from among his papers certain receipts for dues paid to various Catholic sports and scouting associations. These receipts went as far back as 1939—that is to say, to a time when the Jewish question did not yet exist.
Considering the personality of Monsieur B. . ., and the scandal which he might cause in Clermont, we brought the whole matter to Monsieur Couleau, secretary-general at the Prefecture, who had originally requested us to make the investigation. Monsieur Couleau freely informed us that it was Monsieur B. . ., whom he had known for some time, who had come to him to ask his assistance in getting rid of S. . ., and we agreed, at Monsieur Couleau’s request, that we would make no official report on this affair, but would confine ourselves to sending him a confidential memorandum.
Monsieur B. . . returned to the charge several times, moving heaven and earth, both at Clermont and at Vichy.
Eventually the Prefecture of Clermont received an order from the private secretary of His Excellency President Pierre Laval, stipulating that S. . . should be included in a unit of workers to be sent abroad.
In order to avoid the scandal that now seemed imminent, we tried to prevent S. . . ‘s inclusion in this unit, and it was at that time that we were shown this order which emanated from the chief of the government.
In the meantime, having completed our investigations, we learned that Mlle B. . . was five months pregnant, and that the scandal was indeed upon us.
In fact, Mlle B. . . came to us at the time when S. . . was included in the contingent of foreign workers in order to tell us that she had tried to force her father to accept S. . . as a son-in-law. Faced with her father’s refusal and with the inclusion of her lover among the foreign workers, the young woman was trying one last intercession with us before committing suicide.
The undersigned took this unfortunate young woman to Father Dumoncheau, a Jesuit priest well-known in Clermont, feeling that he alone might be able to straighten matters out. It was my hope that the Reverend Father would inform Monsieur B. . . of his daughter’s condition and put it up to him to decide what action he should take.
Father Dumoncheau then went to see Monsieur B. . . on the twenty-seventh of December, and since that date Monsieur B. . ., having been made aware of all the circumstances, has evidently changed his mind and regrets all that he has done against S. . . He is now going to see the two young people married as quickly as possible and purchase a business for them at a distance of three or four hundred kilometers from Clermont.
We consider, then, that the affair is terminated so far as we are concerned.
Moreover, as we noted above, S. . . is not at all of a Jewish type, but, on the contrary, is very distinctly of the Gypsy type (which, perhaps, is not much better). And there exist as yet no laws concerning that race, though it is certainly as well-defined a race as the Jewish.
aux Questions Juives
Dossier: S. . ., N. . .; R 41
Archives date: 22/1/43