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A new look at the politics behind the negotiations that shaped the fate of the Jews in occupied France during World War II

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In 1942, two years after invading France, the Germans implemented their policy of exterminating the Jews. In contrast to Jews in many parts of German-occupied Europe, however, the majority of Jews in France survived, thanks to opposition to the Nazi extermination policy from Church dignitaries and the moral indignation of the average Frenchmen. Seeking to maintain popular support, the Vichy Regime bargained with the Germans over the substance and extent of its collaboration, which the Germans needed in order to hold France.

Translated from the German and drawing on German and French sources, Wolfgang Seibel traces the twisted process of political decision-making that shaped the fate of the Jews in German-occupied France during World War II. By analyzing the German-French negotiations, he reveals the underlying logic as well as the actual course of the bargaining process as both the Vichy Regime and the Germans sought a stable relationship. Yet that relationship was continually reshaped by the progress of the war, Germany’s deteriorating prospects, France’s economic and geopolitical position, and the Vichy government’s quest for domestic political support. The Jews’ suffering intensified when the Germans had the upper hand; but when the French felt empowered, the Vichy Regime stopped collaborating in the completion of the “final solution.” Persecution and Rescue: The Politics of the “Final Solution” in France, 1940–1944 demonstrates the ways in which political circumstances can mitigate—or foster—mass crime.

Wolfgang Seibel is Professor of Politics and Public Administration at the University of Konstanz and an Adjunct Professor at the Hertie School of Governance, Berlin.

“Within the intensely repetitive literature on the Holocaust, Wolfgang Seibel's outstanding and thought-provoking book opens a new and promising path for interdisciplinary research in the field of Holcaust studies.”
—Marc Olivier Baruch, Director of Studies at the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (EHESS), Paris, and author of Sérvir l'État français: l'administration en France de 1940 à 1944

“[Seibel] provides a carefully balanced and morally sensitive assessment of wartime bargaining among German occupiers, French state collaborators, and bystanders such as the Catholic Church.”
—Michael R. Marrus, Chancellor Rose and Ray Wolfe Professor Emeritus of Holocaust Studies at the University of Toronto and co-author, with Robert O. Paxton, of Vichy France and the Jews