Jews and Christians in Vichy France

New and Renewed Perspectives

in French Politics, Culture & Society

The general picture drawn by Michael Marrus and Robert Paxton nearly forty years ago of the Vichy government’s state antisemitism has stood the test of time and has been reinforced. If an element of revisionism is called for, it is with respect to the role played by some figures within the Catholic hierarchy, especially Pierre- Marie Gerlier, the cardinal archbishop of Lyon. A still more detailed knowledge of Jewish rescue has been built up, which confirms the special position of Le Chambon and the Plateau Vivarais. And yet recent work also shows more clearly that what happened there was integrally part of a much wider story of rescue. The debate between Jacques Semelin, on the one hand, and Marrus and Paxton, on the other, over whether the fate of the Jews in France in 1940–1944 was shaped more by indifference than by consciously held antisemitism raises questions relating to both the history of Christianity and twentieth-century modernity.

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