Although the title of "Righteous among the Nations" has been awarded in Israel since 1963, foreign governments did not show any interest in this commemoration until the late 1990s. Since then, however, a growing number of European governments have adopted the term. Of all the countries to which this commemoration has spread, the French government's appropriation of the Israeli terminology may have gone the farthest, forging a new national commemorative expression: the "Justes de France." This essay explores how the French lexical appropriation has taken place, paying particular attention to the role played by Jewish rescuers in this process. In doing so, it seeks to introduce a new perspective into the current debate on the transnationalization of memory: to what extent do the different states interested in the commemoration of the "Righteous," in this case Israel and France, speak the same language and whose language is it?
From Jerusalem to Paris
The Institutionalization of the Category of "Righteous of France"
Père Marie-Benoît and Joseph Bass
The Rescue of Jews in Marseille and Nice, 1940-1943
Père Marie-Benoît was a French Capuchin priest who helped rescue thousands of Jews in Marseille, Nice, and Rome during the Holocaust. Unlike most non-Jewish rescuers, however, he worked regularly with courageous, dynamic Jewish men who became close personal friends. This article examines his cooperation with his first Jewish associate, Joseph Bass, who set up the Service André for Jewish rescue in Marseille. With Bass and his assistants, Père Marie-Benoît hid Jews in small units throughout the region; created networks to supply fugitives with food, documents, money, and moral support; enlisted help from sympathetic local bureaucrats; and avoided dependence on large Jewish assistance organizations. Working together, the Jews and non-Jews were much more effective than either group could have been alone. Père Marie-Benoît later applied these techniques to rescue activities in Rome. This article also examines why Père Marie-Benoît became involved in Jewish rescue in the first place, and shows that his wartime experiences determined his subsequent lifelong dedication to Jewish-Christian reconciliation.
A Question of Silence?
Odette Rosenstock, Moussa Abadi, and the Réseau Marcel
This article investigates one of the most successful Jewish rescue networks in Vichy France, the Réseau Marcel, and specifically how its history, and that of its co-founders, Odette Rosenstock and Moussa Abadi, was created within multiple gendered narratives that consistently emphasized his leadership and often silenced or muted her achievements. Based in Nice, the Réseau Marcel which saved over 500 children from deportation, consisted of just three people: its young Jewish co-founders and the local Catholic Bishop, Monsignor Paul Rémond. Although deported, Rosenstock, always Abadi's equal, survived the death camps. After the war, the reunited couple returned to Paris, where Rosenstock became a distinguished doctor in public health and Abadi a successful theater critic. At the end of their lives, the Abadi re-united with many of their hidden children, who in their honor formed a public Association that has played a key part in shaping the history of the Réseau Marcel.
The Rescue of Jews in France and its Empire during World War II
History and Memory
Robert O. Paxton and Shanny L. Peer
Amidst so many works devoted to the Shoah, the rescue of Jews is a relatively neglected subject. This is especially so in the case of France, for reasons explored by Renée Poznanski in her introductory essay to this special issue. The papers published here were presented at a conference on the rescue of Jews in France and the French Empire during World War II, held at the Maison Française of Columbia University on 24–25 March 2011.1
Rescue of the Jews and the Resistance in France
From History to Historiography
Two obstacles blocked the incorporation of the rescue of Jews in France into the Resistance movement. The first, which can be traced back to the sources of the social imaginary, had to do with the fear of stirring the old demon of the Jewish problem by referring specifically to the fate awaiting the Jews. The second was inseparable from the meaning attached to the Resistance ever since its inception, which focused on political opposition to Vichy and on the liberation of France and never included rescuing those whose lives were in danger. This double marginalization (from the History of the French people as a whole and from that of the Resistance) survived liberation and gave way to three different historiographies: that of the French Resistance, that of the rescue of the Jews, and that of Jewish resistance. The history of the rescue of the Jews in France should be studied through an integrated perspective that leads to thinking about the Resistance as a whole, organized and unorganized, Jewish and non-Jewish.
The Rescue, Relief, and Resistance Activities of Rabbi Zalman Schneerson
Does it Count as a Rescue When a Jew Saves a Fellow Jew?
This article explores the relief, rescue, and resistance activities of Rabbi Zalman Schneerson and the Association des Israélites pratiquants (AIP) in Vichy France. The rabbi's prior experience in clandestine activities and spiritual resistance in the Soviet Union served as a training ground for the resistance work he eventually undertook in Vichy. Schneerson and his family were able to shelter, feed, and educate more than eighty children during the war, save at least fifty-three children from deportation, and help smuggle at least thirty-five children to Switzerland. That Schneerson and his family survived and rescued Jewish refugees in Vichy France, a regime that willingly deported nearly half of its foreign Jewish population to death camps, demonstrates that he and his wife Sara were not novices in clandestine work. Indeed, their staunch resistance to Vichy antisemitism was largely a legacy of Hasidic resistance to antisemitism under Soviet rule.
Righteous Gentiles and Courageous Jews
Acknowledging and Honoring Rescuers of Jews
Since 1962, Yad Vashem, Israel's national Holocaust memorial, has pursued a program to honor non-Jewish rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust. Basically, every non-Jewish person who saved at least one Jewish person, while placing his or her own life and freedom at risk, and exacted no payment as a precondition for such help, and the story's evidence is confirmed by beneficiary party—then such a person may qualify to the traditional Jewish title for non-Jews, of Righteous Among the Nations. To date, some 23,500 persons, from all walks of life have been awarded this prestigious title. However, while many of these honorees worked in tandem with Jewish rescuers, no similar program exists for the latter. Recent Holocaust historiography has uncovered stories of many Jewish rescuers, who either worked individually or in conjunction with Jewish clandestine organizations, to save dozens and hundreds of their coreligionists. In doing this, they multiplied the risks to themselves as Jews on the run, of being uncovered by the Nazis and suffering the fate reserved for all Jews under the Final Solution program. This article underlines the need for the creation of a program to identify and acknowledge the role of Jewish rescuers to Jews.
Index to Volume 29 (2011)