Holocaust in France: The Schools

Figure 1.--Here we see a French school class during the Vichy era. The dealer says that it was taken in 1943. We are not sure about that but has to nhave been taken some time after Jews were ordered to wear the Juif stars (June 1942). Thebdealer refers to 'école beranger'. Pf course 'école' means school. We do not know what 'beranger' means.

We have not been able to find much information on what happened in French schools during the occupation. We have some limited information. France was very important for the Germans after their stunning victory (June 1940). The exploitation of the French economy was a major benefit to the German war economy, especially because the benefits expected from the East never materialized after the invasion of the Soviet Union (June 1941). As a result, the Germans attempted to maintain stability by not interfearing in many areas. The French school system was left largely untouched. The schools opeated similarly in both th occupied and unoccupied zone. It continued largely unaffected in both the occupied and unoccupied zone. There were some limited few exceptions. Jewish teachers and professors were dismissed (October 1940). Mot of the curricula changes were in history. Some references to the Germans were edited. More attention was given to the mdieval era. Textbooks written by Jews were withdrawn. And work was added on morals. Vichy believed that France;s defeafet was due to the weakening of national character as a result of Socialist and pacifist education. [Nettelbeckp, pp. 161-62.] And there was more attention to physical education. The Government also promoted summer holiday camps for both public and catholic school children. What we are not sure is what happned to the school children. And here there is the complication that there were large numbers of foreign Jews in France who had sought refuge before the War. Some lived in camps set up by the French. We are not sure if they attended French public schools before the War. Other refuges lived outside the camps. we are also unsure if they attnded public schools. We know that Jews were still in French schools at the time that Vichy and German authorities required that Jews where the Star of David badges (June 1942). One child at the time rembers being taunted by the other boys.[Joffo] His biography has been made into a film--'Un sac de billes'. We also know that some Jewish children were expelled from the schools in Vichy-controlled Algeria. We do not know to what extent the French Police or Gestapo used the schools to find Jews. Requiring Jews where the Star of David badges and the dpotatiins occurred at about thv same time. Once the roundups and deportations began, parents presumably began removing the children from the schools. There were instances where Jewish children were separated from their parents for security and sheltered in schools. The Oeuvre de Secours aux Enfants (OSE) helped to support Jewish children, hiding many in homes and schools. [Curtis, pp. 203-04.] A factor here is the regulations requiring Jews to wear the yellow star of David badges which would make the Jewish childrden stand out.


Curtis, Michael. Verdict on Vichy: Power and Prejudice in the Vichy France Regime (Arcade, 2003), 419p.

Joffo, Joseph. Un sac de billes. His autobiography is written like a novel, but based on his realm life experiences. His book has been made into the film with the same title.

Nettelbeck, Colin. "A forgotten zone of memory? French primary school children and the history of the occupation," French History and Civilization, pp. 157-66.

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Created: 6:59 AM 12/26/2013
Last updated: 9:31 PM 3/23/2019