Nazi Germany invaded France on May 10, 1940, and on June 22, 1940, Nazi Germany and France entered into an Armistice Agreement. Germany annexed Alsace and Lorraine, while 80 percent of the country, including Northern France and the entire Atlantic Coast, came under German military occupation. Beginning in July 1940, the so-called “Vichy” government under Philippe Pétain in theory governed France, but in practice, it was only able to govern freely in unoccupied (Southern and Eastern) France.
Laws enacted in both occupied and unoccupied France curtailed the civil rights of Jews and expropriated their property. In October 1940, the Vichy government enacted the first Law on the Status of the Jews, which defined who was Jewish and precluded Jews from civil and military service and from the education, media, and cinema sectors. The Nazi German military command in occupied France began a process of economic “Aryanization,” including confiscating Jewish‑owned assets. An October 1940 military decree defined Jewish-owned firms and established the appointment of provisional administrators for those firms. A February 1941 French law allowed the administrators to sell firms without the permission of the Jewish owners. A further German decree in April 1941 and corresponding French law further restricted occupations available to Jews (prohibiting trade and banking, among others) and expanded the scope of confiscation. A series of French laws from June to December of 1941, including a second Jewish Status Law, expanded many of these restrictions to unoccupied France.
At least 75,670 Jews were deported from France to concentration and extermination camps; of the 69,000 sent to Auschwitz, 2,570 survived. Some of those deported passed through multiple camps. Another 3,000 Jews died in French internment camps. Most of the deportation trains left from the Drancy Camp, carrying at least 64,000 Jews. Included in that number were 13,000 Jews (4,000 of whom were children) arrested in July 1942 by French police and held at the Vélodrome d’Hiver sporting arena before their deportation. At least 6,000 French Roma were interned, and 200 were deported and killed during the war.
The Allied landing in Normandy in June 1944 began the liberation of France, but deportations continued. At least another 2,686 Jews were deported before German forces surrendered Paris on August 25, 1944. The European Jewish Congress estimates that approximately 500,000 Jews currently reside in France.
In 1995, the French government recognized for the first time France’s responsibility for the deportations when President Jacques Chirac publicly acknowledged the Vichy government’s collaboration with Nazi Germany and apologized to the Jewish people on behalf of the French Republic.
France endorsed the Terezin Declaration in 2009 and the Guidelines and Best Practices in 2010. The government has laws and mechanisms in place for property restitution, and NGOs and advocacy groups reported the government made significant progress on resolution of Holocaust‑era claims in recent years, including for foreign citizens.