BOOK (In Process)

In August 1942, a group of bishops in the French Catholic Church defected from the episcopate to help save Jews in France. At that time, thousands of Jews were being rounded up by French policemen organized by Vichy administrators with the consent of the Church and sent to concentration camps as part of the Nazi plan to exterminate European Jewry. When a group of French bishops defected from their political support for the Vichy regime, this was a dramatic change from two years prior when the Assembly of Cardinals and Archbishops had met and decided to formally support Vichy’s anti-semitic policies. “No one more than I recognizes the evil that Jews have done to France,” proclaimed Cardinal Pierre-Marie Gerlier in autumn 1941. Ten months later, he along with 8 other French bishops issued a protest that would come to be read from over 400 pulpits throughout France. “The Jews are our brothers. They belong to mankind,” the clergy declared. “No Christian dare forget that!”

A mass of Parisians gathered at the Basilica Church of the Sacred Heart in Montmartre to attend a religious service and pray for peace. (AP Photo, August 27, 1939)

My current book project examines how French bishops during the Holocaust in France deviated from their support for Vichy to help save Jews despite the high personal and institutional costs associated with defection. The Catholic Church was a primary source of political and moral guidance during the Holocaust in France. When French bishops endorsed the Vichy regime, they legitimized discrimination by officially supporting anti-Semitic policies. Later, their deviation from this stance and protest of the French state’s persecution of Jews de-legitimized the Vichy regime and mobilized Catholics on behalf of European Jewry. In the end, French civilians saved the second-largest number of Jews in any occupied country during the Holocaust. I analyze newly available historical sources written in French and Hebrew collected from fifteen archives in ten cities across France, USA, and Israel, to explain how individuals and institutions trade the benefits of stability for the risky behavior associated with collective action in violent contexts.

Archives, France
Archives diocésaines de Cambrai (Nord-Pas-de-Calais)
Archives diocésaines d’Annecy (Annecy)
Archives historiques du diocèse de Lille (Lille)
Archives diocésaines de Lyon (Lyon)
Archives historiques du diocèse de Marseille (Marseille)
Archives diocésaines de Montauban (Toulouse)
Archives historiques du diocèse de Nice (Nice)
Archives historiques du diocèse de Paris (Paris)
Archives diocésaines de Toulouse (Toulouse)
Archives Diplomatiques (Paris)
Archives de l’Alliance Israélite Universelle (Paris)
Archives Nationales (Paris)
Centre National des Archives de l’Eglise de France (Paris)

Mémorial de la Shoah, Centre de Documentation Juive Contemporaine (Paris)
Site-Mémorial du Camp des Milles (Aix-en-Provence)

Archives, USA 
Oeuvre de Secours aux Enfants
Commissariat Général aux Questions Juives Vatican Secret Archives 
International Tracing Service Records 
(All the above from United States Holocaust Memorial Museum) 

Archives, Israel
Yad Vashem, World Center for Holocaust Research



 

Primary Sources on "Jewish Questions Under Occupation and After Liberation" from the diocesan archive of Lyon, France.