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  • Chrétiens et Juifs sous Vichy (1940-1944): Sauvetage et désobéissance civile
  • Francis J. Murphy
Chrétiens et Juifs sous Vichy (1940-1944): Sauvetage et désobéissance civile. By Limore Yagil. {Histoire religieuse de la France, 26.] (Paris: Éditions du Cerf. 2005. Pp. 766. €59 paperback.)

This massive volume has four especially noteworthy features. First is the importance of the politically charged question which it poses:why was it that France, in sharp contrast to her neighboring counties, had such a high rate of survival (75% approximately)of its Jewish population, despite the harsh exterminationist policies of both the Nazis and their Vichy counterparts.

The key to the originality of this study is the richness of its sources. The archival fruitfulness especially from departmental and local sites is particularly impressive. Even more striking is the extensive use of the extraordinarily detailed material of the Department of the Righteous at Yad Vashem. This second asset has opened up a whole new avenue of inquiry concerning help to the Jews of France during the Nazi occupation.

The approach which the author adopts in utilizing her wide array of sources constitutes the third characteristic of this volume. The author first examines the administrative and ecclesiastical background of each region, department, and diocese prior to making a specific assessment of conditions in each locality [End Page 341] under investigation. While the circumstances differed dramatically everywhere she investigated, she found countless, conscious-driven individuals ready, able, and unyielding in their efforts to help their persecuted Jewish neighbors.

Thus the fourth and final feature of this remarkably developed study is the radically revisionist conclusion:it is a variety of administrators at every level and humanists of every persuasion who are ultimately responsible for the safeguarding of 75% of the Jews of France during the Shoah. These benefactors of the Jewish community are apolitical—neither resistance nor collaboration—rather they are individuals acting in response to their own consciences. Within this previously ignored moral force are especially large numbers of spiritually dynamic Catholic priests, laity, and above all often-forgotten religious women. This book will undoubtedly spark a heated debate in French historical circles. It will likewise undoubtedly become an indispensable contribution to our understanding of France during the Nazi occupation. No French historian and no research library will want to let this superb study go unrecognized.

Francis J. Murphy
Boston College


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pp. 341-342
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