740.0011 European War 1939/23824: Telegram

The Chargé in France (Tuck) to the Secretary of State

1255. Department’s 512, August 19, 9 p.m.5 During the course of my conversation with Laval yesterday I took up as forcefully as I could the question of the treatment of Jews of foreign nationality in France. I asked him if he realized the extent to which the recent occurrences in Paris had shocked public opinion throughout the civilized world and added that while it was reported that these inhuman measures had been ordered by the occupying authorities they had nevertheless been carried out on French soil and by the French police (here he interrupted me to say that he had protested at the time energetically to General von Oberg against the manner in which these arrests had been carried out). His Government, I told him, would certainly have to accept full responsibility for measures now in force in the unoccupied zone which obliged these unfortunate people—who had originally sought and been granted asylum in France—to be turned back to their persecutors. There were, I added, further circumstances which had been brought to my attention by responsible Americans connected with relief organizations which were of so revolting a character that I felt fully justified in making this personal appeal on humanitarian grounds. I referred to the separation of children from their parents in numbers estimated at 4,000 and between the ages of 2 and 15 who were now reported to be in concentration camps at Pithiviers, Drancy and Beaune-la-Rolande in the occupied zone.

It was even alleged that their documents of identification had been purposely destroyed so that they might never be able to rejoin their parents in exile.

Laval immediately questioned this statement and said that he would not admit that children had been separated from their parents. He asked me to furnish him with proof of this. I said that I would be only too glad to furnish him with the texts of the reports I had received if by so doing anything could be done to remedy this appalling situation.

It was evident from Laval’s attitude that he had neither interest nor sympathy in the fate of any Jews, who he callously remarked, were already far too numerous in France. I again reminded him that the French Government had at one time given these people asylum to save them from Nazi persecution and that history would judge the Government which was prepared to surrender them.

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The present situation with regard to foreign Jews in France must be regarded as serious. Our Consul General in Marseille6 reported on August 20 that the total deportation of non-Aryan foreigners distributed over five different camps already amounted to 3220. It is understood that the French authorities acting under German pressure contemplate deporting 10,000 Jews who came to France subsequent to 1936 and who are considered to be without nationality. It is believed that persons in this category entered France without proper authorization and their entry is consequently considered to have been technically illegal.

In this connection I also received from a secret but reliable source the copy of a circular telegram addressed on August 9 by the Ministry of the Interior to all Prefectures directing that all foreign Jews who entered France after January 1st, 1936 should be sent to the occupied zone before September 15. Dr. Lowrie,7 president of the committee for coordination of relief work in concentration camps, has furnished me with a confidential document which he considers reliable entitled “The Ten Thousand” which states that “during August and September 10,000 foreign Jews are to be delivered to the occupying authorities in addition to the 3,600 which have already been sent to concentration camps”. He also furnished me with a copy of a letter of protest dated August 20 which Pastor Boegner8 addressed to the Marshal9 and which refers to a communication from the Council of the Protestant Federation in France protesting against the measures taken in the occupied zone with regard to foreign Jews. The Department’s attention in this connection is also invited to our airmail despatch 1204, August 20 enclosing a copy of a memorandum relating to the recent arrest and deportation of Foreign Jews in Paris.10

I am forced to the conclusion that the arrest and deportation of these Jews, which I have reason to believe may shortly be followed by the arrest and deportation of certain categories of foreigners (not necessarily Jews) now in France, may constitute a partial attempt by Laval to meet the German Government’s demand for workers. According to reliable reports the Jews so far deported have been sent to Lorraine, Poland and the Ukraine; travelling in cattle cars in bestial conditions with men and women up to the age of 65 included in their number.

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I am sending Laval the report regarding the children but his present attitude does not encourage me to believe that this intervention will in any way serve to remedy the situation.

  1. Vol. i, p. 465.
  2. J. Webb Benton.
  3. Donald Lowrie, Y. M. C. A. representative, assigned to European duty.
  4. Marc Boegner, President of the Protestant Federation of France.
  5. Marshal Henri Philippe Pétain, French Chief of State.
  6. Neither printed.