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France opens its archives of the WWII Vichy collaborationist period

Written by Joseph Byron
Tuesday, 29 December 2015 04:59
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Philippe Petain, leader of the Vichy regime, meeting Adolf Hitler in October 1940.

PARIS (EJP)---France on Monday opened its archives of the Vichy period when the country's government collaborated with the Nazi occupiers during WWII.

The archives, which were previously only accessible to academics, can be "freely consulted" by citizens "subject to the declassification of documents covered by national defence secrecy rules”.

The Vichy regime, led by Philippe Petain, holds a notorious place in French history because of its wartime collaboration with the invading German army from 1940-1944.

At the time, France was divided into a northern "occupied zone" under German military occupation, an area that included Paris, and a south-eastern so-called "free zone" in which France had sovereignty but was dependent on Germany. It was here that the Vichy government made its base.

The archives include more than 200,000 documents relating to cases brought before special courts established under the Vichy regime, French newspaper Le Figaro reported. They reveal details about the work of brigades made up of French citizens that targetted and rounded up Resistance fighters, communists and Jews during the German occupation.

The most sensitive of the files refers to the ‘shadowing’ of citizens – the tracking of individuals and Resistance groups suspected of activities in defiance of the Vichy state - records of interrogation and letters of denunciation in which French citizens were encouraged to spy and inform on one another.

France has a painful relationship with this portion of its past, when the government helped the Nazis deport 76,000 Jews from its territory during the war.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 29 December 2015 05:30


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