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Thesis Proposal

Accommodation or Collaboration:
Examining Policy and Life in France During World War II

There are presently two primary camps held by scholars of Vichy government and World War II in regards to the popular topic of France’s involvement in the oppression of its Jewish residents during World War II. One faction argues that the actions of the French during the German occupation of France were necessary to protect the nation, claiming that the occupation was one of accommodation. The second group argues that policy, at least for the first two years of the German occupation, was controlled by the new Vichy government and that the anti-Semitic legislation was supported by French politicians without Nazi persuasion; therefore, their occupation was one of collaboration or, at the very least, one of culpability. This project will examine the arguments for and against both perspectives, accommodation and collaboration, through a heavy examination of Vichy regime policies, including the French colonies of northern Africa; international relations between France and Britain, Germany, and the United States; and the public opinion and actions of the French government and people during the German occupation of France. This thesis will argue that France collaborated with the Germans during the occupation until the Vel d’Hiv Roundup upon which Germany took control of the nation, deeming them a puppet state, and that the French are therefore accountable for the crimes against the Jewish inhabitants of France and the French colonies of Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia, up to July 16th and 17th, 1942.

Preliminary research has provided an abundance of primary source material in French, English, and translations of French and German to English. A primary source that will be useful in understanding the mood in France during the war is a collection of letters sent to people residing in France during the war with friends and family in the United States.[1] Memoirs and collections of politicians, their families, and their staff will demonstrate political opinions and concerns during the war. The primary documents directly involving Dwight D. Eisenhower, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Marshal Pétain offer a broad scope of facts and opinions of the German-controlled portions of France in the north and the southern Vichy region, including the three French colonies of Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia in northern Africa. Beyond the primary source material provided by people, there are also the texts of legislation passed throughout the war and transcripts of political addresses. In terms of legislation, focusing on the laws passed to oppress Jewish communities will be just as important as including secondary source analysis of enforcement of the laws.

Secondary sources are equally as abundant as the primary resources and quite diverse on the topic of Vichy collaboration versus accommodation. This is important and vital to this thesis because an examination of the debate requires careful analysis of many facets of French society during the war. Some approaches have been solely focused on legislation and international relations. Other scholars have approached the topic in terms of memory after the war or experiences under either the Vichy or German governments. Few scholars have focused on major events, such as the Vel d’Hiv Roundup and the Allied invasion of French territories in northern Africa, called Operation Torch. Meanwhile, some historians have examined Vichy in a broad scope to include all of these. The core scholars supporting the camp of accommodation are Simon Kitson, Philippe Burrin, and John Sweets. The core scholars supporting the collaboration camp are Michael R. Marrus, Robert Paxton, and Denis Peschanski.

Understanding whether France collaborated with Nazi Germany or had accommodated them and their policies as a means of protecting their citizens and culture is a crucial step toward creating a complete narrative of the climate in France during World War II. The issue had largely been avoided by the general French population and media until 1995 when the President of France, Jacques Chirac, acknowledged the involvement of the French police in the Vel d’Hiv Roundup and admitted French culpability in the extermination of both French and foreign-born Jewish people living in France during the German occupation.[2] Thereafter the debate of France as a puppet state under the Germans during World War II flourished with both scholarship and wider access to records from the time. Groundwork research does lean in favor of the camp that France collaborated with the Germans and additional examination of both primary and secondary sources are likely to further support this stance.

Working Bibliography

Primary Sources

Berr, Hélène. The Journal of Hélène Berr. Translated by David Bellos. New York: Weinstein Books, 2008.

Butcher, Harry C. My Three Years with Eisenhower. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1946.

Centre De Documentation Juive Contemporaine, comp. Activité des Organisations Juives en France Sous L’occupation. Paris: CDJC, 1947.

Curie, Eve, Philippe Barrès, and Raoul De Roussy De Sales, eds. They Speak for a Nation: Letters from France. Translated by Drake Dekay and Denise Dekay. Garden City, NY: Doubleday Doran and Company Incorporated, 1941.

d’Albert-Lake, Virginia. An American Heroine in the French Resistance: The Diary and Memoir of Virginia D’Albert-Lake. Edited by Judy Barrett Litoff. New York: Fordham University Press, 2006.

Eisenhower, Dwight David. The Papers of Dwight D. Eisenhower: The War Years. Alfred D. Chandler, ed. Vol. 2, Baltimore: John Hopkins Press, 1970.

France during the German Occupation, 1940-1944; a Collection of 292 Statements on the Government of Maréchal Pétain and Pierre Laval. Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace Documentary Series, No. 1. Stanford, Calif.: Distributed by Stanford University Press for the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace, Stanford University, 1958.

Leahy, William D. I Was There; the Personal Story of the Chief of Staff to Presidents Roosevelt and Truman, based on His Notes and Diaries Made at the Time. New York: Whittlesey House, 1950.

Lewendel, Isaac. Not the Germans Alone: A Son’s Search for the Truth of Vichy. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1999.

Marshall, George C. The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, Vol. 3, “The Right Man for the Job:” December 7, 1941 – May 31, 1943. Larry I. Bland, ed. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991.

Mauldin, Bill. The Brass Ring. New York: Norton, 1971. Pyle, Ernie. Here Is Your War. New York, NY: H. Holt and, 1943.

Roosevelt, Elliott. As He Saw It. New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1946.

United States War Department. “Pocket Guide to North Africa,” prepared by Special Services Division, Services of Supply, United States Army. Accessed online at

Secondary Sources

Atkinson, Rick. An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943. New York: Henry Holt & Company, 2002.

Aron, Robert, Georgette Elgey, and Humphrey Hare. The Vichy Regime, 1940-44. Beacon Press: Boston, 1969.

Bruce, Robert B. Pétain: Verdun to Vichy. Dulles, VA: Potomac Books, 2008.

Burrin, Philippe. France under the Germans: Collaboration and Compromise. New York: New Press, 1996.

Cherif, Fayçal. “Jewish-Muslim Relations in Tunisia during World War II: Propaganda, Stereotypes, and Attitudes, 1939–1943.” Translated by Allan MacVicar. In Jewish Culture and Society in North Africa, edited by Daniel Schroeter J. and Emily Benichou Gottreich, 306-20. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2011.

Conan, Éric, and Henry Rousso. Vichy: An Ever-Present Past. Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 1998.

Curtis, Michael. Verdict on Vichy: Power and Prejudice in the Vichy France Regime. New York: Arcade Publishing, 2002.

Hytier, Adrienne Doris. Two Years of French Foreign Policy: Vichy, 1940-1942. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1974.

Kaplan, Alice. “France on German Time.” Modernism/modernity 5, no. 3 (1998): 99-105. doi:10.1353/mod.1998.0056.

Kitson, Simon. “From Enthusiasm to Disenchantment: The French Police and the Vichy Regime, 1940–1944.” Contemporary European History 11, no. 03 (August 2002): 371-90. doi:10.1017/s0960777302003028.

Langer, William L. Our Vichy Gamble. New York: A.A. Knopf, 1947.

Langer, William L., and S. Everett Gleason. The Challenge to Isolation 1937-1940: The World Crisis and American Foreign Policy. Vol. I. London: Royal Institute of International Affairs., 1952.

Laub, Thomas Johnston. After the Fall: German Policy in Occupied France, 1940-1944. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

Laurent, Sébastien. “The Free French Secret Services: Intelligence and the Politics of Republican Legitimacy.” Intelligence and National Security 15, no. 4 (2000): 19-41. doi:10.1080/02684520008432626.

Matloff, Maurice, and Edwin Snell M. The War Department: Strategic Planning for Coalition Warfare, 1941-1942. Washington, DC: Office of the Chief of Military History, Dept. of the Army, 1953.

Marrus, Michael R., and Robert O. Paxton. “The Nazis and the Jews in Occupied Western Europe, 1940-1944”. The Journal of Modern History 54 (4). University of Chicago Press (1982): 687–714.

Marrus, Michael R., and Robert O. Paxton. Vichy France and the Jews. New York: Basic Books, 1981.

Paxton, Robert O. Parades and Politics at Vichy; the French Officer Corps under Marshal Pétain. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1966.

Paxton, Robert O. Vichy France: Old Guard and New Order, 1940-1944. New York: Knopf; Distributed by Random House, 1972.

Peschanski, Denis. Collaboration and Resistance: Images of Life in Vichy France, 1940-44. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2000.

Rayski, Adam. The Choice of the Jews under Vichy: Between Submission and Resistance. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2005.

Sweets, John F. “Hold That Pendulum! Redefining Fascism, Collaborationism and Resistance in France.” French Historical Studies 15, no. 4 (October 1, 1988): 731-58. doi:10.2307/286556.

Viorst, Milton. Hostile Allies: FDR and Charles De Gaulle. New York: Macmillan, 1965.

White, Dorothy Shipley. Seeds of Discord: De Gaulle, Free France, and the Allies. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1964.


[1] Eve Currie, Philippe Barrès, and Raoul de Roussy de Sales, eds., They Speak for a Nation: Letters from France, trans. Drake Dekay and Denise Dekay (Garden City, NY: Doubleday Doran and Company Incorporated, 1941)

[2] Éric Conan and Henry Rousso, Vichy: An Ever-Present Past (Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 1998), x.

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