Face à la persécution 991 Juifs dans la guerre
cowritten by Claire ZALC and Nicolas MARIOT
Published with the aid of the Fondation pour la Mémoire de la Shoah
Odile Jacob, ISBN 978-2-7381-2175-2, september 2010
The ambition of this book is to renew the history of Shoah by writing it not from the point of view of the torturers, be they the decision makers or the executors, but of the victims. Obviously we are not the first to be interested in the victims. The place of the Jews in the historiography of Shoah was that of their words: testimonies, not initially heard, then requested in a legal context, then collected in number for memories. Some also went to search their “missing” parents, as the example of Daniel Mendelsohn who reports, in the eponymous novel, his meticulous search of the traces left by his family killed by the Nazis. The original subtitle of the book gives a good account of his approach: A Search for Six of Six Million. As historians, we try here to multiply this approach by 350. This book does not deal with one family only but with a thousand of individuals: it tries to reconstitute, step by step, all the trajectories of the 991 Jews of Lens between 1940 and 1945.
The book proceeds in stages. From the point of view of the persecuted, it evokes one by one every stage of anti-Semitic discrimination in France during the Second world war : identification, aryanisation, arrest and deportation. Every time, the same question, which structure all the book, is posed: what should we do? Should we declared ourselves as Jews or keep silent? Should we leave or stay? Should we flee and where? Should we abide by the law or fall into clandestinity? The history of these 991 cross destinies is written ground level. It tries to seize from day to day, family by family, the forms taken by anti-Semitic discrimination in France to also understand the diversity of the paths. Archives are now open without restriction to the researchers. We mobilised the documentary mass available, family by family: files and letters of declarations, files of censorship, surveillance reports, mails to the administrations, files of aryanisation, lists of convoys, files of naturalisation but also the funds of the international Service of search, or Swiss files relating to the Jewish refugees. This whole makes it possible to reconstitute the itinaries, date the decisive moments and contextualise the behaviours of the Jews of 1940 to 1945.
This is why the history of Shoah in France is considered from a new standpoint. This book not only relate the variety of the possible behaviours, it looks especially to explain them in regards with the possibilities, social characteristics and migratory stories of the ones and others. To describe, between silence and declaration, shade and light, arrest and clandestinity, the range of the behaviours of the victims, between the life and death.
Lens, with its Jewish community of 350 families, offered a terrain of perfect dimensions. All the actors of discrimination are involved: German authorities, French police and civil servants. The violence at play here is particularly marked: half of the Lens Jews are sent to camps (against approximately 25% for the whole France). This book also follows the destinies of those which went to the occupied zone, to the free zone, to Switzerland or to Malines, the Belgium internment camp, then finally to the death camps.
Nicolas Mariot is in charge of research at CNRS (CURAPP, Amiens), member of the editorial board of the Genèses, sciences sociales et histoire magazine. He published Bains de foule. Les voyages présidentiels en province, 1888-2002 (Belin, 2006) and C’est en marchant qu’on devient président. La République et ses chefs de l’État, 1848-2007 (Lieux d’Être, 2007). He has published, with André Loez, Obéir/désobéir. Les mutineries de 1917 en perspective (La Découverte , 2008).
Claire Zalc is in charge of research at CNRS (Institut d’histoire moderne et contemporaine, ENS). Her work concerns the history of immigration in the 20th century France, in particular the history of foreign entrepreneurs. She has just published Melting Shops. Une histoire des commerçants étrangers en France (Perrin, 2010) and Co-directed 1931, les étrangers au temps de l’exposition coloniale (Gallimard, 2008), the exhibition catalogue of the same name which was held in the Cité nationale de l’histoire de l'immigration (May-October 2008). In parallel, she carries out a thinking on how history is made and written: she published, with Claire Lemercier, Méthodes quantitatives pour l'historien (La Découverte, « Repères », 2008).