Dark Details of France's WWII Vichy Regime Exposed

French law requires documents be made public now that 75 years have elapsed
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Suggested by RockyPneumonia
Posted Dec 30, 2015 7:47 AM CST
Dark Details of France's WWII Vichy Regime Exposed
Robert Paxton, a US historian specializing in Vichy France, left, and ex-Mayor of Paris Bertrand Delanoe are seen during the opening of the exhibition "French Literary Life Under Nazi Occupation."   (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

The town of Vichy, France, has long tried to shake its sinister image: After Germany invaded the country in 1940, the collaborationist government established in Vichy under Marshal Philippe Pétain helped deport 76,000 Jews, including children, reports the BBC. But that effort may be about to stall out as the French government, in keeping with the law, on Monday made public all documents from that time now that 75 years have elapsed. In all, more than 200,000 declassified police and legal documents relating to what happened between September 1939 and May 1945 have been released, reports RFI. Smithsonian recalls the regime's origins: The Franco-German Armistice signed in the year of the invasion split the country in two, with Pétain leading the puppet government in the "unoccupied" southern and eastern zones.

In addition to the deportations, Pétain oversaw the arrests of French Resistance members; the BBC points out the release of police records could round out the story of what happened to Jean Moulin, a Resistance leader who died after being taken and tortured by the Nazis in 1943. And while RFI reports "major revelations" aren't anticipated, it does detail some of what was to be released: "reports of tailing suspects, records of interrogations, and letters of denunciation." The New York Times reports that some hope the release will also cast a new light on the long-vilified town of 25,000. As one historian tells the paper, "The Vichy regime was situated here, in the free zone, but the records clearly show that the greatest numbers of collaborationists were, in fact, in the occupied zone, including Paris." (The story of how a US soldier saved 200 Jews has finally been told.)

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