Petain's Jewish Children
French Jewish Youth and the Vichy Regime, 1940-1942
Oxford University Press 2014
New Books in European StudiesNew Books in French StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Jewish StudiesNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in Religion & FaithNew Books Network October 7, 2014 Roxanne Panchasi
Daniel Lee‘s new book, Petain’s Jewish Children: French Jewish Youth and the Vichy Regime, 1940-1942 (Oxford University Press, 2014) is highly compelling in its breadth, depth of research, and analysis. Focused on the social relationship between French Jews and the state during this critical period of French history, the book emphasizes the notion of a “Plural Vichy,” a regime that was complex rather than homogenous in its ideology and aims, including its antisemitism. Finding evidence of cooperation and accommodation between French Jewish young people and organizations and the state, the author shows the ways in which Vichy was uneven in its policies and practices, particularly in the two years immediately following the defeat of 1940.
Drawing on a wealth of local and national archival sources, Petain’s Jewish Children examines Vichy’s inclusion of Jewish youth in the Chantiers de la Jeunesse, as well as responses of a range of Jewish youth organizations (including the Jewish Scouts) to Vichy’s ideals and plans. As the book shows, these groups saw in certain Vichy policies and programs for French regeneration (especially the notions of a national cultural revolution and a return to the land) opportunities for the improvement of self, community, and nation. The author also draws on a series of fascinating interviews he conducted with a number of French Jews who lived through this difficult period. Complicating our understanding of years that have been understood predominantly in terms of persecution, resistance, and rescue, Petain’s Jewish Children will be of great interest to scholars of both French and Jewish studies.