Anti-Jewish laws were enacted by the Vichy France government in 1940 and 1941 affecting metropolitan France and its overseas territories during World War II. These laws were, in fact, decrees of head of state Marshal Philippe Pétain, since Parliament was no longer in office as of 11 July 1940. The motivation for the legislation was spontaneous and was not mandated by Germany. These laws were declared null and void on 9 August 1944 after liberation and on the restoration of republican legality.
The statutes were aimed at depriving Jews of the right to hold public office, designating them as a lower class, and depriving them of citizenship. Many Jews were subsequently rounded up at Drancy internment camp before being deported for extermination in Nazi concentration camps.
The denaturalization law was enacted on 16 July 1940, barely a month after the announcement of the Vichy regime of Petain. On 22 July 1940, the Deputy Secretary of State Raphaël Alibert created a committee to review 500,000 naturalisations given since 1927. This resulted in 15,000 people having their French nationality revoked, of whom 40% were Jews. Alibert was the signatory of the Statutes on Jews.
The first Jewish status laws dated 3 October 1940 excluded Jews from the army, press, commercial and industrial activities, and the civil service. The second status law was passed in July 1941 and required the registration of Jewish businesses and excluded Jews from any profession, commercial or industrial.
A further law on "Aliens of Jewish Race" of 4 October 1940, promulgated simultaneously with the Jewish status laws, allowed for the immediate internment of foreign Jews. Under the law 40,000 Jews were interned in various camps in the Zone libre, the Southern Zone: Nexon, Agde, Gurs, Noé, Récébédou, Rivesaltes, and Le Vernet. On 1 July 1940, the Germans had expelled thousands of French Jews of Alsace and Lorraine to the Zone libre. Some settled in cities such as Limoges, others finished up in the camps such as Gurs.
These laws were copied from Nazi laws or ordinances, so that they were equally harsh for their victims. These laws were more rigorous than the Italian Racial Laws in occupied Nice. These laws of limitation were put into place from the start of the new regime by Pétain: the first law was put into place barely one month after the Vichy government was established.
The collaborationist regime also put into practice the Nazi policy on hunting Jews, that was enforced by the French police, sending the captive Jews to railway stations where they would be sent to French concentration camps as part of the Final Solution.
The Vichy government voluntarily adopted, without coercion from the German forces, laws that excluded Jews and their children from certain roles in society. According to Marshal Philippe Pétain's chief of staff, "Germany was not at the origin of the anti-Jewish legislation of Vichy. That legislation was spontaneous and autonomous." These laws were declared null and void on 9 August 1944 after liberation and on the restoration of republican legality.
Other categories of the population, such as Freemasons and communists, were also oppressed by this Vichy regime. Until the invasion of the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941 the hunt for communists was not a high priority on the Nazi agenda, because of the signing of the Nazi-Soviet Pact on 23 August 1939.
Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany on 30 January 1933. Pétain came to power in France on 17 June 1940. The following table summarizes anti-Semitic legislative measures in Vichy France vs. Nazi Germany and time it took to adopt the corresponding measures. Time between the installation of government and passing the statute is denoted in parentheses.
|Measure taken||Vichy France||Nazi Germany|
|Date||Time it took||Date||Time it took|
|De-naturalization of Jews||16/07/1940||( 1 month)||26/07/1933||( 6 months)|
|Exclusion of Jews from the army||03/10/1940||( 3 months)||26/06/1936||(41 months)|
|Exclusion of Jews from the press||03/10/1940||( 3 months)||04/10/1933||( 8 months)|
|Exclusion of Jews from commercial and industrial jobs||03/10/1940||( 3 months)||06/06/1938||(64 months)|
|Exclusion of Jewish officials||03/10/1940||( 3 months)||07/04/1933||( 2 months)|
|Authorisation needed to sell or rent a company||09/03/1941||( 8 months)||26/04/1938||(63 months)|
|Exclusion of Jewish students||21/06/1941||(12 months)||22/04/1933||( 3 months)|
|Exclusion of Jewish lawyers||16/07/1941||(13 months)||04/04/1933||( 2 months)|
|Registration of "Jewish" businesses||22/07/1941||(13 months)||14/06/1938||(64 months)|
|Complete exclusion of Jews from commerce and industry||22/07/1941||(13 months)||12/11/1938||(70 months)|
|Nomination of administrators for Jewish heritage||22/07/1941||(14 months)||03/12/1938||(33 months)|
|Exclusion of Jewish doctors||11/08/1941||(14 months)||13/12/1935||(34 months)|
Article 1: The form of the Government of France is and remains the Republic. By law it has not ceased to exist.
Article 2: The following are therefore null and void: all legislative or regulatory acts as well as all actions of any description whatsoever taken to execute them, promulgated in Metropolitan France after 16 June 1940 and until the restoration of the Provisional Government of the French Republic. This nullification is hereby expressly declared and must be noted.
Les Lois de Vichy, text collected by Dominique Rémy (Romillet, 1992), p. 91.