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Courage and Conscience during the German Occupation of France

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  1. Introduction
  2. Anti Semitic sentiments in France
  3. Ecumenical organizations and groups committed to aiding the refugees
  4. Providing assistance to those in the camps
  5. Efforts to help Jews after OSE and other groups were forced underground
  6. Protestant aid organizations
  7. Conclusion
  8. Works cited

The indescribable mistreatment of Jews and other refugees, both French and foreign, during the German occupation from 1940 to 1944 is a chapter of France's history that many people have difficulty coming to terms with even today. Building upon the influence of pre-existing Anti-Semitism, the Vichy government that existed during the period systematically stripped innocent people of their rights, eventually holding large groups of them in internment camps; families were often separated, and ultimately men, women, and children alike were deported to concentration camps where the vast majority of them were killed. While the French government collaborated with the Germans and often orchestrated these roundups and deportations, there were Frenchmen as well as foreigners who recognized injustice and chose to act against it by helping to save these refugees, especially children, as seen in historical records and in the documentary film, The Children of Chabannes (Lisa Gossels and Dean Wetherell, 1999).

[...] Hitler against you and yours.? While many people seem to have turned a blind eye to the plight of the Jews and other refugees during the German occupation of France, historical examples such as those presented here show that there certainly existed many groups and individuals whose heroic actions were responsible for saving thousands of innocent lives. While different factors may have influenced their choosing to act, it is safe to say that all of these people shared a common motivation: The desire to help those in need, and the willingness to [...]

[...] Of the many ecumenical organizations and groups committed to aiding the refugees facing repression and internment in France during the occupation, the largest and most effective were the Oeuvre de Secours Aux Enfants (OSE) and the World Council of Churches (WCC). Between 1940 and 1942, the efforts of these groups, along with those of the Swiss Red Cross, American Friends Service Committee, and various smaller groups were organized and coordinated to a great extent by the Committee of Nîmes, which actually worked alongside Vichy authorities as a means of alleviating what officials referred to as the ?refugee problem'. [...]

[...] In addition to this, there was a surge of predominantly Jewish refugees into France following the repressive measures in Germany and the occupation of Austria in 1938 (Zasloff p. 64). By the end of the 1930s, France had the largest proportion of immigrants of any country in the world (Zasloff p. 63). In The Children of Chabannes, many of those interviewed who had been harbored at the children's home that is the subject of the film describes being sent to France from Germany for safety by their parents before the French defeat. [...]

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