How Official France Has Obscured the Role of Jewish Resisters in Rescuing Their Brethren from the Nazis

September 8, 2020 | Tsilla Hershco
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In the recent movie Resistance, the American actor Jesse Eisenberg portrays the famed French mime Marcel Marceau, whom the film shows playing a leading role in getting hundreds of Jews out of Vichy France during World War II. Tsilla Hershco explains that the truth is somewhat different from what Hollywood, or official France, would have people believe:

Marceau did, in fact, help transfer Jewish children to Switzerland, but he did so within the framework of the Jewish resistance and the vital infrastructure it had established, including forged certificates, money supply, connections with border smugglers and local authorities, and more.

During his historic recognition in July 1995 of France’s responsibility for the extermination of its Jews, President Jacques Chirac claimed that the French Righteous among the Nations had saved three-quarters of the Jews of France—completely ignoring the central part played by the Jewish Resistance Organization in the rescue. This version was then adopted by his successors.

There is no doubt that the French Righteous among the Nations deserve a place of honor in the history of the Holocaust, but it was the Jewish Resistance that made the crucial contribution to the rescue of some 230,000 Jews—about three-quarters of French Jewry. Members of the Jewish Resistance were mainly the ones who initiated contact with the French rescuers, and who—often at risk of their lives—issued good-quality forged certificates and food stamps without which it would have been impossible to obtain groceries. They even maintained regular contact with the hidden children in order to boost their morale and prevent their loss to the Jewish people. They assisted detainees in the camps and smuggled them away; they moved convoys of children and adults to hiding places in France, Switzerland, and Spain; and they set up guerrilla groups and transferred funds for the sake of the struggle against the Nazi occupier.

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