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France Details War Handling of Jews

March 16, 1999

PARIS (AP) _ France published an inventory of World War II documents Tuesday that detailed the systematic persecution of Jews and the looting of their assets.

Up until now, the records of France’s pro-Nazi Vichy regime have been accessible to historians and researchers, but rarely to victims or relatives.

``It’s fantastic, it’s unhoped for,″ said Jean Laloum, author of a book on the destruction of Jews living in working-class eastern Paris.

Last May, Prime Minister Lionel Jospin ordered the archives be opened to the public ahead of the scheduled declassification in 2005.

The documents, filling 6,422 cartons, come from the General Office of Jewish Affairs _ established in 1941 to apply the discriminatory measures banning Jews from most professions and from owning property.

Some of the most sensitive documents are letters of denunciation _ which Vichy leader Philippe Petain regarded as an act of patriotism _ and administrative haggling over whether someone was Jewish or not. French racial laws were even more strict than Germany’s.

``It was a very delicate situation, but we decided to go ahead and publish everything,″ said Paule Rene-Bazin, head curator of the 20th century division of the National Archives.

About 75,000 Jews, including 12,000 children, were deported from France to Nazi death camps between 1941-44, and only 2,500 survived.

Philippe Belaval, director of the National Archives, told reporters that two-thirds of the documents pertain specifically to the forced sale of Jewish property to non-Jewish ownership, and include details on 60,000 cases.

Other documents come from the Office of Restitution, founded in 1945 to return assets to survivors or their heirs.

Belaval said it is not known how many civil servants working in the General Office of Jewish Affairs were punished after the war. But Xavier Vallat and Louis Darquier, two of the office’s most anti-Semitic chiefs, were tried and convicted of treason.

The inventory, which is on sale for $50, comes as a French panel of experts is preparing a report on the widespread looting of Jewish assets.

Preliminary findings include evidence of bank accounts and insurance policies frozen since the 1940s, as well as the transfer of Jewish-owned stocks and bonds to France’s national deposit bank.

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