Fact Sheet on French Rescue in the Holocaust


Jews killed from France:  Approximately 77,000

Proportion of French Jews killed:

Proportion of immigrant and refugee Jews killed:

Number of Jews killed over 60 years old:  8,700

Number of Jews killed under the age of 6:  2,000

Total killed from France:  Approximately 120,000

Number of deportations:  100 trains

Death camps where Jews were sent:  Auschwitz-Birkenau, Majdanek, Sobibor

Percentage of French Jews killed in Auschwitz: 70% of French Jews were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau; 99% of those sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau were killed on arrival

Number of people who survived deportations:  3,000

Number of Jews who survived the Holocaust in France:  Approximately 300,000

French payments to Germany:  500 million francs per day

Number of French workers sent to Germany:  700,000

Prominent Americans who helped rescue Jews in France (who were not diplomats):
- Clarence Pickett, AFSC
- Noel Field
- Varian Fry, ERC
- Martha and Waitstill Sharp, USC
- Herbert Katzki, JDC
- Joseph Hyman, JDC
- Robert Dexter, USC
- Mary Jane Gold, ERC
- Miriam Ebel, ERC
- Tracey Strong, YMCA
- Donald Lowrie, YMCA, Nimes Committee
- Ross McClelland, AFSC
- Lindsley Noble, AFSC
- Howard Kershner, AFSC
- Howard Brooks


Jewish Population in France, 1940-1944

Total population 1940-1944:  Approximately 350,000

North - occupied zone:  150,000+


South/Vichy - unoccupied zone:  150,000+


Italian zone of occupation, 1942 through September:  30,000+

Number of Jews interned in unoccupied zone as of June 1940: 30,000

Number of Jews in the unoccupied Vichy zone of France after 1942: 250,000

Number of Jews in the Northern zone after 1942: 165,000


Survival in France

Jews living in France summer of 1940:  350,000

Proportion of these who were French citizens:  50%

Proportion of Jews who were recent immigrants or refugees:  50%; many were from German-occupied territories, including Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg

Number of Jews who escaped from France, 1940-1942:  80,000-100,000

Number of Jews who survived in France, June 1940-August 1944:  Approximately 170,000


Rescue and Relief Organizations

Number of rescue organizations operating in France that saved Jews:  Approximately 30

Number of American rescue organizations operating in France that saved Jews:  Approximately 10
- American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC)
- Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS-HICEM)
- Emergency Rescue Committee
- American Friends Service Committee (Quakers)
- Mennonite Central Committee
- Nîmes Committee/Camps Commission
- Unitarian Service Committee (USC) of Boston
- Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA)
- American Federation of Labor (AFL)
- American Red Cross

Number of American Jewish organizations that provided relief to Jews: 2
- American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC)
- Hebrew Immigration and Aid Society (HIAS/HICEM)

French Jewish organizations involved in rescue:
- La Amelot (Rue Amelot), France (Colonie Scolaire)
- DELASEM (Aid Commission for Jewish Refugees)
- Dutch-Paris Rescue Network/Underground
- French Jewish Scouts (EIF)
- Children’s Aid Society (Oeuvres Secours aux Enfants; OSE)

Number of Jews helped by the Hebrew Immigration and Aid Society (HIAS) with the financial aid of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee:  Approximately 24,000 from June 1940-March 1943

Number of people helped by the Emergency Rescue Committee (ERC):  Approximately 25,000

Number of people helped by Mexican Ambassador Gilberto Bosques:  Approximately 30,000-40,000 (mostly Spanish Republican soldiers)

Number of people who were helped by the Unitarian Service Committee (USC):

Cost to immigrate to the United States:  US $500

Papers needed to emigrate (escape) from France: 
- traveling paper or national passport
- French exit visa
- travel pass
- transit visa from Portugal
- transit visa from Spain
- registration of the dossier at the prefecture of the Department of the Bouches-du-Rhône, or at the military service department of the Ministry of Colonies
- letter from the French prefecture authorizing the steamship company to deliver a space on the emigrant’s boat

- entry (destination) visa


French Concentration Camps and Transit Camps

On October 4, 1940, the French government authorized it Prefects to place “foreigners of the Jewish race” in “special camps.”  These camps were administered by French authorities.  The camps were originally established to detain Spanish Republican soldiers of the International Brigades and others who had fled Spain to France after the end of the Spanish Civil War in 1939.  Tens of thousands of Spanish Republican soldiers were detained in these camps.

The law of June 2, 1941, authorized the “administrative internment” of all Jews.  Jews could be sent to the French concentration camps on virtually any pretext.

By the end of 1940, approximately 50,000 Jewish refugees and aliens were sent to these camps.  By February 1941, 68,000 foreigners were interned in the French camps.

The conditions in the camps were poor, and thousands died from the terrible health conditions inside the camps.  There were shortages of food, medicine, and the basic health necessities in these camps.

By November 1941, 17,500 internees were in the Southern camps, of which 11,150 were Jews.



There were two main concentration camps in the North.  Both were located near Paris.  They were Pithiviers and Beaune-la-Roland.  In addition, there was a principal transit camp located in a suburb of Paris called Drancy.  This was the main transit camp to the death camp of Auschwitz in Poland.

Pithiviers, near Paris (Loiret)

Beaune-la-Rolande, near Paris (Loiret)

Drancy transit camp, north suburb of Paris; transit camp to Auschwitz

Compiègne transit camp



31 camps in the southern zone

Main camps:

Rivesaltes (Pyrenees-Orientales) - built in World War II; six thousand internees end of 1941, many of them women and children; many hundreds of internees died there.

Le Vernet (Ariege) – camp used exclusively for Jews; built for World War I; used initially for Spanish Republican soldiers.

Rieucros (Lozere) – women’s camp.

Argeles (Pyrenees-Orientales) – fifteen thousand internees, mainly Spanish Republicans, at the end of 1940.

Les Milles, near Aix-en-Provence – transit center for emigration; America Jewish rescue and relief organizations helped Jews escape from France from this camp.  There were several sympathetic guards at the Les Milles camp who took risks to help Jewish inmates at Les Milles survive and escape: Lucien Mercier, Auguste Boyer, Aimé Bondi, and Jean-Louis Kissy.

Gurs (Basses-Pyrenees) – built in 1939; built for Spanish Republican soldiers; later for German Jewish refugees; more than 1,000 German Jews died in Gurs in its first months of operation.

Noé (Haute-Garonne) – for elderly and infirm.

Récébedou, near Toulouse

In November 1941, there were approximately 17,500 internees imprisoned in the French concentration camps.  11,150 were Jews.

When the deportations from the French concentration camps began in the summer of 1942, there were approximately 9,000-10,000 internees left in the French camps. 

It is estimated that 3,000 people died in the camps in the South between 1940 and 1942.


French Collaborators

Marshal Petain, President, Head of State, June 1940-August 1944

Found guilty of collaboration, and given life sentence.

Pierre Laval, Premier, Minister of State

Laval was appointed twice.  He served from June-December 1940.  He was removed, then reinstated in April 1942.  He enacted and enforced the Statute des Juifs.  Legitimized and facilitated deportation of Jews. Executed after the war for treason.

Admiral Jean-Francois Darlan

Commander in Chief, French Navy, Minister of State December 1940-April 1942

Louis Darquier de Pellepoix

Head of Commissariat General aux Questions Juifs (General Office for Jewish Questions; CGQF).  Replaced Xavier Vallat.  Put in by German Administrator.  Considered very antisemitic.

René Bousquet, Leader, French Police

Agreed to help and facilitate the SS roundup and arrest of Jews.

Xavier Vallat, Member of French Parliament

Head of Commissariat General aux Questions Juifs (General Office for Jewish Questions; CGQF). Declared persona non grata by Germans and replaced, May 1942 with Pellepoix.  Vallat expanded persecution of alien and refugee Jews.  Nazis urged Vallat to arrest thousands of foreign Jews in Paris in May and August 1941. The arrest of French Jews began in Paris.

Schweblin, Head of French Police for Jewish Affairs

Henri Cado

René Bousquet’s deputy in Police Secretariat.


German Occupation Commanders: Civilian, Military, SS

Otto Abetz, German Ambassador to France, Paris

Captain (Hauptsturmfuehrer) Theodore Dannecker, SS

Chief of Gestapo Office, Paris
Subordinate to Lt. Col. Adolf Eichmann IV-B Section in charge of arrest and deportation of Jews.  His assistant was SS officer Ernst Heinrichsohn.

Dr. Werner Best

Haputsturnfuehrer Alois Brunner, Section IV-B

Eichmann’s chief assistant in the arrest and deportation of Jews after 1942.

Helmut Knochen, Chief of German Security Police in France