The Holocaust
The Holocaust

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The Holocaust

4.3 The response of some of Germany's allies to Nazi anti-Semitism and the Final Solution

The Hungarians were latecomers to the killing of Jews, but when they became involved in 1944 their police and administrators appear generally to have acted with an unpleasant enthusiasm for the enterprise. Vichy France introduced anti-Semitic legislation early on. The Statute of Jews of 3 October 1940 barred French Jews from holding responsible positions in the public service, from teaching and from the news media; it also prohibited them from entering the département of the Allier, where the town of Vichy itself was situated. Over the next two years there was increasing discrimination as Jewish businesses were expropriated and as quotas were introduced in the professions. Non-French Jews – those who had fled from the east in the aftermath of World War I or from Nazi persecution in the 1930s – were handed over to the Germans first. While there may be something in the argument that this was done to protect those Jews who were French citizens, the three men appointed, successively, to head Vichy's department of Jewish affairs were all noted for their anti-Semitism, and even French Jews were handed over in the end. Some of Vichy's behaviour was clearly to appease the Germans, though it can also be said to have built on the long-standing tradition of anti-Semitism in France. It should also be noted that there were French people who resisted these policies, notably Protestants in the Cevennes who established escape routes for Jews, and for the first time a section of the French clergy came forward during Vichy to denounce anti-Semitism.

Mussolini's Italy began an anti-Jewish campaign in 1937 and a succession of anti-Jewish laws was passed in the following year, coinciding with Kristallnacht. Foreign Jews were to be deported; Italian Jews were forbidden to marry ‘Aryans’, to run businesses employing more than 100 workers, to own more than 50 hectares of land, to work for the civil service or in teaching. It is difficult to account for the laws. The Fascist movement was racist, particularly with regard to Africans, but, while some Fascists were anti-Semitic, this was not a key tenet of the creed and there were relatively few Jews in Italy. Nor is there any evidence of Nazi pressure. The anti-Jewish policies appear to have been the result of concerns about loyalty during a future war; however, they were generally unpopular among the conservative elites which had supported Fascism, as well as among ordinary people, who began to wonder where aggressive foreign policy was leading and who generally disliked the Germans. Italian army officers seem to have had no qualms about handing Serb partisans over to the Ustashi, yet they did not hand Jews over to their German allies when requested. And if the tiny ‘Italian Social Republic’ established for Mussolini in September 1943 pursued anti-Semitic policies, this can be put down principally to the fact that the Germans – notably the ambassador Rudolf von Rahm and SS General Karl Wolff – had the real power.


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