Phantoms of the Hotel Meurice: A Guide to the Holocaust in Paris
Jeremy R. Mack, author
First and foremost, this book is a guide to the Holocaust in Paris. It shows, through photographs and maps, the persons who were actors in the events of the time and where important things happened. These places are marked and their sites a corresponding index identifying the nearby subway stops. In addition to showing these physical markers of the history, the book aims to help the reader to understand what happened. The author reviews the history of the German occupation in Paris and France from the point of view of the experience of the Jews who were the victims of hatred, French and Nazi. Third, the author presents his observation that massive denial of the occupation, and the French responses to it, is manifest in Paris. He argues that the denial is fundamentally the result of the resistance to the realization of the shameful behavior that was expressed by this people during the war. It is a stark fact that it was they, the French, and not the Germans, who killed 73000 Jews living in France. The French have not come to terms with this reality. In the final section of the book he offers his speculations as to the aspects of French culture that support this denial.
Psychoanalyst Mack does a solid job of summarizing the war crimes of Vichy France against the Jews in this accessible history. He begins with the history of French anti-Semitism, which predated Nazism and the depth of which partially explains French actions between 1940 and 1944. Mack, using secondary sources, then traces the promulgation of anti-Jewish legislation, including statutes aimed at enabling the French to seize Jewish assets before the Germans could. Mack does not mince words: he concludes that the “French, passively and actively, turned their country into... an outpost of Auschwitz, a supply and delivery center for the murder industry of the camp.” By the war’s end, he notes, more than 70,000 Jews living in France had died. Mack makes clear that, despite public statements by prominent politicians such as Jacques Chirac and Emmanuel Macron denouncing French complicity in the Holocaust, denial remains prevalent; for example, he notes, the website of the Hotel Meurice, which had served as the headquarters of the German Military Administration, has an extensive history section that, glaringly, skips 1940–1945. The author’s goal “to undo the obvious attempts on the part of the Parisians and the French to forget, deny, disavow, and to try to remain oblivious of the events” of the 1940s is more than met. Illus. (BookLife)