According to journalist Brigitte Vital-Durand's book Private Domain, which is to be published by the French publishing house First this week, the municipal authorities in the French capital took advantage of the Nazi occupation in order to liquidate the Jewish presence in Paris's fourth district, better known as the Marais quarter.
Before the war, the Marais was inhabited by thousands of French Jews and Jewish immigrants and refugees who had fled Central and Eastern Europe, hoping to find shelter in France from the ascending Nazi and fascist movements. Most of those Jews were of Polish origin.
The Marais became a new ghetto in the heart of the capital, housing some 20,000 Jews. Using the need to fight the tuberculosis that ravaged certain poor quarters of Paris as an excuse, the city's administration planned to evacuate the Marais, destroy it, and replace it with a residential quarter for municipal employees. The German occupation gave the antisemitic administrators of Paris the opportunity to execute their plan.
Under the Vichy regime's emergency laws, 403 buildings in one of Paris's most expensive quarters, bordering the right bank of the Seine, were purchased at very low prices, aryanized, confiscated, and evacuated. Many of the owners or tenants were dispossessed or thrown out without any financial compensation.
The city also claimed holdings that were left behind by Jews who fled from France after the occupation or were deported to concentration camps. No real effort was made after the war to compensate relatives of the Holocaust victims. Moreover, in 1943, the head of the Parisian police, Perier de Feral, ordered that steps be taken to avoid a return of Jewish refugees to the quarter in the event the Germans lost the war.
The holdings became the "private domain" of the city council.Since the liberation, the prefects and mayors that ran Paris - including French President Jacques Chirac who served as the mayor of Paris for 20 years - have used this domain to lodge their relatives as well as French politicians, officials, artists and journalists connected to different political parties, mainly those close to the right-wing parties. The holdings were rented for particularly low prices. Among those who benefitted from this privilege were Prime Minister Alain Juppe.
Paris Mayor Jean Tiberi announced after his election in 1995 his intention to sell most of the private domain.The existence of the plan to eliminate the Jewish presence in the Marais was kept secret since the war. According to some municipal sources, whole documents on the purchase or confiscation of holdings in the Marais have disappeared from the city's archives. Therefore, there is no way to have an exact estimation of the number of holdings illegally taken from Jews or to evaluate their value.
(C) 1996 The Jerusalem Post