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Nov 2
The Question of Race in Contemporary France ONLINE EVENT The Department of French and Italian at Princeton
Nov 2
The Question of Race in Contemporary France ONLINE EVENT The Department of French and Italian at Princeton

Denaturalized, How Thousands Lost Their Citizenship and Lives in Vichy France

Claire Zalc | Translated by Catherine Porter

A leading historian radically revises our understanding of the fate of Jews under the Vichy regime.

Thousands of naturalized French men and women had their citizenship revoked by the Vichy government during the Second World War. Once denaturalized, these men and women, mostly Jews who were later sent to concentration camps, ceased being French on official records and walked off the pages of history. As a result, we have for decades severely underestimated the number of French Jews murdered by Nazis during the Holocaust. In DenaturalizedClaire Zalc unearths this tragic record and rewrites World War II history.

At its core, this is a detective story. How do we trace a citizen made alien by the law? How do we solve a murder when the body has vanished? Faced with the absence of straightforward evidence, Zalc turned to the original naturalization papers in order to uncover how denaturalization later occurred. She discovered that, in many cases, the very officials who granted citizenship to foreigners before 1940 were the ones who retracted it under Vichy rule.

The idea of citizenship has always existed alongside the threat of its revocation, and this is especially true for those who are naturalized citizens of a modern state. At a time when the status of millions of naturalized citizens in the United States and around the world is under greater scrutiny, Denaturalized turns our attention to the precariousness of the naturalized experience—the darkness that can befall those who suddenly find themselves legally cast out.

Prizewinning historian Claire Zalc is Professor at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales, Research Director at the Centre national de la recherche scientifique, and Director of the Institute of Modern and Contemporary History at the École normale supérieure.


“Claire Zalc’s book is (...) a brilliant piece of historical detective work which situates the work of the Commission within the wider anti-Semitic policies of the Vichy regime. Her book not only analyzes the workings of an institution but recovers the stories of individuals whose lives were destroyed by it.”—Julian Jackson, author of De Gaulle

“Claire Zalc ingeniously unravels the mechanism of ‘denaturalization’ and gives us vivid portraits of both perpetrators and victims.”—Robert O. Paxton, author of The Anatomy of Fascism

“Zalc’s eye-opening book invites us to consider the true nature and fragility of national identity. At a time when a global crisis is forcing many of us to return to our country of origin, this is a book of great civic and political relevance.”—Annette Wieviorka, author of The Era of the Witness

More info here.