Convenient and Conditional Humanitarianism: Evacuating French and French-Jewish Children to Switzerland during the Second World War

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Abstract

During the Second World War, Swiss charities undertook multiple large-scale humanitarian initiatives towards war-stricken children, including evacuating over 60,000 French, Belgian and Yugoslav children to Switzerland. In the summer of 1942, when French authorities began the first round-ups of Jews, parents were deported while children remained behind in France. For a brief period, thousands of abandoned French-Jewish children were left to fend for themselves. It was during that crucial moment when Swiss authorities met with Prime Minister Pierre Laval that a deal could have beenstruck to protect these French-Jewish children from deportation and extermination. This article closely examines that meeting to reveal that Swiss officials held the uncompromising view that their own self-mandated neutrality might be comprised, despite a large pre-existing evacuation infrastructure and strong Swiss public support, and to the fatal detriment of thousands of French-Jewish children.
Original languageEnglish
JournalNottingham French Studies
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 11 Dec 2019

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