Content : Commissariat-General for Jewish Affairs
Details of the fonds
Name of the institution
Name of the fonds
Commissariat-General for Jewish Affairs (CGQJ - Commissariat Général aux Questions Juives)
January 1941 – August 1944
620 linear metres
Description of the archival fonds
Creator(s) of the fonds
Commissariat-General for Jewish Affairs (CGQJ - Commissariat Général aux Questions Juives)
The CGQJ’s records consist essentially of documents from the Provisional Administrator Supervisory Board (SCAP – Service du Contrôle des Administrateurs Provisoires) and the Office for Economic Aryanisation (DAE – Direction de l'Aryanisation Économique).
On 29 March 1941, the Vichy government established a law setting up the Commissariat-General for Jewish Affairs (CGQJ - Commissariat Général aux Questions Juives). This followed a series of other legal measures introduced by the occupying German authorities and the French State targeting the Jewish population, namely the law of 22 July 1940 on the revision of naturalisations, the German edict of 27 September 1940 enforcing a number of anti-Jewish measures (population census and the obligation imposed on all Jewish shop-owners to display a sign bearing the word “Jew”), the Jewish Status law of 3 October 1940 , and that of 4 October 1940 authorising the internment of foreigners of Jewish extraction in special camps.
A German edict dated 20 May 1940 regarding management of companies and businesses in the occupied zone empowered the occupying authorities to appoint provisional administrators to run firms whose managers were absent. Although this edict did not originally specifically target Jews, it was later used against them. A second edict regarding anti-Jewish measures, which came into force on 18 October, provided a definition of what constituted a Jewish business, required such businesses to be registered and stated that “an official provisional administrator may be appointed, to whom the provisions of the 20 May 1940 edict on company management shall apply.” Prefects (in Paris, the Prefect in charge of the Police) were responsible for organising a census of Jewish businesses and appointing provisional administrators to manage them.
In December 1940, the Vichy government created the Provisional Administrator Supervisory Board (SCAP - Service du Contrôle des Administrateurs Provisoires). Under the authority of a representative of the German Military Command in France (Militärbefehlshaber in Frankreich), this Board was tasked with appointing provisional administrators and overseeing their management of Jewish firms. It operated over the whole of occupied France from its headquarters in Paris and included a central secretariat responsible for dealing with current affairs and appointing provisional administrators, and technical departments for examining and verifying Aryanisation procedures.
The SCAP became answerable to the CGQJ in June 1941, following the decree of 19 June 1941 on the organisation of the CGQJ. It then merged with the CGQJ’s Office for Economic Aryanisation in May 1942, to form the Economic Aryanisation and Provisional Administrator Supervisory Board (Aryanisation économique et service de contrôle des administrateurs provisoires).
The CGQJ was headed successively by Xavier Vallat (March 1941 – March 1942), Louis Darquier de Pellepoix (May 1942 – February 1944) and Charles Mercier du Paty de Clam (February – May 1944). It first reported to the Vice-President of the French Council, then to the Secretary of State for the Home Department, and later to the Head of Government.
Although the Commissariat’s headquarters were in Vichy, its activities were mostly centred on Paris.
The Commissariat’s organisational structures changed on several occasions between 1941 and 1944. A decree on 19 June 1941 placed the following four departments under the authority of the Commissioner-General :
- a secretariat overseeing the administrative and financial departments,
- the Status Law Application Division,
- the Office for Economic Aryanisation (for the whole of France from August 1941),
- the Provisional Administrator Supervisory Board.
These four departments were joined in October 1941 by the Police for Jewish Affairs (PQJ – Police des Questions Juives), which later became the Division of Investigations and Inspections (SEC – Section d’Enquêtes et de Contrôle), in December 1942 by the Propaganda Department and, in May 1944, by the General Inspectorate. The CGQJ’s authority extended over the south of the country as well as the occupied zone. In each prefecture outside the Paris region, a regional office was set up, which included representatives from the SEC and, in some cases, propaganda officials.
The responsibilities of the CGQJ fell into four broad categories :
- preparing and proposing the various different anti-Jewish legislative measures to the Head of State. These included the second Jewish Status law, which came into force on 2 June 1941 and was produced by the CGQJ’s Legal and Litigation Department (Service de la législation et du contentieux)
- identifying violations of the legislation on Jewish status: this was the role of the PQJ (and later the SEC) and could even culminate in arrests
- monitoring the General Union of Jews in France (UGIF - Union Générale des Israélites de France), an agency created by law on 29 November 1941 to work with the CGQJ as the only organisation authorised to represent French Jews, in particular with regard to social aid, all other Jewish community organisations having been disbanded
- and lastly, setting the dates for winding up or selling off Jewish assets and appointing and supervising the provisional administrators appointed to run Jewish businesses: this task was entrusted to the Office for Economic Aryanisation.
The Office for Economic Aryanisation was by far the CGQJ’s largest department. In 1944, it employed some 800 of a 1,100-strong workforce. For the purposes of economic Aryanisation, France was divided into three zones, each run by a director: Paris and Seine département, the northern zone and the southern zone. To cope with the large amount of Jewish property in the Seine département, the Paris division adopted the same dedicated categories already in use at the SCAP (Provisional Administrator Supervisory Board) :
- Section I textiles (I A tailoring and shirt-making, I B fabrics and furs, I C fashion and market stallholders I D hosiery)
- Section II A leather and hides, II B cinema and theatre,
- Section III chemicals, mines, fuels, printing and stationery
- Section V A finance, V B real estate, V C banks and insurance companies, V C stocks & shares
- Section VI furniture & furnishings, Section VI markets
- Section VII mechanical and electrical industries
- Section VIII domestic trade, foodstuffs
- Section IX occupied zone départements.
The CGQJ officially ceased to exist on 30 August 1944 in Paris and on 1 September in Vichy. It is believed to have been responsible for an estimated approximately 50,000 instances of plundering, 30,000 of which occurred in Paris and its suburbs. According to its own statistics dated 31 July 1944, around 43% of these procedures were carried through to their conclusion, meaning either that the property was sold or businesses placed under provisional administration were simply closed.
Description of contents
Subclass AJ/38 contains not only records from various CGQJ departments and the Office for Restitution of Personal Property but also individual records, including Aryanisation records, which account for more than two-thirds of the total volume. There are also numerous original files produced by the CGQJ and the Office for Restitution that may also be useful as finding aids.
The general records are periodic reports on the departments’ work: they mainly contain letters, documents, reports and statistics. Of particular note in the files of the CGQJ’s Legal and Litigation Department are the draft and final versions of the Jewish Status laws and documents regarding their application; in the records of the Status Law Application Division and those of the PQJ, individual Jewish records, investigation reports, etc. and in the archives of the administrative and financial departments, CGQJ personnel files. Last but not least, the Office for Economic Aryanisation’s general records, classified according to section, offer information about the appointment and remuneration of provisional administrators and may also contain the periodic reports from the different sections, information about sales and occasional case files.
The individual records mainly concern Aryanisation procedures and appointed provisional administrators and auditors.
- Aryanisation records (AJ/38/1328 to 5170)
It would in fact be more accurate to talk about Aryanisation and property restitution records, since these records contain documents from both departments, given that it was the CGQJ that started them and the Office for Restitution of Personal Property that completed them. Around 62,000 records were created. In theory, each concerns one asset but, in practice, this is not strictly the case: a single file can relate to several assets (branches), several different people (partners), etc. In addition, since one individual could own several assets, the CGQJ created as many records as items, depending on their nature (business, building, etc.) or location (Paris, northern zone or southern zone). Records are divided into two sections: Paris and the former Seine département (references AJ/38/1328 to 3200) and provincial France (AJ/38/3201 to 5170). The Seine département Aryanisation files are arranged by section (I A to VIII) and, within each section, a distinction is made between “claimed” (BR) assets (those for which an application for restitution was made at the time of the Liberation) and “unclaimed” (BNR) assets. This distinction can also be found in certain other départements. Records from provincial France are not classified according to economic activity; at most, in some départements a distinction was made between businesses and properties. In the provincial records, however, there were two records per item: one kept at the Office for Economic Aryanisation and the other at the Prefecture. Sometimes, the Office for Restitution of Personal Property combined the two records but, in most cases, it is necessary to search under the two references, because the documents are not identical in both cases. Depending on the scale of the assets, records may consist of anything from a few sheets of paper to one or more boxes of archives. They generally contain:
- the order appointing the provisional administrator
- the provisional administrator’s start of duties report
- a list of the business’s equipment and inventory
- the Aryanisation proposal formulated by the provisional administrator
- the CGQJ’s decision on this proposal
- records of payments made to the provisional administrator
- the provisional administrator’s final report
- the order terminating the provisional administrator’s assignment
- Office for Restitution of Personal Property circular(s).
Some records also contain information about the original owner or owners (name, nationality, arrest), general details about the business (number of employees, turnover and annual accounts), the deed of sale if the business was sold, information about the buyer (with, in particular, an Aryan certificate), blueprints and miscellaneous correspondence. Folders are marked, on the front, with record identification details (serial number, name of the business or owner, name of the German-appointed provisional administrator, whether or not the asset has been claimed) and, on the back, with a brief summary of the different stages of the looting process. The Aryanisation record is therefore the obvious first port of call for those seeking information about plundered and returned assets.
- Provisional administrator records (AJ/38/5171 to 5553 and AJ/38/5813 to 5814)
Provisional administrator records are the second major source of information for this type of research. The provisional administrators appointed by the Germans played a key role in the asset Aryanisation process. Each provisional administrator looked after several cases (only very occasionally did they have a single assignment). In addition, some assets were managed by a series of successive provisional administrators, if the original provisional administrator was no longer available or deemed incompetent. In such instances, it is important to examine the records of all the provisional administrators involved.
Provisional administrator records are arranged by département for the northern zone (starting with the Seine département), and by region for the southern zone, and then in alphabetical order within each of these subdivisions. Basically they contain the following documents:
- the individual record of the particular provisional administrator established for appointment purposes and including a certificate of good conduct
- the order appointing the provisional administrator
- provisional administrator remuneration data
- replies to Office for Restitution of Personal Property circulars
- the provisional administrator remuneration audit records produced by the SCAP.
Naturally, they also contain information about the assets managed and, in particular, the type of Aryanisation under consideration (sale, liquidation, etc.), the reply received from the owners or their heirs to the circular sent by the Office for Restitution of Personal Property in 1946, which required them to say whether or not they considered the provisional administrator had duly discharged his/her duties, and where they could and often did add comments on provisional administrator performance and, occasionally, complaints lodged by the SCAP or the owners themselves against the provisional administrator from 1945 and thereafter.
- Audit records (AJ/38/5554 to 5562)
For large businesses, an auditor was appointed to second the provisional administrator and audit company accounts.
The archives of the Commissariat-General for Jewish Affairs (CGQJ) were transferred to the Office for Restitution of Personal Property, which came under the Ministry of Finance. In 1948, this ministry transferred an initial batch of records to the National Archives, these being given the references AJ/38/1 to 1140. Other transfers were made in 1955, 1966, 1994 and 2001. CGQJ personnel records were transferred in 1998.
Method of acquisition
Custody and access
French National Archives at Pierrefitte-sur-Seine:
59 rue Guynemer, 93383 Pierrefitte-sur-Seine
These documents may be freely consulted in microfilm format.
These documents may be freely reproduced.
An inventory, drawn up and published in 1998, may be consulted in the National Archives catalogue room. It is arranged logically: the documents were transferred in several stages and, as a result, were referenced sequentially in the order in which they were received, so a catalogue listing them in numerical order would not have flagged up the links logically existing between them.
The inventory is in two parts, both of which may be consulted in the virtual catalogue room of the National Archives:
Part 1: catalogue of all CGQJ (archives except SCAP (Provisional Administrator Supervisory Board) and DAE (Office for Economic Aryanisation) archives
- Part 2: catalogue of SCAP and DAE archives
These records are essential reading for anyone researching looting: they are the original files produced by the CGQJ and are referenced from AJ/38/1161 to 1273 and 1311 to 1326:
For Paris and the Seine département, files are indexed both alphabetically and according to location under their street name, because separate files were created for properties and businesses. For the northern zone, indexes are classified per département, while for the southern zone, they are classified per regional office, to match the way the files to which they refer are arranged.
Indexes contain information about the identity of the owner of the looted property, their address, the name(s) of the provisional administrator(s), the record number, and, for Paris, the section number. This last information is vital and should be used to consult the inventory to find the specific reference (remembering that there are two separate lists, one for claimed, the other for unclaimed assets).
Files are microfilmed under reference 42MI. A table cross-referencing AJ/38 references and 42MI references is available in the microfilm room.
Lastly, the ARYA database, created in 2014 and available on intranet in the catalogue room, can be used to find the reference and the relevant Aryanisation record(s) from the name of a person, business or place.
Sources and bibliography
- Centre for Contemporary Jewish Documentation (CDJC – Centre de Documentation Juive Contemporaine, at the Shoah Memorial, 17 rue Geoffroy l’Asnier, 75004 Paris): when Paris was liberated, the CDJC managed to recover some of the CGQJ's records. These documents came from various CGQJ departments (Office for Economic Aryanisation, Status Law Application Division, PQJ [Police for Jewish Affairs], SEC [Division of Investigations and Inspections], Propaganda Department, regional offices, etc.)
- In the local archives of the Rhône département and the Lyon urban area: Xavier Vallat fonds
- In the Paris city archives: documents concerning looting and plundering (trade register and records of auctions held during the Occupation)
- In the archives of the Caisse des Dépots et Consignations (Deposits and Consignments Fund): 28,000 individual records on consignments
- See also notary archives for details of the sale of Jewish assets by provisional administrators.
- BILLIG (Joseph), Le Commissariat général aux questions juives (1941-1944) (Commissariat-General for Jewish Affairs [1941-1944]). Paris: Éditions du Centre, 1955-1960, 3 volumes.
- PIKETTY (Caroline), DUBOIS (Christophe), LAUNAY (Fabrice), Guide des recherches dans les archives des spoliations et des restitutions, (Guide for archival research concerning spoliation and compensation) Mission d’étude sur la spoliation des juifs de France (Working party on the spoliation of Jews in France). Paris: La Documentation française, 2000.