ABOUT THE BOOK

In the early evening of Yom Kippur, October 2, 1941, vandals attacked Jewish storefronts in Paris in what is often referred to as a “mini-Kristallnacht.” Early the next morning eleven bombs exploded seriously damaging six of the city’s thirteen synagogues including the Grande Synagogue on the rue de la Victoire. The Parisian police found an additional, unexploded bomb later in the day in the front of the synagogue on the rue Pavée. Historians have paid little attention to the causes and consequences of these synagogue bombings and most accounts dismiss them as the result of acrimony between the Gestapo and the Abwehr, rivals over ruling, and fleecing, Occupied Paris. The French, in this interpretation, played little role in these assaults. The evidence, however, does not support this view. Our research demonstrates that the synagogue bombings were deliberate acts of provocation that French extremists, not the German occupiers, plotted and carried out. The master-mind behind the bombings was a brilliant but megalomaniacal Frenchman, Eugène Deloncle, the head of the extreme-right Mouvement Social et Révolutionnaire. Deloncle had a long history of conspiracy, antisemitism and terrorist activities that dated from before the war. He was also a man with ambitions who sought to use the bombings to rise in the esteem of the German leadership in Paris. Betrayal explores the synagogue bombings to reconstruct the events and identify those responsible. It also examines the Jewish and French reaction to and confusion surrounding the destruction. In seeking to raze the synagogues, Deloncle and his men attacked a Parisian landscape associated with the outcome of the French Revolution that Deloncle and his supporters so despised. The bombing of the synagogues was part of a deliberate campaign to obliterate sites of memory tied to the French Revolution and symbolized by the freedom of religion granted to the Jews after the Revolution. Deloncle hoped thereby to usher in a new “National Revolution” that would create a very different France, one founded on the values of Pétain’s regime at Vichy and of fascist Italy. The synagogue bombings had tragic results for Paris’ Jewish community, as in their aftermath the Germans prohibited all Jews from leaving the city. Trapped in the city under German occupation, Parisian Jews now became targets for further violence at the hands of French Antisemites. Betrayal thus situates the synagogue bombings in the larger narrative of the French Holocaust and contributes to the discussion of the French betrayal of Jewry during World War II.