The records, which were released online on Monday, were taken from the foreign, justice and interior ministries as well as France’s provisional government after liberation.
The newly-opened records prove that, contrary to popular belief, collaboration with Germany was more common in France’s occupied zone – the so-called free zone – than it was in Vichy France.
After its defeat in the spring of 1940, France was divided into two zones; an occupied zone that included Paris and the independent Vichy region that was dependent on Germany and had a known legacy of collaboration.
However, the records also reveal that Vichy had France’s largest group of resistance fighters, called the Maquis du Mont Mouchet. Former resistance member Lucien Guyot told The New York Times that the Vichy government exceeded German expectations in its deportation of Jews to concentration camps. “But it was the government’s actions that were unforgivable, not this city’s,” he said.
In April 2015, descendants of Holocaust victims filed a class-action lawsuit claiming that France’s national railway had seized the property of tens of thousands of Jews and others sent to Nazi concentration camps.