Commission for the Compensation of Victims of Spoliation Resulting from the Anti-Semitic Legislation in Force during the Occupation
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CIVS search team in the National Archives [26/09/2007]

A team of researchers from the CIVS was set up in the National Archives as early as February 2000.

It is in the National Archives that all the archives of the General Commissariat for Jewish Questions (CGQJ) and the Department for Restitution of property of victims of the legislation and spoliation measures, in the sub-series AJ38 are to be found.

From March 29, 1941 through August 17, 1944, the CGQJ enforced its anti-Jewish policy, at the instigation of the Vichy government. It was the CGQJ that was appointed to draw up a new rule governing the status of Jews in France, to collaborate with the occupying forces in rounding-up, interning and deporting Jews, and, for the spoliations, to supervise economic Aryanization by applying laws intended to eliminate “any Jewish influence in the national economy”. At the Liberation, the Office for Restitution of Looted Property (Service de restitution des biens spoliés) was set up to provide reparations and to redress these injustices.

The AJ38 comprises approximately 62,000 files on Aryanization relating to the départements of Seine and the provinces. In these files are documents essential to the Commission’s rapporteurs. Such as:
- Various reports from Temporary Administrators, which give a physical and a financial description of the company and/or the real estate.
- The company’s accounts and balance sheets.
- Various different inventories of stocks of merchandize and of the company’s plant and equipment.
- Notarized deeds of sale and of the fulfillment of conditions precedent to the sale.
- Short-form copies of certificates from the registers of trade, crafts and commerce.
- Expert appraisal reports.

Searches are then supplemented by the files of the temporary directors and auditors who managed and controlled the business. The National Archives also possess documents from the post-war period that give an idea of the extent of the spoliation or can provide a trail leading to possible reimbursement:

The response to the Circular by Professor Terroine, addressed to all persons having been subjected to spoliation, to learn of the extent of their property at the Liberation.

The files from the Laws of 1948 and 1949 relating to the initial reparations and compensation made by France.

The Letters from spoliated persons, which, in the form of inventories of personal property and certificates of looting, record the thefts and losses sustained in people’s dwellings.

The minuted reports of restitution (or not) of furniture and pianos. Finally, should the searches fail to produce any result, consulting the F9 file, the so-called “Jewish file”, combining the records of persons arrested by the Prefecture of Police and interned in Drancy, Pithiviers and Beaune-la-Rolande, can provide more precise information on the name of the spoliated person, their address, occupation and date of arrest.

Insofar as concerns searches for property located in province, this is also the team charged with applying to the départemental Archives for assistance. These are essential for the three départements of Alsace and Moselle, for which the National Archives have no Aryanization files, but also for the other départements which possess documents complementary to those included in the Aryanization files, like:

- Short-form copies of censuses.
- Short-form copies of certificates from the registers of trade, crafts and commerce.
- Short-form copies of the Land Charges (Mortgage) Registry.
- The War Damages files.
- The files on the National Solidarity Tax.

Each file represents a moving personal account. The quality of the Aryanization files is irregular: some files are complete, others very sketchy. Finally, it should be noted that there is often no consistency between the claims of the CIVS and what is retrieved from the archives. Indeed, it is not unusual either to find no mention of the person’s property or, on the other hand, to find that there was a company or real estate involved, although the claimant made no reference thereto in his initial claim.

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