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France opens access to Vichy archives from Nazi collaboration era

The classified documents belong to the notorious Vichy era during the second World War when thousands of Jews were deported in collaboration with the Nazis. The archives can now be "freely consulted" by the public.

France is allowing free access to previously classified police and legal archives from the Vichy era, one of the darkest chapters in the history of the country when the regime collaborated with Nazi occupiers during World War II.

Starting Monday the archives can be "freely consulted" by the civil service, citizens and researchers "subject to the declassification of documents covered by national defense secrecy rules," according to an order.

The archives, many of which were already available to researchers, show the extra-legal prosecution of members of the French Resistance and proceedings against French Jews, among other things.

Philippe Pétain receives the US ambassador to Vichy, Admiral William D. Leahy, who brings a personal message from President Roosevelt: Pétain (left) and Leahy in the Sévigné pavillion after the reception. - Photo, 5 February 1941.

The Vichy regime, led by Philippe Petain (left), collaborated with Nazi Germany

The Vichy regime, led by World War I hero Philippe Petain, collaborated with the invading German army from 1940-1944. During the period, one of the most painful moments endured by the French people, the government helped the Nazis deport 76,000 Jews from its territory.

Documents dating from as late as December 31, 1960 are also covered by the new rule, provided the files relate to events that took place between September 1939 and May 1945.

Speaking to French LCI television, Gilles Morin, a French historian, said the archives would offer a window into the operation of the collaborationist regime led by Petain.

ap/se (AFP, AP)

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