Although there is evidence of Jewish settlement during the Roman period, significant presence in France dates from 465. Synagogues were present in Paris and and Orleans in the mid 500's. Until the First Crusade (1096-99), the relationship between the Jews and Christians was relatively peaceful. Beginning in the 1100's, the situation changed dramatically. Jews were continually persecuted, held for ransom, and expelled, but allowed to return in exchange for financial considerations. Finally, in September, 1394, the Jews were expelled from the Kingdom. After Provence was incorporated in France in 1481 and the Jews were expelled in 1501, there were virtually no Jews left within the present borders of France.
Jews that were living in areas such as Alscace and Lorraine, which were later incorporated into France, were generally allowed to stay. In addition, there were Jews of Spanish and Portuguese origin in the south of France. On the eve of the French Revolution, it is estimated that about 40,000 Jews were living in France. In 1791, Jews officially became citizens of France. The extension of the French borders toward the north and the east during the 19th century, opened the country to immigration from Holland and the Rhineland. In 1789, the Jewish population was 500. By 1869, there were 30,000 Jews living in Paris out of a total population in France of 80,000. The pogroms in Russia in 1881 gave rise to a new wave of immigration. By 1880, 40,000 Jews were living in Paris. After World War I, substantial Jewish immigration from the Ottoman countries took place. It is estimated that there were 180,000 Jews living in Paris in 1939 of which only about one-third were from the "old" French Jewish community. The total Jewish population in France at this time was estimated at 300,000.
On May 10, 1940, the Germans invaded France, with Paris falling on June 14 and an armistice signed two weeks later. An estimated 90,000 Jews were ultimately deported, of which barely 3,000 survived. In 1945, there were some 180,000 French Jews surviving the war. Between 1945-51, many displaced persons arrived resulting in an estimated Jewish population of about 250,000. From 1954-61, about 100,000 North African Jews immigrated ti France, and in 1963, almost the entire Jewish community of Algeria (110,000 persons) moved to France. It is estimated that by 1968, the total Jewish population in France was about 550,000 of which 50 were of sephardic origin. This population has remained relatively stable.
Jouarre (La Ferte)
Encyclopedia Judaica, CD-Rom Edition, Keter Publishing
Copyright © 1998-99 Edward Victor