Bill Graham Centre Graduate Research Forum: "Food from Overseas: Feeding France’s Interned Population During WWII"
This presentation explores the role that aid played in providing food to one of the most vulnerable populations in France during WWII: men, women, and children interned in French camps. Until 1943, organizations participating in food relief came mostly from abroad, providing an important source of food for internees that accounted for approximately 20% of all food entering the camps. Major international aid organizations, such as the Quakers, the Red Cross, and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, had several advantages unavailable to most French organizations. Their financial resources were greater, allowing them to purchase much needed supplies within France and on the international market and their position of neutrality allowed them to navigate Vichy’s tense political waters and deliver help to those who had been politically and socially excluded within France. To do this, aid organizations required networks. Internally, this meant that aid organizations had to work together despite varying social and political agendas. Externally, it meant that these organizations had to develop relatively strong relationships with the Vichy government, local governments, and camp administrators. The success or failure of these networks determined organizations’ ability to get food to the needy.