Morts en déportation
The Law of 15th May 1985
Translated from the French of Eve Line Blum
By Rosanne Leeson
Beginning in 1945, when it became evident that a number of deportés had ”disappeared” the families were led to have established Certificates of Disappearance, which were followed next by a Final Decree of death, taking the place of death certificates, this being only in order to prove the disappearance of the heads of family, and to receive the compensation necessary for their survival.
Arbitrarily and in the emergency, it was decided that the place of death would be that of the Internment camp where the future deportés had been detained (Drancy, Pithiviers…) and the date indicated would be that of the departure of the convoy. Numerous Final Decrees were issued in that manner. It was obviously a distortion of history, and terms “Died in Drancy” or “Died in Pithiviers” that one always finds today on certain death certificates, absolutely do not reflect the truth, since the majority of French deportés died in Nazi camps situated in foreign countries, notably in Poland (Auschwitz).
Some people were upset by this situation, and a law was permulgated on 15 May 1985 (40 years after the war…) intended to rectify this nonsense.
The first Article of that law stipulates: “The reference “Morts en déportation” is to be entered on the death certificate of all persons of French nationality, or residing in France or a territory previously placed under the sovereignty of France, the protectorate or the guardianship of France, who having been the object of a transfer in a prison relating to Article L.272 of the Code of Military Disability Pensions and of War Victims, has died there. The same information is to be placed on the death certificate if the person had succumbed during the transport.”
Article 3 states precisely: “When it is established that a person has been part of a deportation convoy without any news of them after the date of departure of that convoy their death is presumed to have occurred the fifth day following that date, at the place of destination of the convoy.”
Finally, Article 4 indicates the terms and conditions of these amendments: “The death certificates of the persons mentioned in Article 1, even if they result from a Final Judgement of death, are amended under the conditions foreseen in Articles 5 and 6
by decision of the Minister in charge of Veterans when they indicate a place or date of death other than those which follow from the provisions of Article 3.”
It is necessary to state that that law affects the total number of deportés, whatever the reason for their deportation ( racial, resistants, hostages, etc.)
To this day (December 2006), that is to say, more than 20 years after the promulgation of the law (!) these modifications to the death certificates have not ended, which is already debatable. But, it is even graver.
In effect, if one goes back to the figures indicated on the web site of the “ Fondation pour la Mémoire de la Déportation” (not to be confused with the “Fondation pour la Mémoire de la Shoah”) one counts:
- 85,000 deportés listed for reason of repression of the fight against occupying forces, because resistants or political opposition , hostages or victims of reprisals (figures from research in 1999) of whom 40% have not returned, in effect about 34,000 persons not returned.
- 76,000 deportés (of whom 11,000 were children) for reason of the antisemitic persecutions and in the framework of putting into work the “final solution of the Jewish question” in Europe, of whom 97% have not returned, as it were about 74,000 persons not returned.
In total , the number of persons who have not returned would be therefore approximately 108,000.
The decrees published to this date in the Journal Officiel, since 1986, within the guidelines of the law #85-528 of 15 May 1985, and which gives an alphabetic list of the persons concerned, with their date and place of birth (and further the date and place of death) concerns only about half of the deportés who have not returned from the Nazi camps.
These figures are very disquieting. In effect, this law pertains only to those deportés who have been the object of a Final Decree of death. With the result that when the family has not taken the necessary steps to obtain that civil act, for one reason or another, and notably when it is been totally exterminated, there has not been a death certificate, and these deportés are therefore excluded from that law.
Moreover, the editing of these lists was done contrary to common sense. Thus, the Jewish deportés of Convoy #73, which left Drancy on the 15 May 1944, had been sent to the Baltic countries. One part of the convoy remained in Kaunas (Lithuania), the other part went to Reval (today Tallinn, Estonia), and no one knows today who died in Lithuania, and who died in Estonia (with only a few exceptions). Without caring at all about the French spelling, the lists concerning these deportés indicate sometimes “died in Kaunas (Lithuania), died in Reval (Revel) Esthonia, died in Kaunas/Reval (Lithuania/Esthonia)”, etc. At times the dates are wrong. Sometimes the name of a deporté is shown in a convoy in which he did not travel. Sometimes still, the family has taken the necessary steps, but the correction has not been published in the Journal Officiel. However, one finds some lists devoted to the correction of errors in these corrected acts….
That law specifies besides, in Article 5, that these corrections must be shown on the death certificates. That concerns above all individuals born in France, because it is very easy to contact the Mairies (Town Halls) involved. Now, in very many cases the corrections have never been transferred. Consequently, in the eyes of the French law, the deportés who have disappeared without a death certificate ARE NOT DEAD, much less in deportation.
One finds further very few children among these corrected death certificates, although we know that 11,000 deported Jewish children have all disappeared.
This is true for the Jewish deportés, but equally for the other victims of deportation. Moreover, certain Jews were arrested and deported not only because they were Jews, but for acts of resistance, as hostages, etc.
It is necessary to specify that the errors in these lists are legion! First of all, a great many death certificates have not been corrected as the law had made obligatory. One often finds, for example, the mention of “died in Auschwitz (Germany)”.
One finds errors in the dates (example: a deporté is said to have “died in 1913”) and of places (certain deportés had died on a date and in a place corresponding to a certain convoy, when in fact they were deported to another place, on another date, by another convoy, as one can verify in the “Memorial…” of S. Klarsfeld). Some “deportés” (male) according to the decree disseminated by the Minister of Defense, have become “deportées” (female) because their first name, which was foreign, had been badly interpreted
Finally, it is necessary to know that these death certificates, and their corrections, are very rarely transmitted to the concerned Mairies (Town Halls where they were born, and Town Hall of place of last residence), so that the references are not copied in the margins of the civil registers, as the law makes obligatory.
One can consult these ministerial decrees on the web site of the Journal Officiel:
http://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/WAspad/RechercheSarde.jsp Enter “Déportés” then in “Mesures à caractère provisoire ou nominatif” enter “Déporte”. One will receive then a list of all of the decrees, and by clicking on one of the references one will obtain the list
Web site of Daniel Carouge:
Daniel Carouge has compiled all of the decress of which he had knowledge, up to 2004, in an Excel spreadsheet on his site:
With his agreement we have proceeded to update this file, adding to it the ministerial decrees of 2005 and 2006. This file is freely available as a zipped file at : format.ZIP (2,3 Mo)
Or as an Excel spreadsheet at: format.XLS (10 Mo)