Léon Blum and the Popular Front in the face of anti-Semitic attacks

Léon Blum and the Popular Front in the face of anti-Semitic attacks

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"A Jew is worth a Breton"

© Contemporary Collections

Publication date: June 2007

Historical context

The Popular Front: a contested government

April 1936: to the chagrin of the far-right leagues, the Popular Front wins the elections, and France gives itself a left-wing government (socialists of the S.F.I.O. and radicals supported by the P.C.): Léon Blum becomes president of the Council. The country is facing a threatening external situation: the fascist and Nazi regimes in Italy and Germany are well established, and the outbreak of civil war in Spain is raising fears of a generalization of the conflict. Indeed, the crisis of the 1930s exposed the many divisions in society that the Sacred Union and the Roaring Twenties had managed to mask without, however, completely erasing them.

Among these strong dissensions, anti-Semitism is a major element. Underlying for centuries, it was structured at the end of the XIXe century around writings like Jewish France by Édouard Drumont, around strong and brilliant personalities like Maurras or Déroulède and around significant events like the Dreyfus affair. Besides Blum, this poster incriminates Popular Front Home Secretary Marx Dormoy.

Image Analysis

"The Jew, enemy of the nation"

This poster is structured around a reply by Marx Dormoy to a right-wing MP Paul Ihuel, Leon Blum's religious origins having once again come under attack from the opposition. To cut short the calumny, Marx Dormoy, member of the S.F.I.O., answers him by comparing the skills of a Jew and a Breton (P. Ihuel was a member of the Morbihan). However, since Drumont, anti-Semitism has been based on a simple idea: the Jew is not French. Dormoy's sentence therefore amounts to asserting that a foreigner is worth a Frenchman. In the context of exacerbated nationalism of the 1930s, it was enough for Action Française to proclaim at the top of the bill that the Popular Front, through the voice of one of its main ministers, "insulted" the French.
The emphasis on this sentence is intended to shock the reader and to make credible the repeated accusations made by Action Française against the Blum government. The text of the poster confuses Jews and members of the government, claiming first that the latter would be "the servants" of the former and then that everyone would stir up disorder inside and outside. The "ambushes", who would insult the French, are as much the members of the Popular Front government, as the title claims, as the Jews, as the statistics at the bottom left suggest. This accusation of the lack of courage of the Jews during the First World War is a classic “argument” of the leagues of this time. In fact, Dormoy’s predecessor in the Interior, Roger Salengro, committed suicide after a smear campaign against his attitude during the conflict.


The springs of anti-Semitism in the leagues

In the poster the terms "Jewish" and "French" are used several times and clearly placed in opposition. The leagues see themselves as the real defenders of the homeland in the face of the actions of the Popular Front government, which does not hesitate to sell off the interests of the country. To legitimize its fight, Action Française seeks first to affirm that a Jew is not French: the slogan "France to the French" is an address to Blum, "the Jew Blum". Moreover, the Action Française of June 5, 1936 headlined: "France under the Jew. In this light, Blum is described as an alien agent manipulated by both the P.C.U.S. of Stalin and by a "Jewish international", thus giving credence to the theory of the "world Jewish conspiracy".
Faced with this supposed threat, the poster develops the values ​​of its fight: the love of the fatherland, the sacrifice that each Frenchman must be ready to make for it (the assessment at the bottom left is eloquent, and it does not matter that the numbers are inaccurate), the importance of heredity. It evokes the “noble French provinces”, and Xavier Vallat, deputy close to Action Française in 1936, pointed out that it was impossible for “an old Gallo-Roman country” like France to be “governed by a Jew” . The historical character of belonging to the French nation is a recurring element in the ideology of the leagues. The emphasis on French roots effectively excludes a Jew from belonging to the nation of France. Some will see it as a foreshadowing of the Vichy slogan “the earth does not lie”.

This opposition will be called to last in time: Xavier Vallat will be under Vichy the first leader of the Commissariat aux questions juives, and Marx Dormoy will be assassinated in 1941 by collaborators, former members of the Cagoule, an extreme right organization that he had. tried to fight during his passage Place Beauvau.

  • anti-semitism
  • Popular Front
  • Blum (Leon)
  • Third Republic
  • French action
  • Déroulède (Paul)
  • Dormoy (Marx)
  • Drumont (Edouard)
  • Maurras (Charles)


Serge BERSTEIN, France in the 1930s, Paris, Armand Colin, 1988 (2nd ed.) Daniel LEFEUVRE, Michèle MARGAIRAZ and Danielle TARTAKOWSKY, History of the Popular Front, Paris, Larousse, 2006. Gérard NOIRIEL, Immigration, racism and anti-Semitism in France: public speeches, private humiliations, Paris, Fayard, 2007.Michel WINOCK, Nationalism, anti-Semitism and fascism in France, Paris, Le Seuil, 1982 (reissued 2004).

To cite this article

Vincent DOUMERC, "Léon Blum and the Popular Front in the face of anti-Semitic attacks"

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