Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
×
Home

TRAITORS, TRAFIQUANTS, AND THE CONFISCATION OF ‘ILLICIT PROFITS’ IN FRANCE, 1944–1950*

  • KENNETH MOURÉ (a1) and FABRICE GRENARD (a2)
Abstract

State measures to confiscate the ‘illicit profits’ earned from commerce with the enemy and the black market in Occupied France are generally considered to have been an abject failure. Economic collaboration and illicit commerce had been widespread. The need to ‘purge’ the profits from black market transactions and economic collaboration was considered essential at Liberation. An examination of the confiscation effort from archival sources shows that the purge achieved limited success, but that complete success was rendered impossible by factors that limited other post-war purges: the shortage of trained personnel and investigative resources, the need for hard evidence for legal procedures (rather than vigilante justice), the efforts of collaborators to cover their tracks, and the evolution of public opinion, which was quickly disappointed by the slow pace of confiscations. Although success was limited, the effort to punish the profiteers it could convict had been necessary, as a matter of elementary fiscal justice and an essential step in the restoration of the authority of the state.

Copyright
Corresponding author
Department of History, University of California at Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA 93106-9410USAmoure@history.ucsb.edu
Institut d'Études Politiques de Paris, 27 rue Saint-Guillaume, 75 007 Paris. fabrice_grenard@yahoo.fr
Footnotes
Hide All
*

Kenneth Mouré would like to thank the German Marshall Fund of the United States for the research fellowship that allowed him time in France for research needed for this article, and Dean David Marshall and the UCSB Academic Senate for grants to cover research expenses.

Footnotes
References
Hide All

1 Pierre Mendès France, ‘Instruction pour l'application de l'ordonnonance du 8 mai 1944’, Centre des archives économiques et financières (CAEF), b 58865.

2 Address to cabinet, 17 Nov. 1944, and letter Pierre Mendès France to Charles de Gaulle, 18 Jan. 1945; Pierre Mendès France, Oeuvres complètes, ii: Une politique de l'économie, 1943–1954 (Paris, 1985), pp. 62, 117.

3 Dorothy M. Pickles, France between the republics (London, 1946), pp. 188–9.

4 Ronald Matthews, The death of the Fourth Republic (London, 1954), p. 192.

5 Alexander Werth, France, 1940–1955 (London, 1957), p. 289.

6 Jules Chauveneau, Pierrre Mahuzier, and Edmond-Jean Carton, La confiscation des profits illicites (Paris, 1947), pp. 41–2.

7 Jean-Pierre Rioux, La France de la Quatrième République, i (Paris, 1980), p. 60. The latest reassessment of the post-war purges provides the text for the 18 Oct. 1944 decree as an annex, but does not analyse the confiscations; see Marc Olivier Baruch, ed., Une poignée des misérables: l'épuration de la société française après la seconde guerre mondiale (Paris, 2003), pp. 572–6.

8 Marc Bergère, Une société en épuration: épuration vécue et perçue en Maine-et-Loire. De la Libération au début des années 50 (Rennes, 2004), pp. 261–75.

9 Peter Novick, The Resistance versus Vichy: the purge of collaborators in liberated France (New York, NY, 1968) p. 114. Foulon, too, cites Pickles and agrees with Mendès France that without an inventory of fortunes accumulated during the war, the confiscation of illicit profits could achieve little. Charles-Louis Foulon, Le pouvoir en province à la Libération: les commissaires de la République, 1943–1946 (Paris, 1975), pp. 167–8.

10 Most archival sources on illicit profits must be consulted sous dérogation. Apart from the 30 d series at the CAEF at Savigny-le-Temple, most are in departmental archives. Details on archival sources can be found for l'Isère in Vita Chomel, ‘Les archives des comités de confiscation des profits illicites (1944–1951)’, Bulletin de l'IHTP, 21 (1985), pp. 9–15, and a national overview of sources in Marc Bergère, ‘Les archives de l'épuration financière: les comités de confiscation des profits illicites’, in Hervé Joly, ed., Faire l'histoire des entreprises sous l'Occupation: les acteurs économiques et leurs archives (Paris, 2004), pp. 187–92.

11 Marc Bergère, ‘Contribution à un premier bilan national de la confiscation des profits illicites 1944-années 1960’, in idem, ed., L'épuration économique en France à la Libération (Rennes, 2008), pp. 77–88.

12 On French experience see Béatrice Touchelay, ‘Taxer les bénéfices de guerre, ou confisquer les profits illicites, deux légitimités distinctes’, in J. G. Degos and S. Trébucq, eds., L'entreprise, le chiffre et le droit (Bordeaux, 2005), pp. 367–83; on American use of an excess profits tax and business opposition to it, see W. Elliot Brownlee, ‘Economists and the formation of the modern tax system in the United States: the World War I crisis’, in Mary O. Furner and Barry Supple, eds., The state and economic knowledge: the American and British experiences (New York, NY, 1990), pp. 401–35.

13 Béatrice Touchelay, ‘De la contribution extraordinaire sur les bénéfices de guerre à la confiscation des profits illicites: les balbutiements d'une fiscalité moderne dans la France du XXe siècle’, in Des économies et des hommes: mélanges offerts à Albert Broder (Paris, 2006), pp. 123–35.

14 Henry Rousso, ‘L’épuration en France: une histoire inachevée', reprinted in idem, Vichy: l'évenement, la mémoire, l'histoire (Paris, 1992), pp. 489–552, here p. 536.

15 These examples are taken from CCPI files in the Archives départementales des Hauts de Seine at Nanterre.

16 Arne Radtke-Delacor, ‘La place des commandes allemandes à l'industrie française dans les stratégies de guerre nazies de 1940 à 1944’, and Hans Umbreit, ‘Les politiques économiques allemandes en France’, in Olivier Dard et al., L'Occupation, l'état français et les entreprises (Paris, 2000), pp. 11–35, and Alan S. Milward, The new order and the French economy (Oxford, 1970).

17 For the key distinction that France was an ‘administered economy’ rather than a ‘managed economy’ (as termed by contemporaries), see Margairaz, Michel and Rousso, Henry, ‘Vichy, la guerre et les entreprises’, Histoire, économie et société, 11 (1992), pp. 337–68.

18 Institut National de la Statistique et des Études Économiques, Enquêtes diverses sur les prix et la consommation de 1942 à 1944 (Paris, 1947).

19 This estimate in ‘Contribution de la France à l'économie de guerre allemande’, final report by Elmar Michel, in CAEF, b 49 476.

20 Statistics cited by Henry Rousso, ‘L'économie: entre pénurie et modernisation’, in Jean-Pierre Azéma and François Bédarida, eds., La France des années noires, i: De la défaite à Vichy (Paris, 1993), p. 442.

21 Agricultural statistics from Alfred Sauvy, La vie économique des Français de 1939 à 1945 (Paris, 1978), p. 239; on German plans to redistribute food in Europe, see Adam Tooze, The wages of destruction: the making and breaking of the Nazi economy (New York, NY, 2006), pp. 544–9, and Milward's calculations in The new order, pp. 257 and 283.

22 Michel Cépède, Agriculture et alimentation en France pendant la seconde guerre mondiale (Paris, 1961), pp. 386–7. On Parisians' adaptations to food shortages see Mouré, Kenneth and Schwartz, Paula, ‘On vit mal: food shortages and popular culture in Occupied France, 1940–1944’, Food, Culture and Society, 10 (2007), pp. 261–95.

23 Fabrice Grenard, ‘Contourner les réglementations liées aux pénuries et à la fragmentation du marché: le marché noir en zone non occupée et les circuits d’échanges clandestins interzones', in Hervé Joly, ed., L'économie de la zone non occupée, 1940–1942 (Paris, 2007), pp. 119–38.

24 Speech of 20 Apr. 1941; Philippe Pétain, Discours aux Français (Paris, 1989), p. 123.

25 For the most recent work in this field see Paul Sanders, Histoire du marché noir, 1940–1946 (Paris, 2001) and Fabrice Grenard, La France du marché noir (1940–1949) (Paris, 2008).

26 Max Hymans, ‘Le marché noir’, in Jean-Louis Crémieux-Brilhac, ed., Ici Londres, 1940–1944: les voix de la liberté (Paris, 1975), broadcast of 12 Feb. 1943, iii, p. 96.

27 Rapport Coulanges No. 4 of 24 May 1943, ‘Le marché noir’; Archives Nationales (AN), 3ag2/397.

28 See the different plans elaborated in Algiers in AN, 3ag2/419.

29 Ollier-Delest, ‘Une étude sur les mesures à prendre concernant les fortunes édifiées par la collaboration’, 29 Aug. 1943, and ‘Legislation sur les responsabilités et les sanctions’, Sept. 1943; AN, 3ag2/419.

30 Excessive gains were defined as any increase in wealth greater than 50 per cent. See ‘Exposé des motifs’ drafts from Dec. 1943 and Jan. 1944 for confiscation legislation; AN, 3ag2/419 and in CAEF, b 58865.

31 Mendès France to M. Mederic, délégué, Assemblée Consultative, 16 Feb. 1944; AN, 3ag2/419.

32 ‘Ordonnance portant création d'une Commission chargée de rechercher et de confisquer les enrichissements illicites réalisés en Corse depuis le 1er Janvier 1939’, 8 May 1944; CAEF, b 58865.

33 Programme d'action de la Résistance, reprinted in Novick, The Resistance versus Vichy, pp. 198–201.

34 Résistance, 25 Jan. 1943, cited in ‘Législation sur les responsabilités et les sanctions', AN, 3ag2/419.

35 Luc Capdevila, Les Bretons au lendemain de l'Occupation: imaginaire et comportements d'une sortie de guerre, 1944–1945 (Rennes, 1999), pp. 197–218.

36 ‘Les responsabilités et les sanctions’ (undated) and ‘Législation sur les responsabilités et sanctions’, Sept. 1943; AN, 3ag2/419.

37 Monthly reports of the Contrôle technique, especially report of Aug. 1944; AN, f/7/14930.

38 ‘Sanctions contre les collaborateurs’, 25 May 1943, and ‘Législation sur les responsabilités et les sanctions’, Sept. 1943; AN, 3ag2/419.

39 Director of Contributions Directes in the Côtes-du-Nord to the director general in Paris, 2 Aug. 1944, and further observations in note of 30 Aug. 1944; CAEF, b 58865.

40 ‘Profiteurs et exploités’, Le Moniteur des Côtes-du-Nord, 29 July 1944; CAEF, b 58865.

41 ‘Relevé détaillé des amendes infligées par le Comité départemental de libération aux profiteurs de guerre et centralisées à la Trésorèrie Générale du Gers à la date du 30 septembre 1944’, CAEF, b 58865.

42 Minutes of the meeting of the CDL on 22 Sept. as kept by the Syndicat; CAEF, b 58865.

43 The director of Contributions Directes in Toulouse to the director general of Contributions Directes in Paris, 11 Sept. 1944; CAEF, b 58865.

44 Report of 28 Sept. 1944 in Charles de Gaulle, Mémoires de guerre, iii: Le salut, 1944–1946 (Paris, 1959), pp. 316–18.

45 Martin Conway makes this important point in ‘Justice in postwar Belgium: popular passions and political realities’, in Istvan Deák, Jan T. Gross and Tony Judt, eds., The politics of retribution in Europe: World War II and its aftermath (Princeton, NJ, 2000), pp. 142–3.

46 In Jan. 1945, the gardes civiques républicaines, successors to the milices patriotiques, distributed 500 kg of pork, veal and mutton, 80 chickens, 17 rabbits, and 80 packets of cigarettes in Bourges; Archives départementales du Cher, 1 w 420, meeting of 22 Jan. 1945.

47 ‘Projet de loi tendant à confisquer au bénéfice de la Nation les profits réalisés du fait des circonstances de guerre ou de l'occupation ennemie’, 29 Aug. 1944; CAEF, b 58865.

48 Exposé des motifs, ‘Ordonnance du 18 Octobre 1944 tendant à confisquer les profits illicites.’

49 Actualités françaises, 10 Nov. 1944.

50 ‘Conférence de presse sur la confiscation des profits illicites’, 12 Dec. 1944; AN, 560ap/33. Lepercq had been killed in a car accident on 9 Nov.

51 See the analysis of differences by the Direction Générale des Contributions Directes, Aug. 1944, ‘Observations d'ensemble sur le projet d'ordonnance tendant à confisquer les profits illicites’, 20 Sept. 1944; CAEF, b 58865.

52 Jean Mairey, acting Commissaire de la République in Dijon, to minister of the national economy and minister of the interior, 26 Sept. 1944, and undated minister's reply; CAEF, b 49475, and Foulon, Le pouvoir en province, p. 167.

53 Marcel Aymé, Uranus (Paris, 1948, Folio edition), pp. 243–50; his hidden collection includes paintings by Renoir, Degas, and Picasso all bought without liking art or believing in their value.

54 See the description of these methods in Fourment, Georges, ‘L’évolution du marché noir et sa répression’, Revue contrôle économique, 3 (1944), pp. 225–34.

55 Guyot to minister of finance, 9 Dec. 1944; CAEF, 30 d 4.

56 Minister of finance to Commissaires de la République, 20 Oct. 1944; CAEF, 30 d 1.

57 Mendès France had told the cabinet on 17 Nov. that the CCPI would catch some of the newly rich, but ‘a majority of those answerable to justice will escape if there is no general census of fortunes, most of the operations open to criticism … have remained hidden and the confiscation committees cannot expose them in the present state of affairs’. Mendès France, ‘Exposé au Conseil des ministres’, 17 Nov. 1944; Oeuvres complètes, ii, p. 62. The Commissaire de la République in Clermont-Ferrand noted that the Liberation loan was seen as a means to hide illicit profits: the public approved of the CCPI, but doubted that they would prove effective. Report for 1 to 15 Nov. 1944; AN, f/1a/4021.

58 Hoppenot to Certeux, 2 June 1945; CAEF, 30 d 2; including those employed part time there were 1,800 investigators in 1946 and 1300 in 1947, more than half in each case being part time; Bergère, ‘Contribution à un premier bilan’, p. 84. See also the many reports, especially assessing progress in Mar. 1947, in CAEF, 30 d 3.

59 ‘État d'avancement des travaux et perspective d'avenir’, 9 May 1946; CAEF, 30 d 2.

60 ‘Conférence des Présidents des Comités de la Seine du 14 Mai 1946’, CAEF, 30 d 2.

61 Guyot estimate of 20,000 in Guyot to Certeux, 7 Apr. 1945; Nov. estimate in Certeux to Hoppenot, 23 Nov. 1945; CAEF, 30 d 2.

62 Guyot to Minister of Finance, 13 Apr. 1945; from the region of Champagne and Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, another inspector reported that ‘le nombre de citations déjà lancées dépasse partout les possibilités d'enquêtes des comités’. Pignerol, ‘Mission de contrôle des comités de confiscation’, 7 Apr. 1945; CAEF 30 d 4.

63 Rosenstock-Franck, ‘Rapport sur le concours fourni par le Contrôle Économique à l'application de la législation relative à la confiscation des profits illicites’, 30 Apr. 1949; CAEF 5 a 28.

64 Chauvenau, Mahuzier, and Carton, La confiscation, pp. 18, 24–5.

65 Minister of Finance (signed by Calvet) to MM. les préfets, 28 Dec. 1944; CAEF, b 58865; requests from committees were regularly turned down.

66 Guyot to Minister of Finance, 15 May 1945; CAEF, 30 d 4.

67 The original legislation required that they be notified; in Apr. 1946 a new law gave the subject the right to see the evidence against him before the CCPI reached its initial decision.

68 Agenda for a meeting of CCPI presidents planned for 10–12 Feb. 1947; CAEF, 30 d 2.

69 Direction Générale des Contributions Directes, ‘Confiscation des profits illicites. Tri des affaires dans le département de la Seine’, 17 Apr. 1947, and Certeux instructions to CCPI presidents in the Department of the Seine, 16 Apr. 1948; CAEF, 30 d 2.

70 Ollier-Delest, ‘Une étude sur les mesures à prendre concernant les fortunes édifiées par la collaboration’, message 223 received 29 Aug. 1943; AN, 3ag2/419.

71 See the complaints conveyed by de Beaumont, ‘Note sur les comités de confiscation des profits illicites dans la région de Bretagne’, 7 Jan. 1945; CAEF, 30 d 4.

72 From Gendarmerie summaries of crime and public opinion in prefect reports, ‘Synthèse pour la période du 15 Septembre au 15 Octobre 1944’, 13 Nov. 1944, and ‘Synthèse pour la période du 15 Octobre au 15 Novembre 1944’, 11 Dec. 1944; AN, 72aj/384.

73 Hoppenot, ‘Rapport de la mission de Contrôle des Comités de Confiscation de Profits illicites’, 9 Mar. 1945; CAEF, 30 d 2.

74 Statistiques hebdomadaires; CAEF, 30 d 48.

75 Undated note by Ginier-Gillet commenting on CCPI work to 31 Dec. 1945; CAEF, 30 d 2.

76 Clappier, ‘Note sur le Comité de la Corrèze’, 7 Apr. 1945; CAEF, 30 d 4.

77 Guyot to Minister of Finance, 15 May 1945; CAEF, 30 d 4.

78 Commissaire de la République, Haute Garonne, to the Minister of Finance, 20 Feb. 1946; CAEF, 30 d 2.

79 Jean Constant, Économie 45 ou l'économie mal dirigée (Paris, 1946), pp. 17–21; the article was first published in the Bulletin mensuel of the Syndicat Général des Industries Mécaniques et Transformatrices des Métaux in Feb. 1945.

80 ‘Résumés des rapports économiques’ for Dec. 1944, Jan. and Feb. 1945, Archives of the Banque de France (ABF), Paris.

81 ‘Résumés des rapports économiques’, Mar. 1945, ABF.

82 ‘Résumés des rapports économiques’, Jan. 1945, ABF.

83 ‘Résumés des rapports économiques’, Apr. 1945, ABF.

84 ‘Résumés des rapports économiques’, Jan. 1946, ABF.

85 Journal Officiel, Assemblée Nationale, 7 Feb. 1947; the law was passed on 21 Mar. 1947.

86 Certeux (Chef du Service de la Coordination des Administrations Financières) to president of the CCPI for the Seine, 16 Apr. 1948; CAEF, 30 d 2.

87 A memo of 3 Apr. 1947 requested information on the state of confiscations and whether they could be completed according to the parliament's schedule; responses in CAEF, 30 d 3.

88 Guyot report of 3 Apr. 1947, no. 74–47; CAEF, 30 d 3.

89 Guyot reported in 1948 that while no penalties had been too harsh for collaborators in 1945, the public now sympathized with those accused of offences involving food supply; Guyot to minister of finance, 15 Feb. 1948; CAEF, 30 d 3.

90 ‘Résumés des rapports économiques’, Jan. 1947, ABF.

91 Institut National de la Statistique et des Études Économiques, Annuaire statistique rétrospectif (Paris, 1961), p. 105.

92 Poisson report on CCPI operations in the Charente, Apr. 1947, no. 73–47; CAEF, 30 d 3.

93 See ‘instructions pour les présidents des comités’ of 21 Jan. 1947, and order of the day for the conference of presidents held 10–12 Feb., in CAEF, 30 d 2. The eight departments exempted were Bouches-du-Rhône, Seine, Seine Inférieure, Seine et Oise, Pas-de-Calais, Nord, Rhône, and the Gironde.

94 Le Populaire, 24 May 1947, and La Bourgogne Républicaine, 28 May 1947; copies in CAEF, 30 d 2. Similar attacks on CCPI officials and records took place in several towns in 1947; see ‘Rapport sur l'activité de la Direction Général du Contrôle Économique au cours de l'année 1947’, p. 13; CAEF, b 9860.

95 Paul Ramadier, président du conseil, and Édouard Depreux, ministre de l'intérieur, to messieurs les préfets, 27 May 1947, circ. no. 243; CAEF, 30 d 2.

96 Chauvenau, La confiscation, provides clear analysis of these categories. Finance inspectors often divided cases into black market, commerce with the enemy, and cases involving both; it is useful conceptually to restrict the third category to black market commerce with the enemy. Traffic in gold and foreign currency and profits from aryanization played a minor part in CCPI investigations.

97 Chauvenau, La confiscation, pp. 21–2.

98 Guyot to minister of finance, 18 Oct. 1945; CAEF, 30 d 4, and Guyot, ‘Service des comités de confiscation’, 24 June 1946; CAEF, 30 d 3.

99 Service de Coordination des Recherches sur la Collaboration Économique; ‘Histoire de service’, Doc. xiii; CAEF, b 49475.

100 See Le Prado to Certeux, 23 Dec. 1944; CAEF, 30 d 4.

101 See Fédération Départementale de l'Industrie Hotelière du Var to president of the CSCPI, 1 July 1948, and Chambre Syndicale des Houillières Françaises, ‘Confiscation des profits illicites’, 29 Dec. 1944; CAEF, 30 d 2.

102 The fines for falsifying accounts were derisory; see A. Polaillon, ‘Note sur les Comités de Confiscation’, 20 Jan. 1945; CAEF, 30 d 4.

103 See ‘Instruction du 30 juin 1945’, p. 36: ‘If there are no accounts or if the existing accounts cannot be accepted as accurate … the ordinance leaves complete liberty to the Committee concerning the method to employ in determining the amount of illicit profits … in paying particular attention to the frequency and importance of illicit operations in relation to normal operations.’

104 Note pour le ministre, 9 Apr. 1950; CAEF, 30 d 1. In the Hauts-de-Seine, for example, the recoveries by the Treasury at Vanves as of 31 Dec. 1950 were 33 per cent for confiscations, 8.5 per cent for fines imposed, an overall return of 18.5 per cent on the combined total of 422 million francs. Archives départementales des Hauts-de-Seine, 40 W 1.

105 Sanders, Histoire du marché noir, pp. 194–208; and Chauveneau, La confiscation, pp. 29–31.

106 Direction Générale du Contrôle Économique, ‘Caractère officiel du marché noir allemand’, 1945; CAEF, b 49476. The imbrication of the two black markets is explained well in *** [published anonymously, written by Albert Kammerer], ‘Le marché noir allemand en France’, Cahiers d'histoire de la guerre, 4 (1950), pp. 46–71.

107 The figure is given in Reichsmarks, 929.1 million; J. Veltjens, ‘Marché noir allemand en France’, 15 Jan. 1943 (French translation); CAEF, b 49476.

108 Chauveneau, La confiscation, and Guyot to minister of finance, 15 Feb. 1948; CAEF, 30 d 3. This use of high fines accounts in part for the lower rate of return, as not all fines were intended to be payable.

109 Lists of 12 and 13 Dec. 1944; Archives Départementales de Pas-de-Calais, 4z750.

110 Extensive documentation of investigation in Archives de Paris, Perotin 3314/71/1/8 44 and 3314/71/1/8 45.

111 Ministère des finances, Bilan de la situation des finances publiques de la France (éléments statistiques) (Paris, 1946), p. 12; copy in the Pleven papers; AN, 560ap 38.

112 ‘Note pour le ministre’, 9 Oct. 1950; CAEF, 30 d 1.

113 ‘Note pour le ministre’, Mar. 1948; CAEF, 30 d 2, and see the recent analysis of rates of recovery in Bergère, ‘Contribution à un premier bilan’, pp. 86–8.

114 ‘Note sur la repression de la collaboration économique’, CAEF, b 49475.

115 Chauveneau, La confiscation, pp. 41–4.

* Kenneth Mouré would like to thank the German Marshall Fund of the United States for the research fellowship that allowed him time in France for research needed for this article, and Dean David Marshall and the UCSB Academic Senate for grants to cover research expenses.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

The Historical Journal
  • ISSN: 0018-246X
  • EISSN: 1469-5103
  • URL: /core/journals/historical-journal
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed