The German conquest of France in June 1940 divided the country into two parts: an occupied sector in the north and an autonomous state in the south. The autonomous southern state was called (after its capital city) Vichy. The Vichy government openly collaborated with the Nazis.

In 1940, approximately 350,000 Jews lived in France, nearly half of whom were refugees from eastern and central Europe. In October 1940, Vichy France initiated its own anti-Jewish policy, imitating the Nazi policy developed between 1933-1939. A special agency to deal with Jewish matters was established in March 1941. By July, the Vichy government had legislated a policy of "aryanization" similar to the Nazi effort in Germany to drive Jews out of the national economy. Between 2,500 to 3,000 Jewish owners lost their businesses.

After the Wannsee Conference, the Nazis began to deport Jews from Western Europe to concentration and death camps. In France, the deportations began in June 1942 when French police (with some Nazi assistance) rounded-up the Jews of occupied Paris. They transported them to several concentration camps and transit camps established across France. On July 16 and 17, for example, 12,884 Jews were seized in Paris and held in the Velodrome d'Hivers sports arena without food, water, or sanitary facilities. They were then sent to transit camps and from there deported to the death camps in Poland.

Between June 1942 and August 1944, nearly 75,000 Jews were deported from France to the death camps. Only three percent of them (a mere 2,250) returned alive.