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The Identity Registration System, Identification Number and National ID Card During the Vichy Regime (France, 1940-1944)

Pierre Piazza
Cet article est une traduction de :
Système d’enregistrement d’identité, numéro d’identification et “carte d’identité de Français” durant le Régime de Vichy (France, 1940-1944)

Résumé

The « Carte d’identité de Français » (ID card for French citizens) was enacted in France starting in October 1940. This paper examines the cooperation between the statistical service of the French finance ministry and the French interior ministry in order to implement the card during German occupation. Each of these actors cooperated for reasons that are analyzed in detail. The intervention of the statistical service in the delivery process of the new document for the identification of nationals occasionally hampered some repressive law enforcement objectives. However, other statistical service initiatives fully embraced the logic of the Vichy regime’s most sinister motives.

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Notes de l’auteur

Translator: François-Xavier Priour

Texte intégral

  • 1 Journal officiel, 20 November 1940, p. 5740-5741.
  • 2 Ariège, Bouches-du-Rhône, Eure, Gard, Haute-Garonne, Hautes- and Basses-Pyrénées, Hérault, Pyrénées (...)

On the 27th of October, 1940, a bill introducing an ID card for French citizens - « carte d’identité de Français » (hereinafter FrID) was officially enacted in France1. With this piece of legislation, the Vichy cabinet wanted to force all French citizens aged sixteen and above to carry this unheard-of document (see Exhibit 1). A dozen metropolitan départements started issuing it in 19432.

Exhibit 1: Final design of the FrID, circulated from 1943

Exhibit 1: Final design of the FrID, circulated from 1943

France, Paris, Préfecture de police archives, DB 599

France, Paris, Préfecture de police archives, DB 599

France, Paris, Préfecture de police archives, DB 599

France, Paris, Préfecture de police archives, DB 599

  • 3 Or, as noted by M. O. Baruch, to “turn the enemy’s demands into French initiatives, in order not to (...)
  • 4 Militärbefehlshaber in Frankreich to the General delegate of the French government at German armed (...)

Authorities were struggling to keep alive a somewhat illusory feeling of national unity by maintaining the sovereignty of the State on the French territory as a whole, at a time when it was being challenged by the presence of foreign occupying forces and the splitting of the country into several zones. The Vichy regime, however, often had to give in to the instructions of German authorities3, who considered the FrID “a necessary basis for maintaining order and facilitating surveillance by police forces4”.

At the same time, the FrID was being presented as a token of the government's determination to restore the authority of the State and modernise it by establishing rational modes of identification that departed from the “approximate” methods of the previous regime. Some “Pétainist” newspapers indeed wrote that the FrID was “noticeably more serious” than its predecessor the voter's card, which to them epitomised a decadent and corrupt Third Republic that had brought about the collapse of the State and thrown the nation in the abyss (Exhibit 2).

Exhibit 2: Cartoon published in collaborationist daily newspaper Le Cri du peuple, 26 November 1940, p. 1

Exhibit 2: Cartoon published in collaborationist daily newspaper Le Cri du peuple, 26 November 1940, p. 1

Finally, the FrID was considered a useful repressive tool to fight the regime's enemies - stigmatized as the “AntiFrance” - and, as significantly shown by the initial design of this ID card (Exhibit 3), as a necessary vehicle for the new set of values then put forward by Vichy (in particular an almost religious adoration of the land, the soil, of the heroes that made France such a great nation, etc.).

Exhibit 3: Initial,unimplemented FrID design project (1941)

Exhibit 3: Initial,unimplemented FrID design project (1941)

CAEF B55 358

  • 5 Educated at Ecole Polytechnique, he belonged to the technocratic wave whose influence in government (...)
  • 6 For a precise description of the inception and processes of these agencies, see Béatrice Touchelay, (...)

Vichy thus sharply redefined the goal of carding as applied to nationals, which during the Republic was mainly considered as a means to materialise the common ground uniting citizens who were recognised as equals in terms of their rights. Carding processes were also significantly redesigned as, for the first time in France, the Ministry of Interior (MI) started to cooperate fully, in an institutionalised way, with the national statistical agency. This agency, reporting to the Ministry of Finance and headed by René Carmille, contrôleur général des armées (Army comptroller general)5, had been established as the “Service de la Démographie” (SD) – “Demographics department”in November 1940 and renamed “Service National des Statistiques” (SNS) “National Statistical Agency”in October 19416.

After looking into the whys and wherefores of this cooperation, we shall endeavour to explore more specifically the ambiguous role played in matters of identification by statistical agencies during this problematic era in French history.

Policing and statistics: the rationales of collaboration

  • 7 Ever since the French revolution, France has been subdivided into about 100 départements, each of w (...)
  • 8 Pierre Piazza (dir.), Aux origines de la police scientifique. Alphonse Bertillon, précurseur de la (...)

The MI insisted that extremely methodical processes be used for accomplishing its task of identifying French nationals. Vichy considered it necessary to improve the performance of this agency, and the role of préfectures7 proved crucial in this respect, as they were ordered to strictly double-check the FrID application files submitted by individuals to municipal authorities. The MI insisted in particular that each of the processes that would make this card an exceptionally reliable document be conducted with minute attention, from the detailed description inspired by Alphonse Bertillon's8 portrait parlé” method, to proper fingerprinting, quality photographs, authentified supporting documents and birth certificates, etc. In addition, préfectures punctiliously controlled how the data collected in towns and cities were compiled – which was done on three numbered index cards (Exhibit 4). These cards mattered a lot to préfectures, since they were used as the basis for producing the FrIDs themselves.

Exhibit 4: FrID application form filled in by communes and subsequently sent to prefectures

Exhibit 4: FrID application form filled in by communes and subsequently sent to prefectures

CAEF 59/99, container 3, box 5

1

CAEF 59/99, container 3, box 5

  • 9 All cards – numbered 1, 2, and 3 – were filed in boxes which, in turn, filled drawers in large wood (...)

In order to increase the efficiency of this system, each and every detail of the activity of préfectures was minutely determined and described by the MI, from the criteria – “morality” in particular – guiding the recruitment of civil servants working on the FrID project to the best possible organisational scheme and office layout for chain-producing IDs (Exhibit 5), etc. In addition, the MI edicted very stringent archiving rules regarding FrID application files9, in order to shield them from potential sabotage.

Exhibit 5: Organisational layout of a FrID office at the département level, 16 June 1942

Exhibit 5: Organisational layout of a FrID office at the département level, 16 June 1942

France, Tarbes, Hautes-Pyrénées département archives, 34 W 3

  • 10 This decision was made during a quarterly cabinet meeting organised by the MI on Dec. 10, 1940, in (...)

Simultaneously, the MI decided to involve statistical agencies in this identification scheme10. While statistician's motives differed from those of policing services, their contribution made the whole process all the more drastic.

Carding as a statistical tool

  • 11 See in particular Robert Aron, Histoire de Vichy, 1940-1944, Paris, Arthème Fayard, 1954, p. 249. R (...)
  • 12 “AP” for “Activités Professionnelles” or “Professional Activities”.
  • 13 As mentioned by SNS Director of demographic surveys Pierre Jacquey in a Sept. 8, 1944 memo: “Everyt (...)

The SD and SNS were officially created under Vichy with an aim to count and statistically analyse the French population, using allegedly novel methods based on mecanography. Another goal was less publicised: to prepare, in the wake of the June 1940 armistice convention disbanding local - i.e. at département level - army recruitment offices, the creation of a National Liberation Army to fight occupying forces if and when circumstances would permit11. Hence the idea of “drowning” this military database in a number of civilian applications, unbeknownst to German authorities. Thus it was that, as early as late 1940, pretending to fight demobilising benefits (primes de démobilisation) fraud, the SD took stock of all bulletins de démobilisation in the Southern zone and created a general mechanographic army database that listed individually each and every disbanded soldier. Similarly, from July 1941 onwards, the same agency listed the professional activity of all individuals living in the free zone and born between Jan. 1876 and Dec. 1927 (Exhibit 6). Knowing the precise address of a great many disbanded soldiers, it was then possible to create, for each of these individuals, a so-called “AP12mechanical card (Exhibit 7). This 300 000-men mobilisation plan was doomed to failure, however, as the Southern zone was invaded by occupying forces in November 1942 and many of the necessary tools were then destroyed13.

Exhibit 6: Professional activity report card (bulletin de recensement des activités professionnelles), 1941

Exhibit 6: Professional activity report card (bulletin de recensement des activités professionnelles), 1941

CAEF B55 359

Exhibit 7: Mechanographic “AP” card

Exhibit 7: Mechanographic “AP” card

CAEF B55 359

Following this failure, however, collected individual data were kept by statistical agencies. These were necessary to achieve their wider official goal of replacing the general tallies provided thus far in France by statistical agencies with a “continuous census” method involving the creation of a national demographic database. In the long run, this database was intented to feature an individual file for each and every French citizen. Personal data included in this file would be digitally translated onto punched cards. These punched cards, when mechanically processed, would then help produce accurate group statistical data.

The very nature of this ambitious project makes it easy to understand how important the FrID requested by the MI was to statistical agencies: indeed, the delivery process of this document was a dreamed opportunity for collecting crucial data on all citizens aged 16 and above.

Individual Files and Bulletin n°4

In March 1941, R. Carmille was allowed by the MI to have the SD design a fourth form (“bulletin n°4”) to be filled in, like the other three, by all nationals applying for a FrID. R. Carmille was thus hoping to collect all data needed by statistics offices to complete or create every French citizen's individual file, which was to serve as the building block of the national population database.

As early as the beginning of April 1941, the SD started to design the precise content of this form, which would be used as the basis for all subsequent censuses. Reaching the final version of bulletin n°4 took about six months (Exhibit 8). Sixteen questions were asked, regarding numerous aspects of the daily life of French citizens and their families. From 1941 onwards, distribution of this bulletin over the French territory was entrusted to the SNS. Several million copies printed at the Imprimerie nationale were sent to préfectures, which subsequently dispatched them in municipalities.

Exhibit 8: “Bulletin n°4”, 1942

Exhibit 8: “Bulletin n°4”, 1942

CAEF B55 358

In the early days of the delivery of the FrID, in 1943, local civil servants were ordered to pay extreme attention to the information given on this bulletin by each citizen applying for the card. A note by R. Carmille, dated 27 April 1942, gave some specifics:

In order for bulletin n°4 to deliver according to expectations, information given by applicants should be checked very thoroughly, and modified or completed if necessary, by comparing the bulletin to the requested supporting documents:

- birth certificate for questions 1, 2, and 3.

- Livret de famille (family notebook) for questions 7, 7 bis, 10, 13, 14, 15, 16, and back side of the form.

  • 14 CAEF B55 358.

Generally speaking, officers, having the aforementioned documents at hand, shall use this opportunity to write clearly on bulletin n°4 information that might be hardly legible or difficult to decipher, in particular the name, first names, place and date of birth14.

  • 15 An SNS memo dated 6 July 1944 mentioned an estimated 4 million individual files in the occupied zon (...)

Like cards n°1, 2, and 3, bulletins n°4 were sent by municipalities to préfectures, then forwarded to local offices of statistical agencies and archived there. All this data completed the numerous individual files already constituted during the July 1941 census of professional activities in the free zone15. However, the project also included the creation of millions of new individual files on the basis of the bulletins. Hence, as early as 1943, the SNS devoted 1 600 employees to the sole task of creating these files and feed the national population database.

Civil Status and the Identification Number

The FrID was interesting in another, major respect for statistical services: it was an opportunity to further rationalise their activity by using, on a very large scale, the identification number invented by R. Carmille. A 6 November 1941 SNS memo explains the logic of this 13-digit number, with its five components:

First component: one digit, from 0 to 9, defining both gender (odd numbers for males, even numbers for females) and status:

French citizen....…………………............…..1 & 2

Non-Jewish indigenous French subject ……..3 & 4

Jewish indigenous French subject………..….5 & 6

Foreigner.………...........…………………….7 & 8

Ill-defined status…............…………………..9 & 0

Second component: two digits, from 00 to 99, defining year of birth – the last two digits of the millesime.

Third component: two digits, from 01 to 12, defining month of birth.

Fourth component: five digits defining place of birth, according a given geographical codification of communes. The first two digits define the département (or colony). The next three define the town. Foreign countries or dominions are given special codes.

Fifth component: Civil status registries have been used to build one specific registry per commune, where births are registered chronologically. For each month, a 3-digit order number, from 001 to 999, was assigned to each individual, according to his/her rank in the registry. Specific methods have been used to build these registries even when civil status registries could not be relied upon (case of foreigners; lost or destroyed registries; etc.).

  • 16 CAEF B55 358.

Example: number 1-85-05-72.070-008 is the identification number of X, a male French citizen born on May 12, 1885 in Mâcon (Saône-et-Loire), who was registered in eighth position on the list - maintained in Lyons by the Direction régionale - of persons born in Mâcon in May 188516.”

This was a breakthrough innovation for the statistical system designed by R. Carmille. Yielding detailed information, unchanged from birth to death, the identification number would unambiguously characterise the bearer. Hence, one of R. Carmille's main goals was to generalise its use, in order to facilitate all the statistical operations he was planning.

Regional SD offices – there were about twenty of them – used municipal birth registries to build identification numbers for all citizens. By August 1941, they were almost done producing a huge general identification database that included all individuals born in France from 1881 to 1940. An additional benefit for Carmille and his teams was that the unique ID number made it a lot easier to find, and update if necessary, the individual files they had compiled about French nationals.

  • 17 Indeed, the SNS was considering “displaying it gradually on all acts and files established for what (...)

However, R. Carmille's larger design was to generalise its use among citizens and public administration organisations, in order to make it a true reference identifier17. This explains why the MI allowed statistical agencies to print this number on the FrID. In 1943, all regional divisions of the SNS initiated controls to ascertain that the actual identity of individuals requesting the FrID matched the 13-digit number stored in their general identification registry. This gigantic effort mobilised 2000 employees full-time. All n°3 FrID request forms archived in préfectures were sent to regional statistical offices, and checked against n°4 bulletins to make sure that both contained the same data. Using this reliable information, regional offices gave all applicants a 13-digit identification number, printed on both the request form and the corresponding n°4 bulletin. Finally, they checked that this number indeed matched the number that they already had stored in their general identification registry.

What benefits for the Ministry of Interior?

Close examination of archived material shows why Vichy's statistical agencies were so keen on contributing to the carding designs of police forces, and why the MI decided to collaborate with R. Carmille's teams. From the policing point of view, this collaboration had two advantages: on the one hand, it was an opportunity to improve the carding process and make it safer; on the other, it made it possible to implement low- cost, stringent controls on the movements of populations.

Improved policing performance

As mentioned above, in order to identify FrID applicants, regional statistical offices had préfectures send them all archived n°3 cards. Before returning them, they had the corresponding 13-digit individual identification number printed on each, which enabled préfectures to subsequently copy it on the corresponding n°1 et 2 cards, as well as on ID cards themselves, before issuance. From the MI's point of view, the whole procedure was yet another way of guaranteeing the proof value of all identity papers it produced. Every French citizen, being identified on the basis of various civil status documents – which backed the FrID application, enabling regional statistical offices to check that people matched their unique identification number – was granted a FrID bearing this very number. Hence, with this inscription, it became possible to ascertain whether the bearer had indeed requested the card in the first place, and whether his/her actual identity did match whatever was mentioned on the card. In addition, authorities could henceforth quickly check the authenticity of any FrID-backed identity, since the identification number was also mentioned on cards n°1, 2, and 3 – archived in préfectures – as well as on n°4 bulletins and in the general identification registry maintained by the SNS regional office that had identified the applicant.

  • 18 “La carte d’identité devient obligatoire”, Les Nouveaux Temps, 6 August 1943, p. 2.

This use of the 13-digit identification number – introduced by newspaper Les Nouveaux Temps as “an innovation likely to spread confusion among forgers18” – substantially altered policing methods and practices regarding the carding of nationals. Until then, police forces only used numbers to identify ID cards themselves, generally using a simple order number. With R. Carmille's innovation, numbers were purposefully used to create a direct link between the identity of an individual and his/her purported ID. Indeed, such was the statistical authorities' willingness to make that link as secure as possible that they ordered more than 200 special printing machines (composteurs) from a private company (Cruchot), to enable every préfecture to print identification numbers in the most legible manner on ID cards. In addition to these expensive pieces of equipment, R. Carmille's teams also bought stamping machines to emboss the number in such a way that it became unalterable (Exhibit 9).

Exhibit 9: Cruchot stamping and embossing machine user's guide (undated)

Exhibit 9: Cruchot stamping and embossing machine user's guide (undated)

France, Tarbes, Hautes-Pyrénées département archives, 34 W 1

France, Tarbes, Hautes-Pyrénées département archives, 34 W 1

Another benefit of the system was that it would not allow a given citizen to unduly procure several FrIDs. To achieve this, regional SNS offices would print the letter “F”, in their general identification registries, next to the number of any individual applying for a FrID.

Changes of address: an important issue

  • 19 For example, the commander in chief of German military forces in France considered that implementin (...)

Having statistical agencies collect information on French citizens in order to organise military resistance would have lacked efficiency without the possibility to keep track of people's addresses. Indeed, how can a reserve army be mobilised if reservists cannot be contacted at just the right time? That is why, under Vichy, statistical services played a major role in designing a change of address monitoring system, which the MI was also extremely interested in – indeed, the MI saw it as inseparable from the FrID in terms of better controlling population movements on the whole territory. However, given the considerable workload involved, the MI was unwilling to manage a declarative system on its own, and decided instead to rely on R. Carmille's teams to implement it. By entrusting them with the actual management of the system, the MI thus intended to bypass a heavy organizational workload while still keeping a close look on its implementation, especially since German authorities were also insisting that measures be taken in this respect19.

  • 20 Jean-Pierre Azéma, Raymond Lévy-Bruhl et Béatrice Touchelay, Mission d’analyse historique sur le sy (...)

On May 30, 1941, a bill was passed requiring every French citizen living in the metropolitan territory to declare each successive change of address. Drafted jointly by police and statistical authorities, it came into effect early March 1942. As highlighted in particular by Jean-Pierre Azéma, Raymond Lévy-Bruhl, and Béatrice Touchelay, this measure “turned out to be one of the most efficient means of the regime's repressive policy20.” It also made it possible, however, for statistical agencies to maintain and update an address book of those French nationals likely to be mobilised for armed struggle: in 1942 alone, such intelligence was collected about 4 400 000 people having moved, i.e. about 11% of the whole population. Thanks to this Act, statisticians were also able to keep most of the files they had built up-to-date. In practice, each change of address statement was reported – by police commissioners or mayors – on three forms containing the same information and bearing the same ordering number: sheet “A” (Exhibit 10) was sent to the regional office of the relevant statistical agency, sheet “B” was archived by the authority that initially received the statement, and sheet “C” was given back to the person as a receipt of statement.

Exhibit 10: Change of address report form, 1942

Exhibit 10: Change of address report form, 1942

CAEF B55 352

The ambiguous action of statistical agencies

Clearly, relying on statistical agencies was a way for the MI to increase the performance level of the carding system it was coordinating. While this goal was indeed achieved to some extent, the engagement of these services can also be considered as counterproductive with regards to policing identification imperatives. Still, in their obsession to collect the personal data needed to achieve their - official as well as unofficial - objectives, the said agencies initiated activities that reveal a strong propensity to population control, tending to directly serve the regime's most authoritarian goals.

Hampering the policing logic

The very involvement of statistical agencies in the design process of the FrID significantly contributed to delaying the implementation of the system. This can be observed as early as 1943, as the first cards were being delivered in some départements. Ultimately, from the MI's point of view, involving statistical agencies meant that the pace of the carding process slipped out of control. In addition, several managers of statistical agencies developed resistance activities that actually hampered policing identification activities.

Bureaucratic inertia

Several months only after the first FrIDs had been delivered in a dozen départements, the administrative control division of the MI (Inspection générale des services administratifs) made a first review of the work done by préfectures. The report included a diagram showing the activity of the FrID teams at the préfectures of Haute-Garonne, Basses-Pyrénées, Hautes-Pyrénées, and Ariège (Exhibit 11). The diagram showed that the number of cards actually issued (taller, leftmost histogram bar) was significantly lower than the number of applications received (fourth from left).

Exhibit 11: Diagram reporting the activity of FrID préfecture offices (Haute-Garonne, Basses- Pyrénées, Hautes-Pyrénées, and Ariège), MI's Administrative services general inspection, 30 December 1943

Exhibit 11: Diagram reporting the activity of FrID préfecture offices (Haute-Garonne, Basses- Pyrénées, Hautes-Pyrénées, and Ariège), MI's Administrative services general inspection, 30 December 1943

France, national archives, F1a 4 539

  • 21 For example, at the end of 1943 in the Gard département, the MI reported to the regional director o (...)
  • 22 Manager of SNS 2nd division to SNS headquarters in Paris, 6 January 1944 système de statistique de (...)

The main problem was the “difficult start” experienced by the regional offices of the SNS. Their task at this stage was to define each FrID applicant's identification number, carefully check his n°4 Bulletin and n°3 card, write the ID number on this card, and send it back to the original préfecture. While this phase was initially expected to be completed in less than twenty days, it eventually turned out that several months were necessary. As pointed out by the MI itself, this excessive lead time created a bottleneck that significantly slowed down the delivery process of FrIDs21. In addition, errors were not unfrequent. The Clermont-Ferrand regional office, for instance, realised at some point that the wife of Maréchal Pétain herself had been issued two distinct identification numbers22!

  • 23 SNS management to the Secrétaire Général au Maintien de l’Ordre (top law enforcement official), 19 (...)

2After a while, however, the delays incurred for the delivery of FrIDs turned out to have less to do with the initial trial and error mistakes of statisticians than with their conscientiousness. As a matter of fact, answers given to the questions asked on Bulletin n°4 and card n°3 were often inaccurate. As a case in point, on March 31, 1944, SNS told police authorities that its regional offices in Montpellier, Marseille, and Toulouse had reported 2 693, 5 551, and 6 820 erroneous n°4 Bulletins respectively23. These “irregularities” frequently forced statisticians to double-check, correct and amend the submitted data if necessary, which of course substantially increased the time they spent on the task of identifying French citizens.

  • 24 CAEF B55 358.
  • 25 The representative of the Toulouse regional Prefect noticed for instance that printing ID numbers o (...)
  • 26 René Carmille to General Director of National Police, February 1944, CAEF B55 358.

3Some of the tools recommended by the SNS to the police in order to strengthen the proof value of the FrID also contributed to hampering the carding process. This was particularly the case for the Cruchot printing and embossing machines, initially supplied in scarce quantity by the SNS to préfectures. On September 28, 1943, for instance, the Police general secretary notified R. Carmille that only eight of these has been delivered in the Seine-Inférieure département which actually needed as many as twenty of them24. Furthermore, the productivity of these machines left to be desired25. Because of this, the MI even went as far as considering not featuring the identification number on FrIDs. The MI, however, eventually had to give in and accept the constraints imposed by the statisticians' wish. The point, as noted by R. Carmille in a February 1944 letter to the General Director of National Police, is that relinquishing it would inevitably have stripped the FrID of any proof value26.

Résistance

  • 27 As stated in an internal INSEE memo dated 9 December 1948: “It has been proven that M.Camille was a (...)

After World War II, R. Carmille was depicted by many as a great patriot. Indeed, he was arrested by the Gestapo at the beginning of 1944, held in Montluc, then Compiègne, and finally Dachau, where he died27.

  • 28 Jean-Pierre Azéma et al., op. cit., p. 29.
  • 29 “Note relative à l’inscription sur le Répertoire d’Identification”, 12 March 1942, CAEF PH 59/99 co (...)

He certainly did not mean statistical agencies to facilitate the repressive agenda of the Vichy regime – clearly writing, about the SNS, that “its purpose is purely statistical, excluding any police role28”. Indeed, this line of behaviour was manifest in his decision to withhold from préfectures the identification number of “persons who were not in a position to adequately substantiate their civil status29”.

  • 30 See in particular the memo “Note relative au Service National des Statistiques” dated 8 September 1 (...)

Besides, even though this aspect is difficult to analyse rigorously given the scarcity of source material, some evidence seems to indicate that a number of statistical agents were, in all likelihood, seriously involved in the forgery of fake FrIDs. Some of them did provide the French government in London and the Allied forces intelligence services with the card’s design model, as well as information on the delivery process. They also supplied the stamping machine used to emboss the 13-digit identification number designed by R. Carmille30.

A mere police auxiliary?

The case of the FrID shows that, while it was not the deliberate intention of most statistical agents under Vichy, their work did contribute to “toughen” the processes of carding, understood as a system that could be used for direct social sorting and control. Still, our analysis would miss the point if we were to consider these agencies as mere auxiliaries of police forces, not always realising how consequential their intense personal data collection activity could turn out to be. Indeed, some of the agents were perfectly aware of, and acted in accordance with, the discriminating, repressive logic of a regime that also intended to profoundly reshape the nation.

Discrimination and repression

In their desire to help the Ministry of Interior, some managers of statistical agencies got involved in projects, or used methods, that exceeded their role as statisticians. For instance, in January 1942, trying to determine with some MI officials whether or not to register changes of adress on the FrID itself, the head of the second division of SNS made some suggestions to police authorities to ease control of the “floating population” (people without a permanent place of residence). He went as far as advocating a new, totally arbitrary definiton of the “domicile”, to facilitate police action:

  • 31 Note by Cucherat, 16 January 1942, CAC 900 353 art. 5.

Rules should be flexible enough to yield some latitude to the classifying authority, such that this authority may include in the floating population whoever it considers should be controlled, while still keeping the option of not including people offering enough guarantees, either typically (officials housed in hotels for instance) or personally. Such discrimination is a rather delicate affair. However, police forces are sufficiently experienced to determine the proper criteria in a satisfying way […]31”.

  • 32 See in particular Henriette Asséo, “La gendarmerie et l’identification des "nomades" (1870-1914)” i (...)

Although the MI showed a keen interest in these suggestions, it refused to follow-up on them, as they were likely to raise overwhelming material issues. Indeed, a new document registering the changes of address of “fairground people” and “nomads” would have performed the same function as two pre-existing IDs made compulsory by a 1912 Act: the identity notebook and anthropometric notebook (resp. carnet d’identité and carnet anthropométrique)32.

In August 1943, at a time when the Vichy regime was particularly adamant that modes of certification of French citizenship should be thoroughly checked in order to exclude all “métèques” that had bastardized the nation, the regional manager of the SNS in Marseilles took a measure that did not fall in his area of competence. In this city, as stated in a letter dated 20 Aug. 1943, [he]

  • 33 Audoin to second division of SNS, 20 August 1943, CAEF B55 358.

had to reject thousands of n°4 bulletins for people who claimed to be French, but obvioulsy were not… It’s on my request that municipal services created a special office to examine litigious cases – and there are tons of them. Let it be understood that this control is not supposed to be an official one. On the contrary, my position is that we have no way to control the nationality mentioned on this bulletin, and that it should be left to préfectures33”.

  • 34 See the 4 July 1942 note sent to Prefects by the Police general secretary, “Circulaire relative à l (...)

Finally and more generally, it should be remembered that statistical agencies took an active part in the delivery process of the FrID at a time – as early as July 1942 – when the MI accepted the responsibility to distribute it first and foremost in areas considered as “sensitive” by German authorities (coastal areas) and to categories of people they wanted to monitor closely (Jews in particular34). Indeed, as early as August 1943, Jewish citizens residing in the Seine département were among the first to be delivered a FrID, embossed with the word “Juif”, thanks to stamping machines made by the Cruchot company.

The individual descriptive notebook

  • 35 This project, however, was never completed, probably because of the excessive organisational comple (...)
  • 36 Undated SD note, CAEF B55 358.
  • 37 Ibid.

The SD had made another proposal in the area of carding, as early as late 1940, initiating a transministerial project aiming to establish an individual descriptive notebook, the carnet signalétique individuel (Exhibit 12) to be managed by the regional offices of the SD35. While the underlying idea was similar to the concept implicit in the FrID – identifying accurately all members of the French society – the notebook had the wider goal of mentioning, in a 15-page document, a large quantity of information pertaining to all aspects of people's lives. The notebook was subdivised into nine sections: identification of the person; general education and intellectual activity; professional activity; psychophysiological profile; criminal records (casier judiciaire); place and changes of residence; relationships with foreign countries; sporting activities, youth and scout camps; and social insurance. The main goal of the SD, in advocating the establishement of this notebook, was to “methodically link data to individuals rather than administrative authorities36” and make it “an indispensable tool permitting an ongoing census of the French community, and best suited to the needs of statistical and dynamic demographic surveys37

Exhibit 12: Individual descriptive notebook (SD project, 1940)

Exhibit 12: Individual descriptive notebook (SD project, 1940)

CAEF B 55 358

4

5CAEF B 55 358

  • 38 Undated, confidential note, CAEF B55 358.
  • 39 Confidential note, “L’organisation du Service de la démographie”, 1 March 1941, CAEF PH 59/99 conta (...)

By collecting, translating into figures (digitizing), and mechanically processing the personal data contained in the notebooks, the SD meant to give the Vichy government the necessary means for better administering the national community as a whole. However, as specified in confidential notes from the SD, the objective was much more ambitious, and totally in line with the National Revolution ideal championed by the regime: the point was to “steer the evolution of the race through sound legislative action on its component people38”, since “to reshape the nation, one must first reshape the men – morally, intellectually, and physically39”.

  • 40 Laurent Laniel & Pierre Piazza, “The INES biometric card and the politics of national identity assi (...)

The experience of the 1940-1944 period – characterised by the state's will to fully identify individuals by mobilising knowledge and know-hows that would utterly rationalise and combine the various purposes of ID documents, identification numbers, and civil status data – had a defining and long-lasting influence on the MI's post-war carding practices. Always keen on implementing increasingly sophisticated documents and tools to ascertain who is who, the MI regularly faced large protest movements that persistently put forward the “Vichy syndrome” argument to hinder its “liberticide” plans. In France, the weight and influence of the past on the future of some of the MI's practices should never be underestimated in this area, as evidenced again recently (2005) and significantly by the rejection of “INES”, its biometric ID card project40.

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Bibliographie

Aron Robert, Histoire de Vichy, 1940-1944, Paris, Arthème Fayard, 1954, p. 249.

Asséo Henriette, « La gendarmerie et l’identification des “nomades” (1870-1914) » in Jean-Noël Luc (dir.), Gendarmerie, État et société au XIXe siècle, Paris, Publications de la Sorbonne, 2002.

Azéma Jean-Pierre, Lévy-Bruhl Raymond & Touchelay Béatrice, Mission d’analyse historique sur le système de statistique de 1940 à 1945, Paris, Report (officially unpublished) ordered by INSEE General Director, 1998.

Baruch Marc-Olivier, Le régime de Vichy, Paris, La Découverte, 1996.

Filhol Emmanuel, Le contrôle des Tsiganes en France (1912-1969), Paris, Karthala, 2013.

Laniel Laurent & Piazza Pierre, « The INES biometric card and the politics of national identity assignment in France » in Colin Benett & David Lyon (dir.), Playing the Identity Card. Surveillance, Security and Identification in Global Perspective, London/New-York, Routledge, 2008.

Le Cri du Peuple, « “Carte de Français”, c’est autrement sérieux que la “carte d’électeur” », 26 Novembre 1940.

Les Nouveaux Temps, « La carte d’identité devient obligatoire », 6 août 1943.

Piazza Pierre, Un oeil sur le crime. Naissance de la police scientifique, Alphonse Bertillon de A à Z, Bayeux, Orep, 2016.

Piazza Pierre (dir.), Aux origines de la police scientifique. Alphonse Bertillon, précurseur de la science du crime, Paris, Karthala, 2011.

Piazza Pierre, « Au cœur de la construction de l’État moderne. Socio-genèse du carnet anthropométrique des nomades », Les Cahiers de la sécurité intérieure, n° 48, avril-juin 2002.

Rouquet François « La technocratie sous Vichy : opportunités, continuité et représentation », in Vincent Dubois & Delphine Dulong (éds.), La question technocratique. De l’invention d’une figure aux transformations de l’action publique, Strasbourg, PUS, 1999.

Sauvy Alfred, “Heurs et malheurs de la statistique pendant la guerre (1939-1945)”, Revue d’histoire de la Deuxième Guerre mondiale, n° 57, Jan. 1965.

Touchelay Béatrice, L’INSEE des origines à 1961 : évolution et relation avec la réalité économique, politique et sociale, doctoral thesis in Economics History, Université Paris XII, 1993.

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Notes

1 Journal officiel, 20 November 1940, p. 5740-5741.

2 Ariège, Bouches-du-Rhône, Eure, Gard, Haute-Garonne, Hautes- and Basses-Pyrénées, Hérault, Pyrénées-Orientales, Seine inférieure, Somme, and Paris.

3 Or, as noted by M. O. Baruch, to “turn the enemy’s demands into French initiatives, in order not to appear to be yielding to pressure”, M. O. Baruch, Le régime de Vichy, Paris, La Découverte, 1996, p. 42.

4 Militärbefehlshaber in Frankreich to the General delegate of the French government at German armed forces headquarters, 22 December 1941, CAC (Centre des archives contemporaines, Fontainebleau) 900 353 art. 5.

5 Educated at Ecole Polytechnique, he belonged to the technocratic wave whose influence in government circles grew steadily under the Vichy regime. See in particular François Rouquet, “La technocratie sous Vichy: opportunités, continuité et représentation”, in Vincent Dubois & Delphine Dulong (éds.), La question technocratique. De l’invention d’une figure aux transformations de l’action publique, Strasbourg, PUS, 1999.

6 For a precise description of the inception and processes of these agencies, see Béatrice Touchelay, L’INSEE des origines à 1961: évolution et relation avec la réalité économique, politique et sociale, doctoral thesis in Economics History, Université Paris XII, 1993. SNS had up to 1 100 resident staff, plus some 6 000 auxiliaries. [INSEE – Institut National de la Statistique et des Études Économiques – is the current name of the national statistical agency (translator’s note)].

7 Ever since the French revolution, France has been subdivided into about 100 départements, each of which is headed by a Préfet – the personal representative of the President of the Republic. The word “préfecture” denotes either the administrative services headed by the Préfet, the building hosting them, or the “capital” city of the département. Each département also has an elected assembly – the Conseil général – with entirely different missions and prerogatives (translator’s note).

8 Pierre Piazza (dir.), Aux origines de la police scientifique. Alphonse Bertillon, précurseur de la science du crime, Paris, Karthala, 2011; Pierre Piazza, Un oeil sur le crime. Naissance de la police scientifique, Alphonse Bertillon de A à Z, Bayeux, Orep, 2016.

9 All cards – numbered 1, 2, and 3 – were filed in boxes which, in turn, filled drawers in large wooden chests of precisely determined length, width, and volume. Brown-coloured number 1 cards matched all FrIDs issued to French nationals living in the département falling in the jurisdiction of the préfecture in question. They were filed alphabetically with respect to the place of residence of the bearer. Number 2 index cards were pink, and matched FrIDs issued in another département to citizens born in the préfecture's jurisdiction. These were sorted out according to the place of birth of the bearer. Finally, green number 3 card reported all applications submitted to the préfecture, regardless of place of birth or residence. They were ordered alphabetically, with a view to establishing a national FrID database at the MI.

10 This decision was made during a quarterly cabinet meeting organised by the MI on Dec. 10, 1940, in order to determine the implementation framework of the Oct. 27, 1940 bill (CAEF B55 358).

11 See in particular Robert Aron, Histoire de Vichy, 1940-1944, Paris, Arthème Fayard, 1954, p. 249. R. Carmille was working hard on this reserve army, with the apparent consent of Maréchal Pétain. In order to convince the cabinet of how important his plan was, R. Carmille went as far as to organise a demonstration of his methods and processes, using the archives and equipement he had managed to salvage when recruitment offices had been disbanded: “René Carmille organised some kind of remarkably designed general rehearsal for Minister of Finance Bouthillier and Minister of War Huntziger. He even managed to induce Pétain to come to Clermont-Ferrand to visit the workshop and attend a demonstration. First, individual cards about adult men were displayed, bearing mention of their age, marital status, profession, army rank and real or potential activity, such as “iron worker” or “armored vehicle maintenance specialist”. These were then transferred onto punched cards and fed to the sorting machine, which issued them one by one, forming smallish, uneven piles. The unavoidable fascination that such an operation always exerts on laymen was compounded here by the practical application of the whole wizardry, for the staging ended with mobilising orders being automatically inserted into envelopes, each bearing the address of the proper individual”, Alfred Sauvy, “Heurs et malheurs de la statistique pendant la guerre (1939-1945)”, Revue d’histoire de la Deuxième Guerre mondiale, n° 57, Jan. 1965, p. 55.

12 “AP” for “Activités Professionnelles” or “Professional Activities”.

13 As mentioned by SNS Director of demographic surveys Pierre Jacquey in a Sept. 8, 1944 memo: “Everything had been prepared in minute detail – from management to specialists – according to detailed staffing tables supplied by military authorities. Individual orders had been written, at various levels. Everything was finely tuned, as evidenced by subsequent checks ordered by military authorities. The degree of precision was in the order of 3%, i.e. bettering the performance of pre-war recruitment offices. The plan was ready to be implemented in Spring 1943. The events of Nov. 1942 and the occupation of the Southern zone, however, made it futile, and all working tools (orders, punched cards, etc.) were incinerated”, CAEF B55 364.

14 CAEF B55 358.

15 An SNS memo dated 6 July 1944 mentioned an estimated 4 million individual files in the occupied zone.

16 CAEF B55 358.

17 Indeed, the SNS was considering “displaying it gradually on all acts and files established for whatever motive, public or private: ID cards; civil status certificates; education and professional diplomas and certificates; property and pension acts, IOUs etc....”, SNS memo, 6 November 1941, CAEF B55 358. Some newspapers advocated the idea – for instance, Aujourd’hui, in its 5 Aug. 1943 issue, suggested that “everyone should try and learn their 'own' number by heart.”

18 “La carte d’identité devient obligatoire”, Les Nouveaux Temps, 6 August 1943, p. 2.

19 For example, the commander in chief of German military forces in France considered that implementing a compulsory declarative system of changes of address was a necessary measure “that should come immediately after the implementation of the FrID”, as reported by the MI in a letter sent to the general delegate of the French government in occupied territories, 22 December 1941 (CAC 900 353 art.5).

20 Jean-Pierre Azéma, Raymond Lévy-Bruhl et Béatrice Touchelay, Mission d’analyse historique sur le système de statistique de 1940 à 1945, Paris, rapport non publié officiellement commandité par le directeur général de l’INSEE, 1998, p. 49.

21 For example, at the end of 1943 in the Gard département, the MI reported to the regional director of SNS that the préfecture had sent 125 000 applications in all, while only 42 000 had been “returned”. General Director of National Police to R. Carmille, 3 February 1944, CAEF B55 358.

22 Manager of SNS 2nd division to SNS headquarters in Paris, 6 January 1944 système de statistique de 1940 à 1945, Paris, Report (officially unpublished) ordered by INSEE General Director, 1998, p. 49, CAEF PH 59/99, container 2, box 3.

23 SNS management to the Secrétaire Général au Maintien de l’Ordre (top law enforcement official), 19 April 1944, CAEF B55 358.

24 CAEF B55 358.

25 The representative of the Toulouse regional Prefect noticed for instance that printing ID numbers on 2000 FrIDs with one such machine mobilized as many as thirteen employees. Prefect of the Toulouse region to Prefect of Foix, 20 May 1943, Archives départementales des Hautes-Pyrénées, 34 W 1.

26 René Carmille to General Director of National Police, February 1944, CAEF B55 358.

27 As stated in an internal INSEE memo dated 9 December 1948: “It has been proven that M.Camille was arrested by the Germans in February 1944 not because of any suspicions regarding the activities of SNS, but due to side-line action in a resistance network that had nothing to do with his work. Had it been otherwise, the Germans would have requested the SNS to be disbanded, and arrested its leaders, instead of simply deporting M. Camille and his general manager M. Jaouen (for stepping in between Gestapo and M. Carmille)”, CAEF B55 471.

28 Jean-Pierre Azéma et al., op. cit., p. 29.

29 “Note relative à l’inscription sur le Répertoire d’Identification”, 12 March 1942, CAEF PH 59/99 container 2, box 3.

30 See in particular the memo “Note relative au Service National des Statistiques” dated 8 September 1944, written by Pierre Jacquey, SNS Director of demographic surveys (CAEF B 55 364). See also “À propos d’un anniversaire ou de la statistique au camouflage”, undated note (p. 40-41) written by André Caffot, a close collaborator of R. Carmille’s (CAEF B 55 364).

31 Note by Cucherat, 16 January 1942, CAC 900 353 art. 5.

32 See in particular Henriette Asséo, “La gendarmerie et l’identification des "nomades" (1870-1914)” in Jean-Noël Luc (dir.), Gendarmerie, État et société au XIXe siècle, Paris, Publications de la Sorbonne, 2002 ; Pierre Piazza, “Au cœur de la construction de l’État moderne. Socio-genèse du carnet anthropométrique des nomades”, Les Cahiers de la sécurité intérieure, n° 48, 2nd quarter 2002 ; Emmanuel Filhol, Le contrôle des Tsiganes en France (1912-1969), Paris, Karthala, 2013.

33 Audoin to second division of SNS, 20 August 1943, CAEF B55 358.

34 See the 4 July 1942 note sent to Prefects by the Police general secretary, “Circulaire relative à la délivrance de la carte d’identité de Français par priorité à certaines catégories d’assujettis”, Archives nationales AJ38 62.

35 This project, however, was never completed, probably because of the excessive organisational complexity entailed by its implementation.

36 Undated SD note, CAEF B55 358.

37 Ibid.

38 Undated, confidential note, CAEF B55 358.

39 Confidential note, “L’organisation du Service de la démographie”, 1 March 1941, CAEF PH 59/99 container 4, box 8.

40 Laurent Laniel & Pierre Piazza, “The INES biometric card and the politics of national identity assignment in France” in Colin Benett & David Lyon (dir.), Playing the Identity Card. Surveillance, Security and Identification in Global Perspective, London/New-York, Routledge, 2008.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Exhibit 1: Final design of the FrID, circulated from 1943
Crédits France, Paris, Préfecture de police archives, DB 599
URL http://journals.openedition.org/criminocorpus/docannexe/image/3659/img-1.png
Fichier image/png, 45k
Crédits France, Paris, Préfecture de police archives, DB 599
URL http://journals.openedition.org/criminocorpus/docannexe/image/3659/img-2.png
Fichier image/png, 44k
Crédits France, Paris, Préfecture de police archives, DB 599
URL http://journals.openedition.org/criminocorpus/docannexe/image/3659/img-3.png
Fichier image/png, 264k
Crédits France, Paris, Préfecture de police archives, DB 599
URL http://journals.openedition.org/criminocorpus/docannexe/image/3659/img-4.png
Fichier image/png, 148k
Titre Exhibit 2: Cartoon published in collaborationist daily newspaper Le Cri du peuple, 26 November 1940, p. 1
URL http://journals.openedition.org/criminocorpus/docannexe/image/3659/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 96k
Titre Exhibit 3: Initial,unimplemented FrID design project (1941)
Crédits CAEF B55 358
URL http://journals.openedition.org/criminocorpus/docannexe/image/3659/img-6.png
Fichier image/png, 37k
Titre Exhibit 4: FrID application form filled in by communes and subsequently sent to prefectures
Crédits CAEF 59/99, container 3, box 5
URL http://journals.openedition.org/criminocorpus/docannexe/image/3659/img-7.png
Fichier image/png, 28k
Crédits CAEF 59/99, container 3, box 5
URL http://journals.openedition.org/criminocorpus/docannexe/image/3659/img-8.png
Fichier image/png, 34k
Titre Exhibit 5: Organisational layout of a FrID office at the département level, 16 June 1942
Crédits France, Tarbes, Hautes-Pyrénées département archives, 34 W 3
URL http://journals.openedition.org/criminocorpus/docannexe/image/3659/img-9.png
Fichier image/png, 54k
Titre Exhibit 6: Professional activity report card (bulletin de recensement des activités professionnelles), 1941
Crédits CAEF B55 359
URL http://journals.openedition.org/criminocorpus/docannexe/image/3659/img-10.png
Fichier image/png, 81k
Crédits CAEF B55 359
URL http://journals.openedition.org/criminocorpus/docannexe/image/3659/img-11.png
Fichier image/png, 78k
Titre Exhibit 7: Mechanographic “AP” card
Crédits CAEF B55 359
URL http://journals.openedition.org/criminocorpus/docannexe/image/3659/img-12.png
Fichier image/png, 47k
Titre Exhibit 8: “Bulletin n°4”, 1942
Crédits CAEF B55 358
URL http://journals.openedition.org/criminocorpus/docannexe/image/3659/img-13.png
Fichier image/png, 54k
Crédits CAEF B55 358
URL http://journals.openedition.org/criminocorpus/docannexe/image/3659/img-14.png
Fichier image/png, 42k
Titre Exhibit 9: Cruchot stamping and embossing machine user's guide (undated)
Crédits France, Tarbes, Hautes-Pyrénées département archives, 34 W 1
URL http://journals.openedition.org/criminocorpus/docannexe/image/3659/img-15.png
Fichier image/png, 100k
Crédits France, Tarbes, Hautes-Pyrénées département archives, 34 W 1
URL http://journals.openedition.org/criminocorpus/docannexe/image/3659/img-16.png
Fichier image/png, 63k
Titre Exhibit 10: Change of address report form, 1942
Crédits CAEF B55 352
URL http://journals.openedition.org/criminocorpus/docannexe/image/3659/img-17.png
Fichier image/png, 46k
Titre Exhibit 11: Diagram reporting the activity of FrID préfecture offices (Haute-Garonne, Basses- Pyrénées, Hautes-Pyrénées, and Ariège), MI's Administrative services general inspection, 30 December 1943
Crédits France, national archives, F1a 4 539
URL http://journals.openedition.org/criminocorpus/docannexe/image/3659/img-18.png
Fichier image/png, 1,2M
Titre Exhibit 12: Individual descriptive notebook (SD project, 1940)
Crédits CAEF B 55 358
URL http://journals.openedition.org/criminocorpus/docannexe/image/3659/img-19.png
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Crédits CAEF B 55 358
URL http://journals.openedition.org/criminocorpus/docannexe/image/3659/img-20.png
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Crédits CAEF B 55 358
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Crédits CAEF B 55 358
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Crédits CAEF B 55 358
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Crédits CAEF B 55 358
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Crédits CAEF B 55 358
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Crédits CAEF B 55 358
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Crédits CAEF B 55 358
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Crédits CAEF B 55 358
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Crédits CAEF B 55 358
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Crédits CAEF B 55 358
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Crédits CAEF B 55 358
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Crédits CAEF B 55 358
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Référence électronique

Pierre Piazza, « The Identity Registration System, Identification Number and National ID Card During the Vichy Regime (France, 1940-1944) », Criminocorpus [En ligne], Identification, contrôle et surveillance des personnes, Articles, mis en ligne le 15 novembre 2017, consulté le 10 décembre 2017. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/criminocorpus/3659

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Auteur

Pierre Piazza

Pierre Piazza is lecturer in political science at Cergy-Pontoise University (LEJEP/CESDIP/CLAMOR). He is a specialist of the social history of state identification systems and techniques. He has published several books and papers on the Bertillon system (anthropometry), finger printing (dactyloscopy), identity cards, and biometrics.

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