Pardon my absence–I’ve been knee-deep and then some in French history and literature, as is likely to be the case for years to come. But that’s actually a good thing for Jewlicious readers. While I haven’t a clue what’s new in the Jewish world at this very minute, aside from what Haaretz headlines say, I have all sorts of exciting information on interwar France. So while Germany was Nazi-ing up a storm, a Jew was leading the French government. Leon Blum didn’t fare so well later on, once WWII got going, but there was a glimmer of hope, or something. Of course, even while in power, the right in France had it in for Blum, accused him of, among other bizarre things, having a secret stash of silver, and at one point even attacking him physically.

The point of this is to quote an especially amusing/telling/what have you passage from Julian Jackson’s The Popular Front in France, which we just read in one of my classes:

When Blum was accompanying President Lebrun around the exposition of French art at the [Paris, 1937] Exposition he stopped before a set of silver from the Louvre and remarked to the President, not known for his sense of humour, ‘there is my famous collection of silver’; later Lebrun, who had retmained silent, returned to discover if this were true. (251).

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  • Blum (effectively, a front man for the Stalinist French Communist Party) and the Front Populaire were a disaster for France, full stop. While Blum wasn’t in power long enough to screw things up in May 1940, he declined to oppose Hitler and Mussolini in Spain, standing pat as Republican Spain met its violent demise. (A feeble response, indeed, to the anti-semitic French right.)