Réponse régionale à la crise nationale :  Le refoulement d'étrangers du Loir-et-Cher 1932 - 1939.
Mémoire Ad Hoc pour le diplôme de DEA en Sciences Sociales, sous le direction de M. Olivier Le Guillou, Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales, octobre 1998.

Marie Keem

A close look at the immigration situations in France and the United States in the 1920s reveals an interesting opposition :  whereas in the United States the handling of immigrants was the exclusive preserve of the federal government and government installations such as the operation on Ellis Island, in France private companies took over the role of bringing many of the immigrants into the country and then the government offices in local areas issued their identity cards. Furthermore, as a result of the (erroneous) conclusions drawn as a result of testing done by Army psychologists during World War I, American policymakers had become worried about the intellectual quality of the members of the most recent wave of immigrants -- Russian Jews, Eastern Europeans and Italians -- and had, through temporary quotas instituted in 1921 and the Johnson-Lodge Act of 1924, severely cut back on the numbers passing over their threshold. Thus, at the same point that France was throwing open its doors, America was tightening control to the extent that, as Y. Lequin tells us, France became the first-ranking country of immigration in the world.

France was not inventing itself a national myth of being a country built by immigrants, open to all, et cetera. Rather, it needed human capital. Even before the first World War, the country had suffered from a declining birth rate, and the blood bath of the war years reduced its manpower by another 1.5 million. One statesman, Adophe Landry, had foreseen the need for immigration to fill slots in the French economy and had proposed a policy to guide the integration of the newcomers. His recommendations were taken into account with regard to the laborers who replaced Frenchmen at the work site during the war, but were sidelined thereafter. An arrangement developed between the French government and private initiatives, principally the Société Générale de l'Immigration, that recruited workers in their country of origin, arranged their contracts and escorted them to France. In this way, the supply and the demand for labor went hand-in-glove. Since the need was immense, so was the influx of foreigners. Not counting naturalizations, R. Schor states that on the eve of the Great Depression they officially numbered about 2,891,000, or about 7% of the population of the country.

The steep drop in employment opportunities that arrived in the 1930s thus led to a situation in which the foreigners were asked or ordered, depending on the situation, to return to their native countries, such that in 1936 they numbered 2,413,000 according to Y. Lequin, a drop of 16.5%. According to A. Bockel, who cites statistics from Les Etrangers, recensement général de la population de 1982 (INSEE), the population of foreigners in 1931 was 2,715,000 and dropped to 2,198,000 in 1936, thus implying a slightly larger reduction of 19%.

Despite the variation in statistics cited by different sources, it is obvious that in the space of five years, the landscape of foreign presence in France had undergone drastic changes. One of the purposes of this paper is to look for differences and similarities between the aggregate, national, economic situation and the actual scenes played out on the local level, in particular in the Loir-et-Cher (41). In addition, I believe that the archival sources I have examined point to an interplay between the national and regional discourses regarding the situations which arrived. Hence, I will examine the idea that, in addition to the steps formulated to combat unemployment, ways of speaking about unemployment and about foreigners that were developed centrally, that is largely in Paris and/or as a result of looking at aggregate statistics, were inherited by the regions. Hence, the citizens of the nation moved toward one way of thinking about the crisis even though their own local situation did not support the analysis they were moved to espouse.

The present analysis follows in the footsteps of the work of M. Gérard Aliaga, whose thèse de maîtrise, La Présence Etrangère en Loir-et-Cher dans l'Entre-deux-Guerres, provides an excellent first look at the situation of foreigners who were sent away from the Loir-et-Cher during the economic crisis of the 1930s. M. Aliaga found that in general the individuals who were "refoulés" did not differ significantly from the foreigners who were allowed to stay, this latter category itself forming only a small percentage of the overall population of the département. The object of my work is therefore to take a careful look at the details of these situations as well as at the related references to the presence of foreigners in the Loir-et-Cher. I will consider several types of data from the files of the local administrations of the Ministère de l'Interieur and the Ministère de Travail et main-d'¦uvre located in the Archives Départementales du Loir-et-Cher. These documents are : 

  1. Dossiers of the foreigners who were subjected to refoulement.
  2. Statistics, collected by the Ministère de l'Interieur, on the population of foreigners in the Loir-et-Cher from 1931 to 1939.
  3. Statistics, collected by the Ministère du Travail et main d'¦uvre, regarding unemployment in the département from 1931 to 1939.
  4. Letters of complaint against foreign workers.
  5. Circulaires regarding the proportion of foreign workers allowed in a range of trades.

There is clearly an opportunity for comparison of details and general indicators such as statistics on the population of foreigners in the département. In carrying this out I will endeavor to sketch out possible explanations regarding :  first, the significance of the apparently insignificant category of people called "refoulé" and, second, what the politics of the Préfecture, the local actor in the context of the national economic crisis, might teach us about those two separate but intricately related poles of discourse in the national conversations about unemployment and group identity as it developed in relation to foreigners.

The population of foreigners in the Loir-et-Cher did in fact decrease from 1931 to 1939, but by less than the national average. In 1931 it was 3,168, and in 1936 it was 2,881, or less than 2.5% of the population of the département. Though nationally there was a reduction of 16.5 - 19% from 1931 to 1936 (depending on whose figures one accepts), the same five year period in the Loir-et-Cher saw a drop in the population of foreigners that amounted to a difference of 9.1%. Even if we consider only the adult, potential worker, population, the figures do not change. In 1931 there were 2,564 potential workers and that fell to 2,332 in 1936, representing a difference of 9%.

M. Aliaga refers to the Loir-et-Cher as a "région épargnée" ; that is, spared by the economic crisis of the Depression. In effect, this département did not experience the closing of mines or other production facilities, as had such areas as the Bassin Potassique in the Haut Alsace or the Nord-Pas-de-Calais. However, the unemployment reports sent regularly to Paris do indicate industrial problems which became quite serious for some individuals. The reports from the city of Blois, for example, focus on a list of enterprises -- a producer of chocolate, shoe factories, a sawmill, construction companies, etc. -- that number 13 at the beginning. Not all of these employed more than 100 persons, but the sectors they were situated in appear to have been considered worthy of attention (the construction and materials companies, for example, never employed more than 50 people but were on the national list of priorities and, doubtless, also considered important in Blois). As the years progress, the remarks alongside their names include more and more references to partial unemployment, a policy of spreading work out among employees rather than letting some of them go, and the list becomes shorter as several of the employers simply close their doors. In January of 1935 three remarks are scribbled at the bottom of the page : 

These numbers are not enormous, but they show that in the Loir-et-Cher, some people did find themselves in desperate situations.

In addition to the use of partial unemployment to continue supplying people with at least some work and income, the Loir-et-Cher received money from the national government to construct transportation routes (ponts et chaussées). This work was specifically designated for unemployed Frenchmen (not foreigners), with higher wages going to those who were fathers than to those who were single. It is also noted in several memoranda regarding plant closings that laid off workers had been able to find positions in the agricultural sector. The Loir-et-Cher is predominantly agricultural with many forests and where men worked as "bûcherons" and several stone quarries which employed many "carriers". This was the hard work that the foreigners had been brought in to do during more prosperous years, and during the Depression Frenchmen reclaimed some of it, although they did not succeed in unseating many of the foreigners who seem to have installed themselves for the long term.

The agricultural sector presents a paradox however. The economic indicators cited by A. Sauvy, show that a drop in prices caused quite a bit of trouble in this sector, particularly in the early 1930s. Yet, while there was a decrease in the number of cartes d'identité given for work in Agriculture between 1931 and 1932, it does not appear to be commensurate with the economic problems. The figures cited on the next page bear this out : 


year Cartes de travailleurs agricoles Cartes de travailleurs industriels
1931 830 416
1932 596 368
1933 58 39
1934 1298** 705
1935 631 396
1936 592 202
1937 1177 450 (+ 120?)*
1938 1007 416 (+ 97?)*
1939 1231 722 (+ 168?)*

* In 1937 a much more detailed form was put into use, and it is not clear which of the more detailed categories of industrial workers fit into the old category.

** This represents people who were getting a card for 1934 as well as for 1933, when the cartes d'identité were put on hold and many people stayed in the Loir-et-Cher and worked as usual. Since the average of this figure and the one from 1933 is 678, there would seem to actually be a rise in hiring.

Although the granting of permits to work in industry does seem to follow the national context -- dropping with the crisis in 1936 and picking up again with the revival inspired by the devaluation of the currency in 1937, the agricultural sector seems to be moving according to its own independent rhythm. A. Sauvy explains it this way : 

L'industriel se trouve devant une diminution quantitative des commandes, plus que devant une baisse de prix. Il n'existe pas un marché des vêtements au détail, des meubles, des outils, etc., ayant la fluidité des marchés alimentaires. La baisse de prix peut certes se produire, mais elle ne correspond pas à une véritable liquidité. Devant la réduction continue des commandes, l'industriel est dans l'obligation de stocker, opération qui a ses limites ou de réduire sa production, en licenciant du personnel.

L'agriculteur se trouve lui devant une baisse des prix imposée par le marché. Le stockage du bétail sur pied, ne va pas loin. Réduire ses ensemencements ou ses travaux serait un suicide. Bien, au contraire, chacun cherche à produire davantage, pour essayer de rattraper, sur les quantités, une partie de la baisse subie sur le prix.

Les surfaces emblavées sont passées de 5,500,000 hectares en 1931 à 5,738,000 en 1932 et 5,768,000 en 1933.

This then is the regional economic context in which the data about the foreign workers must be considered. As I mentioned earlier, there seems to have been a stable base of foreigners that maintained its presence in the département. I come to this conclusion based on the statistics for the presence of children. Married couples with children would be much less mobile than a single man or women and more desirous of a stable situation in which to shelter their family. Therefore, the presence of the children points to the additional presence of two adults trying to remain, and remain working, in the département, while fluctuations of workers would seem to be caused by single workers who have only their own interests to consider. The total number of children present in the Loir-et-Cher, as represented in the population statistics by the category "enfants de moins de 15 ans", fluctuated relatively little in the period from 1931 to 1936. The total figures are as follows : 

Table 2

Year Children % drop in relation to year before % drop in relation to 1931 figure
1931 604 - -
1932 582 -3.6% -3.6%
1933 579 -.5 -4.1
1934 551 -4.8 -8.8
1935 569 +3.3 -5.8
1936 549 -3.5 -9.1
1937 469 -14.6 -22.4
1938 516 10 -14.6
1939 795 54 +31.6

The decreases in the number of foreign children are quite small until the year 1937, which I believe marked the beginning of influences other than the job market on the decisions of people to stay in France, come to France or go back to their home country.

It is possible to get a better sense of the characteristics of the population by looking at the histories of several key national groups over the period from 1931 to 1939.

Table 3

Nationalité État-civil 1931
Belge Hommes 162
Femmes 106
Enfants 94
Esp. H 221
F. 120
E. 193
Ital. H. 202
F. 74
E. 74
Pol. H 415
F. 363
E. 84
Port. H. 197
F. 16
E. 18
Serb. H. 51
F. 37
E. 5
Swiss. H. 50
F. 35
E. 10
Tchè. H. 80
F. 155
E. 15
Total enfant E. 493

*The arrival of Spanish refugees in 1939 (along with refugees from other countries I presume, although I have found no references to them) seriously changes the data for 1939.

Once again, one can see that while the population of children certainly undergoes changes, there are few points of sharp increase or decrease. Worthy of note are the decrease in the population of Spanish people, including a decrease in the number of children which could represent several families moving away between 1931 and 1932 as well as between 1934 and 1935 and again between 1936 and 1937. This was matched by an almost equivalent increase in the population of Polish nationals, including increases in the number of children, which meant that families were settling in. This occurs from 1931 to 1932 and again from 1933 to 1934.

Other characteristics also come to light in this table. For example, given the relatively small percentage of children in the Polish population (around 11%), it was evidently made up mostly of single or unaccompanied men and women. However, the years 1931 to 1932 and 1933 to 1934 show growth in the numbers of women and children, but not in the numbers of men. It is possible that men's families were coming to join them from other parts of France or from Poland, where the crisis had left them without resources. Starting in 1935 the number of children remains fairly stable but the numbers of men and women decline, indicating therefore that the single men and women must have been leaving while families stayed. Later on, Polish women came back while the numbers of Polish men continued to decline. The Czech population shows a similar tendency toward single men and women, with its low number of children.

The ratio of Spanish women to men underwent a significant change in the first years of the crisis, increasing from 54.3% to 63% from 1931 to 1932 and then 68% in 1933, followed by several years of fluctuation (67% in 1934, 72% in 1935 and 67% in 1936) and finishing with a slight increase in 1937, when it reached 74%. This would seem to indicate the gradual exodus of the single male portion of the Spanish population. The population of Italians also seems to be largely single men accompanied by a core of families -- both of which maintain their presence in the département. This same phenomenon can be seen in the Portuguese, although their population of single males diminishes, like that of the single Spanish men. Finally, the Belgians would seem to have more single men than married ones, but the number of single men is not large, given the number of women and children. The figures representing their presence decrease slowly from 1931 to 1938.

A final way of examining the stability of the population of foreigners in the Loir-et-Cher comes through an examination of the issuance of new versus renewed cartes d'identité.

Table 4

Year Cards delivered Cards delivered that were renewals % renewals as % of cards delivered
1931 1,817 1,016 55.9%
1932 1,186 781 65.9
1933 98 79 80.6
1934 2,495 1,886 75.6
1935 1,38 1,23 89.1
1936 955 812 85
1937 1,335 1,055 79
1938 211 101 47.9
1939 824 703 85.3

The first three years of the economic crisis show a rising number of renewals, even given the aberrant year of 1933 in which the circulaire of March 21 instructed the préfets to put cartes d'identité on hold for a year. Hence, the implication is that the French employers in the Loir-et-Cher were disposed to keeping the workers they knew and perhaps less likely than before to take on new hires, although we have seen that the presence of some groups, such as the Polish, did actually increase during that time. The year 1934, in which the foreigners were permitted to go and get new cards, also does not significantly differ from the trend of a high rate of renewal of cards. The only year which does not fit, in fact, is 1938, for which the only possible explanation I can think of is that in 1936 the préfecture began to issue cartes d'identité that were good for three years, whereas before the maximum had been two years. Thus, all of the people who renewed their cards in 1936 and normally would have come back in 1938 did not need to do so. This might both explain why few cards were issued and a higher percentage of those were new cards, and further highlight the presence of a very stable population.

What can all of this information on the foreigners who were allowed to remain in France tell us about the few who were forced to leave?

In 1932 the category of "refoulé" came to exist in the police records of the Loir-et-Cher as a designation for asking a foreigner to leave the country for administrative reasons. This was distinct from the category of "expulsion" which was supposed to indicate the act of making a person leave due to a judgement that that person was unfit or unworthy of staying on French soil. Hence, although according to M. Aliaga the categories were often blurred in their application , a mental construct was established in which there were "good" and "bad" foreigners. The timing of the appearance of the category of "refoulé" would seem to indicate an acceptance of the fact that even though some individuals might be "good" foreigners, the economic crisis that was beginning to make its presence known in the country necessitated the simple, nonjudgemental act of asking him or her to leave because there were not enough jobs to go around.

From 1932 to 1939, sixty-five people were asked to leave the Loir-et-Cher under the designation "refoulement" . Following the pattern that established itself all over France, they were principally male manual laborers with no marital ties indicated in their documents, or, if they were married, their wives were not with them in France. The reason given for their being asked to leave was usually an irregularity in their official situation with regard to papers, most often the fact that they had crossed the border into France without a work contract that would have provided them with a " sauf conduit ". This designation of the absence of certain papers as a reason for asking people to leave seems odd though, not only because details regarding papers would normally have been overlooked, but also because it seems to lead to a completely haphazard designation of who should leave and who should stay.

In his book Le Creuset Français, Gérard Noiriel writes about " la carte et le code "; that is, the growth over time in France of an apparatus of papers relative to foreigners and citizens. Though they started out as dictates relative to voting lists that emanated from the central government and were often hard to comply with (because for example one did not know one's date of birth), these pieces of identification eventually became habitual objects and thus constructs in the mind as well. The idea of being French came together slowly but eventually could be represented by a tangible item. The fact of having a French passport or a visa or a certain stamp or letter not only verified a person's existence but also legitimated their claim to presence in France. Thus, having or not having certain pieces of paper to show is in a sense to possess proof that one has taken appropriate steps or, as if in a game, made appropriate moves. The result of the game is simply contingent upon one's standing in line and giving the right information to the proper officials.

I am reminded of the arbitrary rules of "Monopoly". In this game one might happen to choose the card that states "Go directly to jail, do not pass 'Go', do not collect 200 dollars", thus seeing all the plans for building houses and buying railroads washed away by a simple dictate that comes from an impassive authority. In the game of "Papers" one receives a letter from an equally cold and impenetrable Préfecture that states "Go directly back home, do not look for another job elsewhere, do not collect pay." The reason has nothing to do with the life the person is trying to lead, his or her personal attributes, the promise of work offered and tentatively accepted. It has to do with this thing called "papers". For a person who works in the fields or the forest, as did most of the foreigners in the Loir-et-Cher, the notion of papers must have had very little meaning and their absence must have initially been difficult to take seriously as a problem. That was the reason many of them came without lettres d'embauche, etc. and figured it would not be a problem. Even though all of the individuals who were subject to orders of refoulement had been offered work and/or were working, most of them had this problem of "papers" which came to mark them as the unlucky ones who would have to return home.

But what would the alternative to this be? In several cases that occurred in 1933, one finds the simple, clear statement [name], dont la carte d'identité est expirée et qui selon vos indications peut être remplacé par de la main d'¦uvre du pays, fait l'objet de refoulement de ce jour. This does not change the fact that the named party has been designated for refoulement because of his situation with regard to papers. The only thing which becomes clearer for the recipient of the letter is the fact that "papers" is now being used as a selector to find people to send away on the basis of the weak job market. The implicit link is made explicit, even if it seems like a random association. Evidently, it would have been too complicated to try to find some other sort of criteria for sorting through the 2000+ non-French people living and working in the Loir-et-Cher, so the bureaucrats let fate take care of the question for them. Those individuals who slipped up in terms of fulfilling official criteria for papers in effect chose themselves for being sent home.

The statement, a clear explanation of why the snag with regard to papers that has occurred would not be allowed to slip by, only occurs in files from 1933, a year which is not kept in the "liasse" with the other files for refoulements from the years 1932 to 1939. Instead, it is in the bundle with the expulsions from 1937 to 1939. Why might this be? Did the statements that clearly mentioned the French job market seem more like expulsions than refoulements to the eyes of the filer? This and the fact that problems with papers were still allowed to be the aspect that tapped individuals to be sent home highlight the fact that public officials did not attempt to chose or prioritize among the foreigners who would stay in the département. I have wondered if, especially since they were in the midst of a climate of fear and growing xenophobia due to the economic crisis, administrators did not want to even approach the question of ranking the people from other countries in order of desirability. And, in the Loir-et-Cher, they were not put to the test, as were administrators in other départements.

The 65 people subjected to refoulement from the Loir-et-Cher between 1932 and 1939 represent an infinitesimal portion of the total number of foreign-born men and women who lived in the département during that period as well as a small portion of the total number who left. Following is the breakdown of figures : 

Table 5

hommes femmes par nationalité
1932 16 1 1 belge, 1 espagnole, 3 italiens, 1 polonais, 10 portugais, 1 luxembourgeoise
1933 13 2 10 italiens, 2 yougoslavs, 2 portugais, 1tchèque
1934 9 2 1 italien, 2 polonais, 5 portugais, 1 suisse, 1tchèque, 1 yougoslave
1935 4 1 1 italien, 3 portugais, 1 tchèque
1936 3 -- 1 belge, 2 polonais
1937 7 1 1 allemand, 1 belge, 1 italien, 2 polonais, 1portugais, 1 suisse, 1 tchèque
1938 4 -- 1 italien, 1 polonais, 1 turc, 1 yougoslave
1939 2 -- 1 portugais, 1 yougoslave

The figures for 1932 show us that the Portuguese were the hardest hit. Since these ten were newcomers who did not enter the country with their papers in order, they are presumably not part of the 28 Portuguese that Table 3 shows as leaving between 1931 and 1932, rather they represent an additional 10 Portuguese men heading back home. The three Italian men go completely against the departmental trend for their nationality in 1932, which saw an increase of over 100 male members, but follow the national trend of sending Italians away. One of them had actually been born in France, in the Var, but was nevertheless sent back to Italy. The Spanish man was a traveling musician who in the end was allowed to stay in France because he had married the daughter of the owner of a café and was managing this café because his new father-in-law was too sick. The file contains a letter from the Spanish Consulate in Paris as well as a long letter written by the father-in-law attesting to the good character of the Spanish man and explaining at length about the situation involving his own inability to continue tending his café.

The Polish man who was sent home was accused of "outrages" and "violence" as part of a situation in which he actually might have been provoked by the police. He was described as follows :  ce dénommé G---- est connu de la police comme ayant un caractère extrêmement vif et violent, se refusant à toutes injontions de l'autorité. Il a déclaré ne pas avoir satisfait aux obligations militaires dans son pays. In the incident which led to his refoulement (which it actually seems should have been an expulsion), he apparently was told to move his charrette to the right because he was blocking traffic, to which he reportedly responded  :  "Toi, je t'emmerdes" to the policeman, and then resisted arrest when the policemen were taking him into their station. The well filled out character description that the police give for the man leads me to the suspicion that they had already formed an opinion of him as a "bad" foreigner and were looking for ways lead him into trouble so that he could be sent away.

Finally, the case of the governess from Luxemburg is also interesting. She was working in the house of a count, and the countess had written a long and elegant letter on her behalf, taking the blame for her lack of the proper papers (she claimed that she had arranged through friends for the young woman to come but did not realize that she, the employer, had to provide a lettre d'embauche before the new employee crossed the border). But, even a letter from a woman of influence was not enough to sway the opinion of the Préfet or his superiors. Hence, the young woman was granted a prolongation so that she could stay until mid-December, but eventually had to go home. This case in particular causes me to wonder if perhaps the individuals who were refoulés were actually being held up as examples, not so much as a lesson in getting your paperwork done properly as one about strictness toward the population of foreign workers. Every time a person was sought out by the officers from the Gendarmerie, a little scene was played out in which the officers read the foreigner a paper (which he probably could not understand), had him sign it and secured his promis that he would leave the country. This would often happen during the day at the person's place of work, hence it was in front of the employer and other workers. I can't help but think that this must have left an impression on both foreigners and Frenchmen who were observing and affected their actions later on.

In 1933 the group in which the refoulements were concentrated was single Italian men. We can see from Table 3 that the number of Italian women and children remained almost completely unchanged from 1932 to 1933 but that the increase in men that had taken place from 1931 to 1932 was reversed this next year. Therefore, the ten refoulements of Italian men are consonant with the general departmental trend for that year. It was in fact in the dossier of an Italian man who had no family ties indicated but who had been in France since 1921 that I first spied the form stating that he was asked to leave to make space for the main d'¦uvre du pays. The fate of two other Italians, a couple, is actually not indicated in their file. They were told to leave, but the last item in their folder is a letter from a French person, presumably their employer, stating that they had been in the country for two years, were good people, etc. and demanding that the decision for refoulement be revoked. The cases of the Yugoslavian and Portuguese men do not present any significant differences from those of the Italian men, and the only woman to be sent home was the Czech person, who was found to have not observed the clauses of the contract she had signed (apparently she did not like farm work and left for the city).

These cases thus present a fairly uniform picture of an effort to sent individuals away so that their spots could be filled by unemployed French people. The Préfet, or the clerks who he managed, also seemed to be looking for cases of a certain type, as indicated by a piece of scrap paper left in the file of an Italian man. This paper contained the names of 10 other men whose papers were not in order and whose files I encountered as I continued through the bundle for 1933. With regard to such cases as the one where the man had been in France for 12 years, there is a strict adherence to policy which seems to blindly rule out all outside factors, but in others, such as that of the Italian couple, there seems to have been some lenience since there is no report from the gendarmerie or any other indication that they actually left France. Perhaps this is because they did not fit the type outlined on the scrap of paper in the Italian man's file. In fact, they were the only married couple to come up in any of the dossiers for refoulement. In any case, given that 1933 was also the year in which a hold was put on the granting of renewals of cartes d'identité, I find it astonishing that the Préfet did not cast his net wider and effectuate a greater number of refoulements.

Beginning in 1934 the files are much slimmer, and in 1935 the number of them also becomes practically nonexistent, a trend which continued up to 1939. No nationality truly stands out as a target in the 33 cases from 1934 to 1939. Most of them still represent problems with papers, but the problems seem more unique, such as two indicating the reason as ne répond pas aux convocations qui lui sont adressées de régulariser sa situation -- thus, others of the men who were refoulés might have been working without papers for a while but they had come into the préfecture when summoned. In these years, there were few problems for those who ask for papers but ignoring the call was too great an error to be allowed to slip by. The occurrence of cases such as the falsifying of papers, using another person's carte d'identité, low morals, rupture of contract, not qualifying as a political refugee, etc. gradually became the main sort to find their way into the category, which thereby seems to merge with the idea of expulsion.

The small numbers of people refoulés does not mean that the occurrence was insignificant. As I mentioned earlier in the case of the governess from Luxemburg, I feel that these people could have been examples held up for the populace. Through their noncompliance with the regulations for papers, these foreigners had admitted themselves to a category of people which might have been designated to show the French people of the Loir-et-Cher that something was being done about unemployment and that the foreigners who occupied slots in the economy of the département were not going unnoticed. The people who came to occupy the category of " refoulé " also could have served as examples in another way -- they were perhaps destined to send a message to French employers that care should be taken to give jobs to French people before taking on foreigners. Finally, their refoulement could have served as a demonstration to other foreigners of the precarity of their situation. I also mentioned earlier that the public officials never faced a situation in which they had to decide look carefully at the kinds of guests they had and decide on priorities for keeping some and forcing others out. One could say they trimmed the fat without slicing away any of the meat. It could be that one reason their situation controlled itself was the gentle push initiated by the préfecture in the form of refoulements.

The residents of the Loir-et-Cher were not the only audience for the steps taken by the Préfecture. Gérard Aliaga noted that : 

"il faut insister sur le fait qu'un certain nombre de décisions importantes échappent aux services de la Préfecture :  s'agissant d'expulsions ou de naturalisations, son rôle se limite à la constitution des dossiers, transmis ensuite (avec avis motivé) à Paris. Même chose pour les refoulements, la prise de décision étant déterminée par l'acceptation ou le refus du visa de la part de l'Office Régional de la Main-d'Oeuvre. "

Other information that the Préfet had to send to Paris concerned unemployment in the département. Beginning in January of 1931, the Ministre de l'Interior required that statistics on unemployment be sent to him every 15 days, which was later cut to once a month. With this request came the model for the form that the reports would take. It included a general table entitled Nombre de chômeurs francais et étrangers, a second one named Nombre d'ouvriers étrangers employés dans le départment, and then two tables describing Moyens employés pour combattre le chômage divided up according to whether they were Initiatives privées or Mesures prises par les autorités et les collectivités publiques. The twelve suggestions typed into these two latter fields include some clear references to measures that the central authorities must have been expecting the local administrators to take and report on. In the suggestions for the private sphere one sees  : 

"...3 -- dispositions prises pour l'élimination :  a) des ouvriers étrangers, b) des ouvriers français âgés and in the public sphere ...3 -- Evacuation d'ouvriers étrangers licenciés, 4 -- Dépistage et refoulement d'ouvriers étrangers entrés irrégulièrement, 5 -- Reclassement d'ouvriers étrangers admis seulement à l'agriculture."

Obviously, not only was the central authority checking over and authorizing the Préfecture's work with regard to refoulements, it was also clearly expecting to see these requests come up. The timing of the category's instigation in the filing of the Loir-et-Cher police indicates that it grew out of the policy to address problems in the job market, a policy which emanated from the central administration. As small as they may have been, the refoulements in the Loir-et-Cher thus represent compliance with and participation in a national policy. In this way, they have both a national and a local aspect, providing evidence of concern, participation and action to both audiences.

One last interesting reference to the foreigners in the Loir-et-Cher comes up in the form of letters to the Préfet, or passed on to the Préfet by elected officials, complaining about foreigners taking jobs away from French people. Given the fact that the situation in the département compared favorably with the situation in other areas and that able-bodied, willing people seemed to have been able to find work in agriculture, the virulence of the language often employed is surprising. A total of 11 letters, dated from September 1931 to September 1933, were in the files labeled "Chômage :  états mensuels, correspondance" in the archives. The Préfets of the Loir-et-Cher actually changed during this time, from M. Paul Bouet to M. Bernard Larroque, but the responses to the letters do not differ in that they involve sending a gendarme out to do some research that most often points to serious errors in perception that led to the claims, or to the actual nonexistence of the object of the claims, and then an internal letter or a polite note explaining the situation to the elected official concerned.

As a manner of concluding, for the moment, on this topic, I will begin by considering one last interesting reference to the foreigners in the Loir-et-Cher. It comes up in the form of letters to the Préfet, or passed on to the Préfet by elected officials, complaining about foreigners taking jobs away from French people. A total of 11 letters, dated from September 1931 to September 1933, were in the files labeled "Chômage :  états mensuels, correspondance" in the Archives Départementales. Given the fact that the situation in the département compared favorably with the situation in other areas and that able-bodied, willing people seemed to have been able to find work in agriculture, the virulence of the language often employed is surprising. The responses and internal memos of the personnel of the Préfecture (the Préfet, the Sous-Préfets) attest to the fact that they took the letters and the concerns in the letters seriously; that is, they could not but be concerned about the effects of the economic crisis in their area. However, the public officials set themselves apart from the letter-writers, who were their regional co-residents, as well as from other public officials of their day in that their commentary did not demonstrate any great zeal for getting rid of the foreigners in France. Moreover, they show an insistence on the facts and the reality of the situation, as opposed to the wave of anti-foreign sentiment and sense of crisis overtaking the nation. This is demonstrated in two responses to the situation in a town called Salbris  : 

le 22 décembre 1931

Le Maire de Salbris
à Monsieur le Préfet de Loir-et-Cher

A l'heure ou la crise de chömage s'attaque à un certain nombre d'ouvriers de notre ville, j'ai l'honneur de vous signaler une situation qui me semble anormale et je vous serais très reconnaissant, s'il y a lieu; de bien vouloir prendre toutes mesures utiles. - Mme Vve S---, grosse propriétaire à Salbris ou son régisseur Mr. P--- emploie depuis quelques semaines au moins une quinzaine d'ouvriers étrangers aux travaux agricoles (fermes ou bois)

N'est-il pas exagéré de faire ainsi appel à la main d'oeuvre étrangère et de laisser en chômage nos ouvriers qui ne demandent qu'à travailler?

le 13 janvier 1932

Le préfet
à Monsieur le MAIRE de SALBRIS

Par lettre du 22 décembre 1931 vous avez bien voulu m'informer que le régisseur de Mme Vve S---, employait depuis quelques semaines une quinzaine d'ouvriers étrangers aux travaux agricole et vous ajoutez : 
"N'est-il pas exagéré de faire appel ainsi à la main d'oeuvre étrangère et de laisser en chômage nos ouvriers qui ne demandent qu'à travailler".
Or, au cours de l'enquête de gendarmerie que j'avais ordonné sur cette affaire vous avez déclaré : 

"Je n'ignore pas que M. P---, régisseur de la propriété de R--- emploie un certain nombre d'étrangers pour le compte de Mme Vve S--- mais je ne peux vous dire si c'est au détriment des ouvriers de Salbris car je n'en ai jamais entendu parler."

Permettez-moi de vous signaler la différence existant entre les termes de votre lettre et les termes de votre déclaration figurant au procès-verbal de gendarmerie. Et il résulte de cette enquête : 

  • 1º que M. P--- n'a embauché des étrangers qu'à défaut d'ouvriers français lesquels demeurent toutefois en majorité dans l'exploitation puisqu'on compte 30 français pour 13 polonais;
  • 2º qu'il ne devrait pas y avoir de chômeurs à Salbris puisque l'agent voyer est susceptible de fournir du travail à ceux que vous ne manquez certainement pas de lui adresser.

Je vous serais obligé de me faire fait des observations que la présente lettre peut vous suggérer.

On one hand, the Maire of Salbris seems to be caught up in the growing national hysteria, but he gets caught, in a sense, by the investigation by the gendarmerie and is forced to attest to the facts. Here as well as in the following letter the Préfet shows a very specific, local focus in that he insists on the absence of unemployment in Salbris : 

Chambre des Députés
Paris, le 11 janvier 1932
Monsieur le Prefet,

J'ai reçu hier et avant hier, 4 lettres anonyme dont je vous en adresse un exemplaire.
J'ai déjà eu l'occasion de vous écrire à ce sujet.Si les faits relatés sont exacts ils sont regrettables. Je vous serais très obligé de vien vouloir les examiner, et à l'avance je vous remercie de la communication que vous me ferez à ce sujet.
Veuillez agréer, Monsieur le Préfet, l'assurance de ma haute considération.

Salbris, 9 janvier 1932


J'ai de la peine à voir tant de chômeurs qui meurent de faim et qu'à l'entreprise GIRARDON il y a 14 ou 15 ouvrières et deux polonais aux ateliers de chargement à Michenon. Je vous prie, Monsieur le Député, de bien vouloir vous occuper de cela.

Bien à vous dans un sentiment de cordiale gratitude.


13 janvier 1932

Monsieur le Député,

En vous retournant la lettre anonyme ci-jointe, j'ai l'honneur de vous faire connaître qu'il résulte de mes renseignements qu'il n'existe pas actuellement de chômage à Salbris. Tous les ouvriers qui veulent travailler sont embauchés soit par le Ponts et Chaussées, soit par l'atelier de chargement; faut-il encore qu'ils désirent travailler, ce qui n'est pas le cas de quelques uns.
Je précise, en outre, que les quelques étrangers qui sont employés par les entrepreneurs au service de l'autorité militaire ne peuvent pas, en raison de leur très petit nombre, porter préjudice à la main d'oeuvre française. Ils sont d'ailleurs éliminés progressivement au fur et à mesure des demandes d'ouvriers français.
Ces renseignements vous indiquent assez qu'il faut n'accueillir les affirmations des lettres anonymes que sous bénéfice d'inventaire.

Veuillez agréer, Monsieur le Député, l'assurance de ma haute considération.

The Préfet goes so far as to suggest that some of the French workers who fall into the category of "unemployed" do not really want to work. That is, they are using the xenophobic discourse to cover what is actually their own laziness, or perhaps their aversion to taking up jobs which until the economic crisis were beneath them and reserved for the foreigners who were clearly at the bottom rung of the ladder. In addition, the Préfet makes a specific recommendation to the Député that he recognize his role in fanning the flames of xenophobia by taking anonymous letters seriously.

The next example is an internal communication between public officials. Here, the Sous-Préfet of Vendôme, the second largest city in the Loir-et-Cher, reports to the Préfet and reveals a clear sense that there is a bottom layer to his society : 

18 mai 1932

Le Sous-Préfet de Vendôme
à Monsieur le Préfet de Loir-et-Cher à Blois
J'ai l'honneur de vous retourner la lettre ci-jointe que vous avez bien voulu me communiquer.

Il est exact que les crédits, engagés pour la réfection des routes par les ouvriers en chômage, ont été assez vite absorbés.
En ce qui concerne la main d'oeuvre étrangère occupée par des entreprise privées, il résulte de l'enquête que je viens de faire faire que les faits signalés par M. B--- sont pour le moins exagérés, sinon controuvés.
C'est ainsi qu'il n'existe pas de scierie à Trôo; la seule usine de cette commune qui emploie du personnel à la carbonisation du bois, occupe 29 ouvriers :  22 français et 7 étrangers.
A Authon la carrière en exploitation n'occupe que des Français.
A Crucheray le nombre des étrangers employé est plus important, mais les entrepreneurs déclarent ne jamais recevoir des demandes d'embauche de la part de français :  13 ouvriers portugais travaillent dans une carrière pour le compte de M. J---, entrepreneur à la Chaussée St Victor. Chez les cultivateurs il y a quelques polonais amenés en France par le service de la main d'oeuvre agricole.

Le signataire de la lettre incluse est un orphelin de guerre qui a dû interrompre les études qu'il avait commencées au Lycée de Vendôme les ressources de sa mère étant insuffisantes; Nonchalant, dévoyé, B--- a tenté tous les métiers sans s'arrêter à aucun. Il fut pendant quelques mois employé à la Sous-Préfecture de Vendôme à titre d'auxiliaire. Lors de son licenciement il fut admis par l'autorité militaire dans un bureau de démobilisation; il délaissa cette situation pour des travaux manuels sans se fixer nulle part. B--- est assurément intelligent, mais il a peu le goût du travail.

[hand-written on the bottom of the letter] Si M. J--- - proprétaire d'une carrière à Crucheray - travaille pour les Pont et Chaussées, cette administration pourrait peut-être intervenir afin qu'il diminue le [nombre d'étrangers].

In the introduction to a study of a mono-racial, working class community that divided along lines of established and newcomers to a community, Norbert Elias stated : 

As the study of Winston Parva indicates, an established group tends to attribute to its outsider group as a whole the "bad" characteristics of that group's "worst" section--of its anomic minority. In contrast, the self-image of the established group tends to be modelled on its exemplary, most "nomic" or norm-setting section, on the minority of its "best" members.

This was the case in the dominant discourse in France in the 1930s, but it is clearly not the case in the vision portrayed by the communication between the two officials. First, foreigners are not presented as a threat or a block to be opposed. And, most strikingly of all, in denigrating M. B---, the Sous-Préfet seems to maintain a rational viewpoint of his own in-group, a viewpoint which places him outside the strong pro-French/anti-foreigner sentiments which at that moment in history brought together many French people who normally would have been prone to emphasize their differences from each other. Finally, the note at the bottom of the page indicates that intervention might be necessary in order to stay in step with regulations, a nod in the direction of Paris and the larger context of economic crisis.

The Préfets changed in mid-October 1932, from M. Paul Bouet to M. Bernard Larroque. Therefore, M. Bouet responded to most of the letters, and it must be considered that he did so without the law of August 10, 1932 and its prescriptions to guide him. M. Larroque is implicated in only two of the letter-response situations. In one case, a letter was written in March 1933 from a Député with regard to complaints from his constituents about foreign workers in the stone quarries, and the Préfet contacted the Ingénieur-en-chef du Service Vicinal. The letter in the file is marked "3me Rappel", which indicates that this matter remained present in the concerns of the Préfet for three months before he got a response in June, thereby attesting to his unwillingness to let the matter drop. The response itself however, points to a different attitude on the part of the Ingénieur-en-chef.

[le 13 juin 1933]

Rapport de l'Ingénieur du Service Vicinal

Par lettre du 20 mars 1933, adressé à Monsieur l'Ingénieur en Chef, Monsieur le Préfet fait connaître que plusieurs habitants d'Azé se plaignent de voir les carrières de la région exploitées par des ouvriers étrangers au détriment des ouvriers français en chômage.

Trois entrepreneurs ont exploité cet hiver les carrières de Danzé pour l'approvisionnement en macadam des routes nationales nº157 et d'Orléans au Mans et du chemin d'intérêt commun nº24. Au moment où la plainte des habitants d'Azé est venue à notre connaissance, l'exploitation de ces carrières touchait à leur fin.

M. A--- de Danzé employait deux ouvriers français et deux ouvriers espagnols.

M. R--- de Vendôme employait vingt ouvriers français et huit ouvriers étrangers (espagnols, polonais, et portugais). La proportion de 40% fixée pour le département de Loir-et-Cher par la loi sur la protection de la main d'oeuvre française et du réglement d'Administration public pris pour son application (J.O. du 22 octobre 1932) n'était donc pas atteinte.

M. C--- de Thoré qui exploitait la carrière de Galette n'employait que de la main d'oeuvre française.

Il convient de remarquer d'autre part que certains ouvriers étrangers d'origine espagnole sont naturalisés français et employés dans les exploitations forestières de la région la plus grande partie de l'année. C'est donc à tort qu'ils sont considérés comme étrangers en dépit de leur patronymes.

Actuellement les carrières d'Azé ont cessé d'être exploitées. La réclamation des habitants d'Azé se trouve donc sans objet. Nous avons tout lieu de croire que la carrière de Galette (commune d'Azé) va être exploitée de nouveau par M. C--- qui veint d'être déclaré adjudicataire d'un lot important de fourniture de pierre pour la réfection de chemin d'Intérêt commun nº24. Si cette adjudication est approuvée, nous tiendrons la main à ce que les proportions fixées pour l'emploi de la main d'oeuvre étrangère ne soient pas dépassées.

En résumé, nous sommes d'avis de faire connaître à Monsieur le Préfet, que la proportion de la main d'oeuvre étrangère employée à l'exploitation des carrières de la région d'Azé n'a jamais été supérieure à celle fixée par M. le Ministre du Travail sur la proposition de la Commission spéciale réunie par M. le Préfet en exécution des lois et réglements sur la protection le la main d'oeuvre française; que les carrières d'Azé étant actuellement inexploitées, la réclamation de habitants d'Azé est devenue sans objet.

The language of this letter, written by a public employee, is crisp almost to the point of being dismissive. It should be noted that the ingénieur points out the errors of the French inhabitants of the region with regard to the situation of several of the workers who were naturalized. His promise to watch over the employment situation at the new stone quarry that might open up strikes me as perfunctory in that it is in reference to an employer who had only employed French workers during the winter. In addition, all of the figures regarding foreign workers cited earlier in the letter indicate that he did in fact watch the situation (and might have been a little bit irritated about the complaints and the inquest). All of this received no response from the Préfet.

There is only one letter from M. Larroque himself to show his response to public appeals for attention,

Conseil Général

le premier septembre, 1933

Monsieur le Préfet,

Je viens d'être saisi, ces jours derniers, de réclamations concernant le fait suivant : 

Plusieurs journaux et notamment "l'Entreprise" ont publié l'annonce ci-dessous "on demande de 12 à 16 compagnons cimentiers italiens pour béton armé aux changer des silos à blé à Binas (Loir et Cher) "...... La région du camp de Salbris qui occupe de nombreux cimentiers, a vu se ralentir (provisoirement sans doute) l'activité de ses chantiers, et de ce fait un certain nombre de ces ouvriers spécialisés ont été débauchés et une légitime émotion s'est emparée d'eux à la lecture de cette annonce.

Je connais trop, Monsieur le Préfet, votre souci scrupuleux de procurer dans la mesure de vos moyens, du travail à nos ouvriers d'abord pour ne pas penser que vous voudrez bien à ce sujet me donner tous apaisements. Ainsi, pourrons nous dire ensemble aux chômeurs de Salbris, qu'il ne sera pas employé de cimentiers italiers ou autres étrangers, dans une proportion supérieure à celle prescrite par les récentes instructions, dans les chantiers du Loir et Cher.....

Absolument confiant en votre sage administration, je suis sûr par avance, que ces faits ne vous avaient pas échappé, mais il était de mon devoir de vous permettre d'affirmer à nouveau que le droit au travail des ouvriers de nôtre région sera protégé dans ses moindre détails.

Je vous prie d'accepter, Monsieur le Préfet, l'expression renouvelée de mes sentiments dévoués et les meilleurs.

To this charming, smooth letter the Préfet responded : 

le 9 septembre 1933

Mon Cher Conseiller Général,

J'ai signalé à la Société construisant les chantiers des silos à blé de Binas, l'opportunité de réserver à la main d'oeuvre française les travaux qui doivent être effectués. J'espère qu'il en sera tenu compte et je vous remercie de m'avoir signalé cette situation de nature à porter préjudice aux légitimes intérêts des travailleurs français.

Veuillez agréer, Mon Cher Conseiller Général, l'expression de mes sentiments cordialement dévoués.

M. Larroque was called upon with regard to the application of the law of August 10, 1932 and policies which resulted from it. Like the response to the problem raised by the Conseiller Général, these notes and letters show a more conservative tone; that is, more of a tendency to remind employers of their responsibility to French workers but without heavy-handedness. Indeed, 1933 showed the reversal of the trend of Italians for coming into the Loir-et-Cher (see Table 3) as well as the refoulement of 10 Italian workers (see Table 5). Since Italians tended to be employed more in industry (in fact they are specifically mentioned in the above letter from the Conseiller Général), it could be supposed that the Préfet set an example for sending Italians away and that this message was heeded by local employers as well as by the Italian work force. However, the refoulements of Italians as well as others that took place under M. Larroque -- all of those from October 1932 to March 1938 -- do not seem to echo the extremism of the national scene in that for the first year they show the exact same pattern as those of his predecessor (looking for individuals who fit a type), and afterward a clear decline.

The letters cited in this section demonstrate the same adherence to national policy that one sees in the case of refoulement. Given the national wave of xenophobia evoked by G. Noiriel, Y. Lequin, R. Schor and other authorities and evidenced in the letters from the individuals who wrote to the Préfecture, the relatively small number of refoulements from the Loir-et-Cher coupled with the measured tone of the correspondence emanating from the public officials at or called upon by its Préfet leads me to hypothesize a gap between the viewpoint of these latter officials and the public they served. That is, the regional public seemed to be caught up in the national wave of xenophobia, and the directives from Paris as well as the letters from elected officials were echoes or responses to this same sentiment. Nevertheless, the attitude and actions of the Préfecture show a strong regional base. I have no evidence to show whether or not this was by political conviction. Indeed, the correspondence does not strike a political tone as much as it highlights a pragmatic thread. The officials in Blois knew the resources and limitations of their département as well as those of its inhabitants. They seem to have also had their own ideas about the local need for main d'¦uvre. Therefore, they generated a measured response to their environment -- the crisis, the politics induced by the crisis -- but did not allow themselves to get carried away by it.

Archives consultées

Archives Départementales du Loir-et-Cher : 

4M345 -- Statistiques annuelles des étrangers 1931 - 1940
4M359 -- Répertoire des cartes d'identité délivrées 1929 - 1930
4M360 -- ....idem.... 1930 - 1932
4M361 -- ....idem.... 1932 - 1933
4M362 -- ....idem.... 1933 - 1934
4M363 -- ....idem.... 1935 - 1936
4M364 -- ....idem.... 1936 - 1937
4M384 -- Etrangers refoulés hors du territoire 1933
4M385 -- ....idem.... 1932 - 1939
10M14 -- Travail :  contrats collectifs; bordereaux de salaires; journée de 8 heures; protection de la main d'oeuvre nationale 1919 - 1935
10M36 -- Chômage :  états mensuels. Correspondance 1931 - 1939
10M39 -- ....idem.... 1938 - 1939


Aliaga, Gérard, 1992. La Présence étrangère en Loir-et-Cher dans l'entre-deux-guerres . Tours :  Mémoire de maîtrise, Université François Rabelais.

Bockel, Alain, 1991. L'immigration au pays des Droits de l'homme . Paris :  Editions Publisud.

Boucher, Jean-Jacques, 1984. Histoire du Loir-et-Cher à travers son Conseil Général de 1790 à nos Jours. Paris :  Editions Fernand Lanoree.

Elias, Norbert, 1994. The Established and the Outsiders :  A Sociological Enquiry into Community Problems. London :  Sage Publications. Dont :  L'Introduction :  "A Theoretical Essay on Established and Outsider Relations" pp. xv - lii.

Lequin, Yves, 1988. La Mosaïque France :  Histoire des étrangers et de l'immigration. Paris :  Larousse.

Noiriel, Gérard, 1988. Le Creuset Français :  Histoire de l'immigration XIXe - XXe siècle . Paris :  Editions du Seuil.

Sauvy, Alfred, 1984. Histoire économique de la France entre les deux guerres. 3 vol. Paris :  Editions Economica.

Schor, Ralph, 1985. L'Opinion française et les étrangers en France 1919 - 1939 . Paris :  Publications de la Sorbonne.

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