|Cover letter from Lucien Boué to Dr. Blanke|
For now, let's jump directly into one critical document, a summary report on the progress of the aryanization of Clerc. The cover sheet above is a transmittal memo from Lucien Boué, the chief of the "Economic Aryanization" section of the CGQJ. It came with a four-page attached report written by Clerc "provisional administrator" Armand Biney. Those sheets are presented below.
Unfortunately, the source images that I am working from are not clear enough to attempt a full translation. Here is what I have been able to suss out.
The cover sheet is date-stamped September 16, 1943. This is approximately 16 months since Boué had taken command of the section after his sponsor Louis Darquier was appointed as the chief of the overall CGQJ in May 1942, replacing the previous more moderate administration and further centralizing its powers. (You'll learn much more about Blanke, Darquier, Boué and other key figures in upcoming posts.)
The letter is addressed to the Commissioner for "dejudification of the economy" at the military command in France including the Commissioner General for Jewish Questions. This is a bit confusing since the dejudification official at the MBF would be Kurt Blanke, but the "Generalkommissar für Judenfragen" seems to be the translation for the French "Commissariat général aux questions juives," which is the office held by Darquier. The fact that the document is in German suggests that the intended audience for the report are German officials.
The subject line in the memo includes the notation "Russian," presumably a reference to Joe Leibman's ancestry. The memo is a response to a referenced letter (from Blanke to Boué?) of October 17, 1942. Boué writes: "According to the [referenced] letter, I return the enclosed four registration forms completed by the provisional administrator." There are four attached pages.
The attached pages are structured as a formatted report, with headings for General Information, Linearization, Sale, Owners, Staff and several others I can't make out. It also includes a list of 11 attachments, which are not included among the pages I have.
It begins with summary financial information and information about the Provisional Administrator, Mr. Biney (the author of the report), including his fixed remuneration, proposed additional compensation and bank information. There is a bank receipt included among the attachments.
The notation at the top references a period from September 1, 1940 to August 31, 1941, and an amount of 8,995,715.80 francs, including a "loss fund" of 350,000 francs. I'm not sure what those figures refer to. Could that be a figure for the sales revenue of the business for the 12-month period?
Under the heading "General Information," there is more financial information, specifically concerning "the rent of the premises." I presume this refers to the rents paid by the business for its store locations. It says that "for the period from July 1, 1939 through July 1942, rent was 290,000 francs; for the following three years: 300,000 francs."
It is difficult to calculate historical exchange rates and apply them to today's equivalent, but a very rough calculation suggests 100,000 old francs in 1942, the approximate yearly rent for the Clerc & Bourguignon stores, might be equivalent to about 40,000 euros or $50,000 today. The 9 million francs in revenue, if that is what it is, would convert to about $3.5 million euros or more than $4 million. Let me know if you have a better way to calculate a conversion rate.
The next heading of the report is "Arisierung," which translates literally as "linearization" but also means "aryanization." There is no text under this heading, though we will see that the racial makeup of the current ownership is covered later in the report.
Now comes the meat of the report under the heading "Sale." It first establishes that a corporation Société de Bijouterie de l'Opera was founded with capital of 4,000,000 francs on September 17, 1941, notarized and published on October 30. It is represented by Mr. Andre Vigoureux in his capacity as temporary general director. The business operates a business fund for the purposes of trading in gold goods, real and costume jewelry, gems, timepieces and other jewelry products.
The next page has lots of detail about the proposed sale, but unfortunately most is not readable. At the top, it seems to say that the sale price is 650,000 francs, a dramatic devaluation from its founding capital. I know that it was common for Jewish property to be sold to Aryan buyers at a fraction of the real value. Surely Vigoureax and his friends did not take the loss.
Much of this must be explained in the next four paragraphs that I cannot make out. The last two paragraphs under that section state that the purchase agreement is contingent on one or more factors, and the French Comité d'Organisation des Industries et Métiers d'Art has reviewed and approved the sale. The latter organization represents the interests of the crafts industry, which includes the jewelry trade.
I can't read the next section heading, but the content is about a private residence that is among the assets owned by the company. The provisional administrator has decided to lease the house to Mr. Walter Kleinknecht, a German citizen.
The next page, DSC-0170 continues this section with a discussion of the private house in connection to aryanization, noting that the property is now in aryan possession.
Now the report proceeds to the subjects of the racial makeup of the current management and staff. Under managers, we see that each of three men listed, including Mr. Vigoureux, are noted as being aryan. Under "Personnel" we find that there are 20 employees, 19 aryan and Mrs. Block, a Jewish [cleaning woman?] who is not in contact with the public. She is a widow whose husband was killed in the war.
The last paragraph, both heading and text, are too fuzzy to make out, but it seems to summarize the linearization status of the business. The foreigner who was the previous owner is out of the country, the current shareholders are of aryan descent and are fully independent of the Jewish former owner, and that the status of the private house on the Rue de la Saussaye in Neuilly-sur-Seine has been addressed.
Finally, the last page lists 11 attachments that we don't have. This page is fairly legible and I offer a rough translation of the complete list.
1. The sales contract
2. Letter from the notary, M. Barillot
3. [Document from] the "Comité d'organization"
4. Budgets and businesses accounts for the years 1938-1939-1940 and through April 30 1941
5. Roll of the members of the society "BIJOUTERIE DE L'OPERA"
6. Copies of the Articles of Association published in newspapers
7. Copy of the minutes of the General Meeting of 11 September 1941.
8. Deposit receipt from Barclay's Bank.
9. Compensation proposal
10. [Something about] the Treasury
11. Lease for the private home in NEUILLY.
If anyone can do a better job of deciphering the content of these pages than I did, I would be very happy to hear from you. Here they are in small sizes (click to view in full size).