• Denaturalized

    by Claire Zalc
    Price $35.00
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October 23, 2020

Claire Zalc

Harvard Book Store's virtual event series welcomes CLAIRE ZALC—award-winning historian and Director of the Institute of Modern and Contemporary History at the École normale supérieure—for a discussion of her latest book, Denaturalized: How Thousands Lost Their Citizenship and Lives in Vichy France. She will be joined in conversation by JOY DE MENIL, executive editor and director of Belknap Publishing.


Thousands of naturalized French men and women had their citizenship revoked by the Vichy government during the Second World War. Once denaturalized, these men and women, mostly Jews who were later sent to concentration camps, ceased being French on official records and walked off the pages of history. As a result, we have for decades severely underestimated the number of French Jews murdered by Nazis during the Holocaust. In Denaturalized, Claire Zalc unearths this tragic record and rewrites World War II history.

At its core, this is a detective story. How do we trace a citizen made alien by the law? How do we solve a murder when the body has vanished? Faced with the absence of straightforward evidence, Zalc turned to the original naturalization papers in order to uncover how denaturalization later occurred. She discovered that, in many cases, the very officials who granted citizenship to foreigners before 1940 were the ones who retracted it under Vichy rule.

The idea of citizenship has always existed alongside the threat of its revocation, and this is especially true for those who are naturalized citizens of a modern state. At a time when the status of millions of naturalized citizens in the United States and around the world is under greater scrutiny, Denaturalized turns our attention to the precariousness of the naturalized experience—the darkness that can befall those who suddenly find themselves legally cast out.

About Author(s)

Prizewinning historian Claire Zalc is Professor at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales, Research Director at the Centre national de la recherche scientifique, and Director of the Institute of Modern and Contemporary History at the École normale supérieure.

Joy de Menil is the executive editor and director of Belknap Publishing, an imprint of Harvard University Press. She previously worked as a trade publisher at Random House and Viking Penguin, where she published many award-winning books including: Andrew Roberts’s Churchill and Napoleon, Diarmaid MacCulloch’s Christianity and Thomas Cromwell, Neil MacGregor’s A History of the World in 100 Objects, Sonia Purnell’s Clementine, Megan McArdle’s The Up Side of Down, Margaret MacMillan’s Paris 1919, Azar Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran, among others.