Published online by Cambridge University Press: 20 May 2021
This chapter demonstrates that French official employment and vocational policies were a product of the specific interplay between various economic considerations and cultural influences, from nineteenth century socialist utopias and the French ‘civilizing mission’ to the ideology of the National Revolution and the post-1945 rhetoric of production. It illuminates how employment conditions crucially depended on where DPs lived, for whom they worked and their nationality and gender. Significant efforts were made to help a number of DPs acquire the means to learn a trade, but employment discourses often reaffirmed a hierarchical taxonomy in which productivity and desirability were explicitly linked to ethnic and gender differences. This chapter thereby contends that employment policies were deeply implicated in the mixed record of the zone: the emphasis on DP employment at times made possible the development of DPs’ own initiatives and their sense of responsibility, in enabling them to run independent workshops and giving them the opportunity to live in private accommodation. In this sense, it contributed to normalizing DPs’ living conditions. At the same time, actual implementation of employment policies often revealed disturbing indications of brutality, unjustifiable in their cruelty and arbitrariness, as a number of DP strikes testifies.