Monday, February 19, 2007


The Rottweiler Puppy points to the obituary on the BBC's website of Maurice Papon who:

regularly collaborated with Nazi Germany's SS Corps, responsible for the extermination of Jews. Under his command, approximately 1,560 Jewish men, women and children were deported. The majority were sent directly to the camp of Mérignac, from which they rejoined Drancy internment camp, at the outskirts of Paris, and finally Auschwitz or similar concentration camps. From July 1942 to August 1944, twelve trains left Bordeaux for Drancy; approximatively 1,600 Jews, including 130 children of less than thirteen years, were then deported.Few survived. Papon implemented the anti-Semitic laws voted by the Vichy government. In July 1942, a first report by him show that he "dejudaised" 204 companies, sold 64 land-properties owned by Jewish people and 493 others were "in the course of dejudaisation".

By mid-1944, when it was clear that the war was turning against the Germans, Papon began to take care of the future, meeting once Gaston Cusin, a civil servant engaged in the Resistance.
Here's how the BBC puts it:
Papon appeared not to have been motivated by anti-Semitism, but by a willingness to carry out the state's policies regardless of their consequences.
One sub heading reads "Resistance Hero" in reference to Papon's involvement with the Resistance that began in 1943/4 yet, as Rottypup makes clear:
If Hare-Cuming [the author of the obituary] notices anything … um … significant about the November-1943 date on which Papon’s allegiances shifted, she doesn’t let on. No mention, for instance, of the Nazi war-machine’s demolition in Eastern Europe, nor of the British and US forces massing for the liberation of France. And no suggestion at all that if there was ever a time for a cynical opportunist to switch sides, November 1943 would have been it.

See, here’s why this matters: the Holocaust was a manpower-intensive business. Sure, it took a hard-core of racist fanatics to actually get the project off the ground in the first place, but, in order to actually kill six million people while avoiding fascist-overstretch, the project required the help of many thousands more self-serving vermin like Maurice Papon. Whether we’re looking at the concentration camp guard stuffing fistfuls of gold teeth into his pocket at the end of the day, or the French ‘patriot’ who stuffs Jews into cattle-trucks in exchange for promotion within the civil service, the harm done by such people should never be minimized.

By playing-up Papon’s claims of duty and patriotism, and by asking zero critical questions, this is just what Stephanie Hare-Cuming comes close to doing. For her (and, by extension, for the BBC-version of Papon’s place in history), what should have been a straightforward profile of wickedness becomes, in essence, a platform for Papon’s own defence of the indefensible.
He's dead right.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Le Journal du Dimanche, 18 February 2007, p. 6

Serge Klarsfeld, avocat et président de l’Association des fils et filles des déportés juifs de France : « Pendant le procès de Maurice Papon, il fallait à la fois se battre contre la partie adverse et contre les avocats des parties civiles. Demander la perpétuité aurait pu déboucher sur un acquittement. Il fallait une peine graduée parce que, malgré les crimes commis, il n’a jamais prononcé, contrairement à Barbie ou à Touvier, des propos antisémites. Il avait vraiment les Allemands sur le dos. Qu’il n’ait purgé que trois ans de prison a eu quelque chose de très choquant, d’immoral. »

Serge Klarsfeld, lawyer and president of the Association of the sons and daughters of the Jewish deportees of France: “During the trial of Maurice Papon, it was necessary to fight against both the opposite party [Papon’s defense] and the other lawyers of the civil parties [who wanted Papon to be sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment]. To ask for perpetuity could have led to an acquittal. It was necessary to have a graduated penalty because, in spite of the crimes [Papon] committed, he never pronounced, contrary to [Klaus] Barbie or [Paul] Touvier, anti-Semitic comments. He really had the Germans on his back. That he was released after only three years in prison [out of a ten year sentence] is something very shocking, immoral.”

Michel Zaoui, avocat de plusieurs associations d’anciens déportés parties civiles au procès Papon : « Papon n’est pas, comme Touvier, un antisémite violent. En un sens, son cas est plus grave. Il a agit sans état d’âme. Les ordres étaient les ordres. Papon est devenu l’homme symbole de ce qu’a été une partie de l’administration française qui a pourchassé les juifs jusqu’en janvier-février 1944. Il a été fonctionnaire d’autorité jusqu’au bout, même dans son box d’accusé : hautain, cassant, autoritaire, voulant faire la leçon à tout le monde avec un mépris absolu pour les parties civiles mais en même temps extrêmement respectueux à l’égard du parquet ou du président du cours d’assises : c’était des fonctionnaires comme lui, ils étaient du même monde. »

Michel Zaoui, lawyer for several associations of former deportees of the civil parties in the Papon trial : “Papon is not, as Touvier was, a violent anti-Semite. In one sense, his case is more serious. He acted without any remorse. Orders were orders. Papon became the embodiment of what had been a part of the French administration that pursued Jews until January-February 1944. He was a functionary of authority until the end, even in court: lofty, cutting, authoritarian, wanting to teach everyone a lesson with an absolute scorn for the civil parties but at the same time extremely respectful to the prosecution or the President of the Assizes Court: they were functionaries like he was, they were from the same world.”