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".Here's how the BBC puts it:
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.
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.He's dead right.
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.