French History Goes On Trial in France

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High Vichy Functionary Gets Four-
Star Hotel Instead of Jail

Paris:- Saturday, 11. October 1997:- After a couple of weeks of warmups, France got ready to look its history in the eye last week.

A couple of weeks ago the French Catholic church formally apologized to Jews for its singular lack of Christian ethics or moral or any other support during the events of the Second World War in France.

With this, the church followed President Jacques Chirac by two years, who said in 1995 that the French state had an 'inextinguishable guilt' for its actions. This last summer, Prime Minister Lionel Jospin added, "these disgraceful acts against jewish French citizens were decided, planned and carried out by the French."

Early in the week, a leading official of France's major police union, said the national police wished to apologize for actions carried out by their colleagues during the war.

On Wednesday, Maurice Papon, 87, appeared in court in Bordeaux, charged with aiding and abetting crimes against humanity; charges resulting from his important war-time function as first secretary to the Prefect of Bordeaux.

Mr. Papon occupied this position between June 1942 and August 1944. In early July of 1942, jewish men, women and children in the Bordeaux region were rounded up under his orders. Between 18. July of 1942 and 13. May of 1944, 1,560 jews were shipped from Bordeaux to Drancy near Paris and from there were transported to Auschwitz. Only eight returned.

According to Daniel Amson, professor of law, almost the entire apparatus of state administration and courts, and a very large part of the general populace of France, sympathized with the French government, located at the spa town of Vichy. General Charles de Gaulle, in London, had been declared a traitor by the French state, and had few followers.

Not the Nazi's Gestapo, but 4,500 French police, rounded up 8,000 Parisian jews on 16 and 17. July 1942. They were locked up in the vélodrôme 'Vel d'Hiv' near the Tour Eiffel, before they were freighted eastwards.

The purely French black-suited militia, on orders from the Gestapo, hunted resisters and jews for shipping to their deaths in the east, and they often went beyond their orders, picking up children under 16; who were unsought by the Nazis.

After the war, in an effort to unite France, practically everybody was invited to declare their adherence to the war-time Resistance. In order to run the country, the 'Vichy' administrators were recycled into 'Republicans.'

Mr. Papon came off well. He was Prefect in Constantine in Algeria during the late '50's when Algerians, who were fighting for independence from France, were tortured.

He was Prefect of the Paris police on 17. October 1961, when between 200 and 300 demonstrating Algerians were shot, beaten and Cirque d'Hiver drowned. He was still the boss during a leftist demo in February of 1962, when nine anti-OAS demonstrators were left for dead at métro Charonne. He is on trial for none of this; indeed he became a cabinet member of the government in 1978.

This is the Cirque d'Hiver near République, not to be confused with the 'Vel d'Hiv.'

When in 1981 the satirical weekly newspaper, 'Le Canard Enchainé,' pointed out Papon's role in the war-time deportations, President Mitterrand publicly stated, "The Republic had nothing to do with it." Charges against Papon were dropped in 1987.

This man, named by the French war ministry as an enemy agent in 1945, managed to be awarded not only a 'Legion d'Honneur,' but also a 'Resistance Medal.'

Last Wednesday, fifty people who have lodged civil charges against Papon, their lawyers, 400 mostly French journalists and at least 130 witnesses were in court in Bordeaux, to take part in and witness the new trial of Maurice Papon.

According to a poll conducted for Le Parisien, 57 percent of the French are interested in the trial and 42 percent have little interest or none.

In contrast, 76 percent think the trial will shed light on the role of 'Vichy' - the unofficial name of the government during the occupation of France during the war - and 75 percent of those polled think the trial will expose the dangers of racism to the young.

In a surprise move yesterday, the court agreed to allow Maurice Papon to remain at liberty during the trial for health reasons. This effectively means he will also remain free during the eventual appeal, and as he is 87 now, he will probably never serve any time behind bars.

Throughout Friday, radio reports said that Papon would probably be detained for the duration of the trial in a hospital clinic. Instead, protected by police, he had dinner at a fancy restaurant at Margaux and passed the night in a luxurious but secluded château-hôtel. Radio-Info said this morning it has a four-star rating.

Web sites devoted to the History and Trial of Maurice Papon

Eight members of the Matisson family were gassed at Auschwitz. The Matisson family were the first to launch a civil case against Maurice Papon, in 1981. Jean-Marie Matisson runs the website, and reports from the courtroom. At the website, click on 'Affaire Papon.'

Another website of interest contains daily coverage of the trial by the Bordeaux paper, the Sud Ouest.

Worker's Paradise - In the Year 2000

Last week the government called a big meeting of labor leaders, employer groups, political parties, and with the government in the chair, they sat down to discuss the possibility of the introduction of a legal-standard 35-hour work week.

On Friday, the Prime Minister, Lionel Jospin said a law would be passed to fix the legal working week to 35 hours, on 1. January 2000. And the subtext of this, is that the present 39-hours of salary will not be reduced.

Employers' associations are officially opposed to this measure. But many companies, in anticipation, have already moved or are preparing plans for the eventuality of the 35-hour work week.

Union leaders see it as a great victory; a large blow in the fight to reduce unemployment in France. Officially, the government also believes this. Politically, it is a major event because this measure was major plank in the Socialist Party's election platform.

From a historical perspective, the measure might be a signal of a major change in the way the French work and play.

The majority of France's 'smokestack' industries have already succumbed to low-wage competition throughout the world, so this change in the legal working week has no effect on an area which has already disappeared.

A lot of older large French firms have paternalistic attitudes towards their employees; some of which were developed in the last century, when modern transportation changed distribution patterns - for example, from the time when simple shops changed into large-scale department stores.

The problem back then, was to engage large numbers of people and induce to show up for work, on time and regularly. One place de la Bastille - rain way to build employee loyalty, was to offer discretionary 'perks' in addition to a seemingly modest salary.

The 'perks' - which were often true social benefits - became quite elaborate over a period of many years. Even today these can vary from discount-price Christmas-gift catalogues to subsidized holiday rentals, from subsidies for paying baby-sitters to annual 'bonuses' paid at the time of the 'rentrée,' for school supplies or clothes.

The place de la Bastille in rain, after a long summer of sunshine.

Some companies, which had these 'perks' as a general policy, have eliminated them - but have totalled the value of the 'perks' and added the sum to salaries - which allows employees the discretion of how to spend the money.

In order to pay for 39 hours of salary for 35 hours of work, it is easy to imagine that one way of doing it would be for companies which still offer the 'perks,' to eliminate them. This could amount to a modest cut in income and substantial cut in benefits for employees, but no increase in salary totals for employers.

In a society increasingly oriented towards service, a shorter work-week will allow employees to seek additional jobs; and will allow employers to offer part-time positions, based on flexible periods of time.

The example of the United States shows this happening; the 'minus' side of it seems to be that it requires longer hours of work to make a fair wage, and this is coupled to the increase in costs of having multiple jobs, with a corresponding loss of family and leisure time.

The only 'plus' to it - welcomed by the market as a whole - is that jobs should more plentiful when economic times are good. This is not the case today in France, and both employers and employees are a bit nervous about launching this 'experiment.'

The coming monetary union of Europe makes the change imperative, as it could provide French employers with a flexible labor force; one nimble enough to adapt to changes sweeping like storm throughout the world.

The time is also right for this - intellectual - change. It implies that capital and the workforce will be governed by markets rather than by 'diktats' formulated by the government's economic gurus in Paris.

The question is - will the French respond with their native ingenuity and take their own economic future into their hands - and show the world how clever they are?

It is not an idle question. After 250 years of centralized management, it may take a while to figure out responsibility is personal and it is not governed by an obscure ministry in Paris.

Faits Divers

This is the name given by French-language newspapers for all the little items; involving muggings, spectacular car crashes, collapsing buildings and various other incidents of humdrum everyday life. Many of these 'odd-happenings' are treated in your home-town paper and I see no reason to recount the Parisian versions of them here.

What I do; I look for the amusing ones, along the lines of 'Kid Bites Dinosaur,' especially if it has some connection to Paris.

This week, after the Papon story, and the somewhat boring "35-hour Workweek' story, all I have left is murder, mayhem, pedophilia, terrible accidents, slander, corpses, pitbulls, pandering, convictions, vandalism, pillage - all this is from just last Tuesday's edition of Le Parisien.

I waited until getting to Paris yesterday to buy the paper, but Champs-Elysees the Paris edition had been struck. On return to home, the Yvelines-edition was sold out. It saved me reading Friday's collection of misery. The SNCF-RATP had a local transport strike on Wednesday and since I got caught in it I don't feel it is worth a comment.

So long as it's not sleet, the Champs-Elysées is fine.

The Front National bricked up a club in Vitrolles they didn't like, and on Friday a court ordered it unbricked - but it had been closed since June anyway. The FN really does a lot of meddling with culture and it makes people remember Joe Goebbels.

On 25. February 1994, the UDF deputy of the National Assembly, Yann Piat, was assassinated in Hyères in the Var as she was being driven home by her chauffeur. Two men were arrested on 3. March, but released on 15. June.

Two other men were arrested the next day, and said the murder had been ordered by a bar owner - who was not, apparently, arrested. One of the two recanted on 26. September. In the summer of 1996, 'Le Canard Enchainé' hinted that two big-time politicians had ordered the killing. Last Tuesday, two of the satirical paper's journalists brought out a book containing an elaboration of the earlier accusation.

Two politicians, not named in the book, went to court after the book's appearance, to sue for libel about its contents.

Thus, the 'Affaire Yann Piat' became 'L'Affaire Rougeot,' named after one of the book's authors, and Le Parisien deplored it on its front page on Thursday. The paper critized the lack of proof offered by the journalists - who are keeping their source, supposedly in the Naval Intelligence service, secret.

The Ministry of War? Defense? is, meanwhile, looking for this source. According to Le Parisien, it is a worse crime to accuse a high-ranking politician or wrong-doing without legal proof, than to assassinate a deputy of the National Assembly.

Within the framework of the same case I don't want to mention the two brothers and their hard disk, who apparently committed suicide together, nor the other politician from the area who committed 'suicide' last week by shooting himself five times, once in his right arm, while holding the gun in his right hand.

No, you don't want to know about these little 'affairs.' Not any of them. Next week I will use a magnifying glass to find the true 'Faits Divers' with which we can amuse ourselves.

Sports News

Since last week's overindulgence in 'sports' at the Prix de l'Arc out at Longchamp, I have not had the energy to look for the latest word about Alain Prost, and his efforts to turn Versailles into a Formula One race track. I seriously doubt this is his intention, but I am leaving my mind open to the idea.


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