Papon Trial Switches from 1942 to 1961

Cafe La Colonnade
The Café La Colonade in the Square du Louvre.

"France Washes Dirty Laundry in Public"
France-Soir Headline

Paris:- Saturday, 18. October 1997:- Maurice Papon, who is on trial charged with 'crimes against humanity' for his war-time role in the arrest and deportation to Nazi death camps of 1,560 French Jews from the Bordeaux region, last weekend had a calm and comfortable time at a first-class château-hôtel in the Médoc.

This upset a lot of people, including the mayor of the town where the château is located. Two of the lawyers for the civil plaintiffs quit the case in disgust. The rest decided to stay on.

Mr. Papon was asked to quit the château-hôtel and for the rest of the week there were radio reports about his difficulties in finding lodgings.

On Monday, Mr. Papon returned to court and took his place in the box, behind bullet-proof glass. One of the lawyers who Left bank of Seine quit on Friday, Arno Klarsfeld, also returned to court for the case of the plaintiffs, after judicial authorities announced they were to examine the circumstances of the defendant's release.

This process, which is one I do not understand, is likely to be largely symbolic, as the 'barn door is already open.' If found guilty, Mr. Papon will appeal, and until the result of this eventual appeal is known, he will now remain free.

TV-news showed families of the victims demonstrating outside the court, carrying signs with inscriptions such as, "Albert Fogiel, six years old; convoy number 42," which refers to the number of the last, and perhaps only, train the six year-old took from Bordeaux.

On Tuesday, the entire text of the accusation was read out in court. On this day, Maurice Papon's lawyers were telling the court the only place he could safely stay was in the box in the courtroom, behind the bullet-proof glass - and they even appealed to journalists for aid in finding lodging - which was, of course, reported far and wide.

This side-show is sort of obscuring the debate in the courtroom; which on Tuesday was to be a exposition of the character of the accused. The court-appointed psychiatrist said he could not say much because the accused would not talk to him. Papon reportedly said, "Je ne suis pas fou."

On Wednesday, Mr. Papon told the court that he, "had risked deportation and perhaps his life by striking the names of 139 Jews off," [the deportation orders]. This went on for three hours, in a firm voice, as those in the court remained silent, according to its rules.

This was not going according to the plan of the trail. Mr. Papon had merely been asked if he recalled laying a wreath at a Jewish memorial in 1965.

In fact, the way the trial is unrolling is a bit bewildering. In order to shed light on the accused's personality, all sorts of events are being discussed - and the most explosive of the week were those surrounding the 17. October 1961 massacre while Mr. Papon was police Prefect for Paris.

The official history says that three were killed; but most historians believe 200 perished; mostly Algerians - by the hands of the police. Yesterday the Minister of Culture, Catherine Trautmann, said the official files would be opened to scrutiny.

Former Prime Minister, Pierre Messmer, Interior Minister in 1961, said that "France was at war with Algeria" at the time and letting FLN Algerians demonstrate in Paris while there were 500,000 French troops Seine, boat, ile de la Cite fighting in Algeria, "Was a knife in the back." He also said that Papon should have resigned his wartime Bordeaux post, but should not be blamed for following orders of the Fifth Republic in Paris.

Olivier Guichard, a former Prime Minister and a long-time aide to General de Gaulle, said at the Papon trial, "The Gaullist myth started in 1940 by saying the Vichy regime didn't exist," and that this 'myth' was reinforced by another, "France won the war."

Other character witnesses paraded through the court during the week. Former Prime Minister Raymond Barre was content with Papon's services as Minister of the Budget in 1978; when asked he said he had not known of Papon's past history in Bordeaux.

At the weekend, Maurice Papon was allowed to leave the Bordeaux area, to return to his family property in Seine-et-Marne. The trial continues next week.

Note: I am reading different sources for these reports and I want to point out that figures vary somewhat from source to source. If you are following this case in other media, you will probably have figures which differ from mine.

Web sites devoted to the History and Trial of Maurice Papon

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.

Sports News

It is a long time since I have seen a game of basketball and I do not recall whether I have ever seen a professional game played. In fact, I am not sure basketball is a professional Seine, left bank sport or some sort of merchandizing franchise.

At any rate, there was basketball fever in Paris on Friday night after Paris-Saint-Germain beat Barcelona on Thursday, to win a chance to take on the Chicago Bulls, in Paris' very own omnisports palace at Bercy.

After the cold indifference to the excellent match between the Atenas de Cordoba of Argentina and Olympiakos Piraeus which Olympiakos won 89 to 86, the crowd of 15,515 - including Prime Minister Lionel Jospin - made a sound like 20,000 when the 15 giants of the Chicago Bulls entered the court at 21:12.

When the game was over the score was 89 to 82 for the Bulls, which earned them the right to play tonight against Olympiakos Piraeus of Greece. I have not heard how that came out so I assume that Olympiakos did not win.

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