Two Trials and a Nice Guy in Marseille

Brasserie Balzar - rue des Ecoles
In Paris you can't say, when you've seen one café
you've seen them all - for no two are alike.

Coluche's 'Les Restaurants du Coeur' - 13th Edition

Paris:- Saturday, 20. December 1997:- Maurice Papon continues to maintain he had nothing to do with the convoy of Jews, sent from Bordeaux to Paris, on 18. July 1942.

Made uncertain at the end of last week by the pointed questions of the court's president, Jean-Louis Castagnède, at the beginning of this week he is nearly insolent with the Attorney-General, Marc Robert. This is despite documents which prove his willingness to carry out Nazi commands with maximum efficiency.

These documents also show that Hungarian Jews, who the Nazis were not seeking, were administratively transformed into Poles and included in the convoy.

In the Gironde in July 1942, orders were given to arrest 100 Jews but only 70 were booked. Papon does not know why snow on Wednesday the score wasn't better, but Attorney-General, Marc Robert points out the Vel' d'Hiv roundup in Paris only had a 40 percent success rate.

On Wednesday, the witness Eliane Alisvaks-Dommange said, 'I am the daughter of Antoinette Alisvaks, 30 years old, arrested, deported. I am the daughter of Henri Alisavaks, 33 years old, arrested and deported. If they had been left alive, they would have the age of Maurice Papon.'

Look at this - right out of my window - real Parisian snow.

On 15. July 1942 the Alisavaks family, including Claude and Jackie, Eliane's two brothers, were caught just as they were about leave their home to try and cross into unoccupied France. With badges hanging from their necks in the Hâ prison, the children were pulled out by a relation of their father's, and hidden with neighbors.

Jackie can't look at Papon. 'He stole my family,' he says.

Later in the day, too late for Thursday's editions, Papon is reported to remember the 'Grunberg Affair' well. "Because there was the little two-year old Nicole. We tore her from her mother's hands, to put her into safety, thank goodness."

On Thursday morning, Pierre Grunberg hotly contested Papon's version. He said Nicole was separated from her mother by the Nazis and placed in a hospital run by nuns. Jeanne, the mother, was imprisoned at Mont-de-Marsan before being shipped to Paris on 18. July 1942.

It was the grandmother who got Nicole out of the no snow on Thursday hospital. The Nazis weren't arresting children under 16 in July, but in August, Papon said, the Nazis insisted that children be reunited with their parents, although they were at Drancy, near Paris.

By not sending Nicole to Paris, Maurice Papon claims to have saved her life. He faced a terrible dilemma, "Rendre les enfants aux parents, c'etait aller vers l'anéantissement..."

Out of the same window 24 hours later - the usual Parisian no snow.

L'Anéantissement means exterminate. Maurice Papon's good memory of July 1942 remembers that sending children with their parents to Drancy near Paris, was the same as sending them to be exterminated. This was the first time during the trial he remembered that he knew this in July of 1942.

The word fell like a bomb in the courtroom, sending shock waves through the seats of the civil parties present, right to where Nicole Grunberg was sitting.

The trial continues.

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.

Mr. Fry's Modest Refugee-Export Service

A young American editor, Varian Fry, went to Marseille after the German invasion of France in June of 1940. He was the representative of a private American relief committee.

He was sent to offer aid and advice to refugees who were threatened with extradition to Nazi Germany under an article of the Franco-German Armistice - the 'Surrender on Demand' clause.

Varian Fry managed to extend his limited initial stay into a 13-month séjour; continuing his aid without a passport and under constant police watch.

He set up the 'American Relief Center' and from behind this cover he used every means - from black-market funds, forged papers, secret mountain and sea routes - to smuggle about 2,000 endangered people out of France.

Fry ignored repeated orders to get out by the American government. He was finally kicked out by the Vichy regime, as an 'undesirable alien' in September of 1941. If he had stayed until December, he would probably have become an 'enemy alien' and would have ended up in the camps himself.

The US reward for this activity was a FBI file, as another 'too-soon' anti-Nazi. The only official recognition he received before his death in 1967 was the 'Croix de Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur, awarded by the French government. Since then, Mr. Fry has received several posthumous awards.

Read more about the history of Varian Fry and his activities in Marseille in the period shortly before Maurice Papon took up his post at Bordeaux.

Carlos Plays Legal Guerilla in the Courtroom

For his court appearances, Ilich Ramirez Sanchez dresses like a natty yachtsman,wearing a dark blazer, silk foulard with little white dots, and jeans.

People accused of serious crimes in France seem to be allowed a certain latitude to shoot their mouths off and Carlos took advantage of it, both before and after one of his lawyers quit the court because she didn't want 'to prostitute' herself to the Drugstore its petty regulations, and the two other attorneys followed her out.

As we now know, from the Maurice Papon case in Bordeaux, a trial starts with the examination of the personality of the accused. This started last Tuesday, after two days of bad circus.

Here is the Drugstore on the Champs-Elysées - the 'Champs' local grocery store.

There are no witnesses to be heard; only a police official reading out the official but probably imperfect, record. Carlos interrupts this with his little anecdotes about his student days in Moscow and first visit to Jordan to join the PFLP.

Questions break up his chant and Carlos is annoyed. He does not respond when asked why he did not stay in the Americas to fight with Che Cuevara. He admits to hijacking passenger airplanes. He admits to committing executions; and in black humor, to possibly executing French judges.

When asked if he would like to say anything about PFLP, Carlos says he is not a snitch. He says it is serious to treat him like that; says it is the court President Corneloup's personal responsibility. Carlos claims he has had a full life; rich, productive; says he is an example for the revolution; he is satisfied. With himself.

On Wednesday, an expected key witness, retracts her earlier testimony, with excuses to the court. But in 1978 Maria Nydia Tobon wrote a book about Carlos, who she claimed to know in London and now says she made the whole thing up from newspaper stories. The trouble is, the book contains passages that could only have come directly from Carlos. Madame Tobon left Paris to return to Caracas.

Jean-François Clerc, now Inspecteur-Général of the DST - France's Internal Counter-Espionage service - took the stand on Thursday to tell the court about the circumstances of the events on 27. June 1975 - when two DST agents and an informer were shot dead, and another DST agent was wounded.

He too, would have been at the scene at 9. rue Tollier that day if he had not been out of the country. Mr. Clerc said they followed Moukharbal, a courier for the PFLP, hoping he would lead them to terrorists who were planning at attack targets in France.

The DST agents managed to take a photo of Carlos at the rue Tollier, but were told by Moukharbal, after five days' questioning, that he was somebody named Nourredine, an 'important' PFLP agent.

That the agents then went unarmed, with the informer Moukharbal, to the rue Tollier to question this Nourredine - the court found a little hard to believe.

According to police experts, the three DST men and the informer were shot from a distance of about 50 centimetres.

By Friday, Carlos is not so amused. His fingerprints, lifted from the apartment in the rue Tollier, are shown to the court. The police also have lip-prints from glasses he drank from.

A police ballistics expert says the ammunition used in the shooting came from 1946 Soviet stocks; brand name, 'Tokarev.' The expert says the weapon used was a Czech-made 'Zvor.'

Carlos questions where the gun could have been made. Korea? China? Or Hungary or Yugoslavia? The expert has the final word.

This trial continues.

Allo, Allo - Is this a Party Line?

On Thursday, 1. January 1998, France Télécom will no longer be the sole telephone operator in France. Starting on this date, the national operator will have four new, private competitors - for inter-departmental and foreign calls - local calls will still be exclusively handled by France Télécom.

Two of the four - perhaps soon to be five - will address their services to the general public; and the others will concentrate on businesses. No service is actually scheduled to start on the first; Cégétel, a unit of the SNCF, expects to launch on 1. February, in the Ile-de-France, and other selected parts of France.

The public-works giant, Bouygues, thinks its service will begin in the second half of the year. These operators will be competing on long-distance prices with France Télécom, which is already expected to lower its tariffs by nine percent in 1998.

The part I don't understand is that they are all already advertising non-stop and offering combo deals on portable phones for Christmas. Do these phones work? Or are all the people you see around talking into them - are they just moving their lips?

Les Restaurants du Coeur - 13th Edition

In 1985, the comedian Coluche said, "Ça fout les boules que Nouvelle Obs - Coluche les gens soient obliges de faire les poubelles pour se nourrir alors qu'il y a partout des excédents agricoles," and with that he launched the annual 'Restos du Coeur' operation.

Last Monday, 1,860 'Restos du Coeur,' augmented by 420 'Relais du Coeur' and 171 'Relais Bébé,' opened their doors for this season, which lasts until March.

Coluche the Clown wasn't quite the clown he played so often - as proved every winter.

Last year this operation distributed dinner-packages to 540,000 people who have monthly revenues under 2600 to 3800 francs, depending on family size and circumstances. Donations totalled 137 million francs and there were 377,000 who gave. Private donors gave more than government institutions or the European Union.

In addition to cash donations, about 31,000 people donate their time to the operation - which many French believe is more 'human' than a state hand-out. Other French, believe as Coluche did, that there is no excuse for hunger in France - while it remains a net exporter of foodstuffs - and some wonder what happens to all the rising taxes they are paying.

Oyster Problems Continue

Every year at the 'Inventors Salon' at the Foire de Paris, new devices to open oysters are displayed with pride and at this festive season these new wonder-tools are unearthed, tried out, and found to be less effective than their promise.

This is the main reason sensible people in France eat oysters in restaurants. Some poor guy in rubber boots, standing at an outside booth in winter, beside a ton of ice, gets to do the dirty and dangerous job - while you sit in the warm interior in anticipation of the delights of shell-shard-free, big, fat, oysters.

The period between Christmas Eve and New Years Day will see the consumption of 70 percent of the annual oyster production, and this part is estimated to be 60,000 tons. I assume this is kilo-tons; one of which is 1000 kilos. A lot of this is oyster shell, but it is still a lot of oysters.

Actually, there is an oyster dealer with a stand outside the door of my local supermarket, and for a small extra fee, he will open my oysters and I can have them at home. 'Joyeuses huitres à tous!'

'L'Employé du Mois

This is the title of a full-page ad by Mercedes in Thursday's edition of Le Parisien. There is a strip of small photos along the top of the page, showing a car doing something, and there is a cartoon-drawing of a moose or an elk in the centre of the page, surrounded by a lot of text.

The essential of it is, Mercedes says it has given its new 'A'-Klasse car, equipped with 'ESP,' the famous 'dodge the moose' test - with the aid of the Swedish the BHV journalists who first tried it, and famous racing driver Niki Lauda! - and the car now wins standing ovations from everybody.

Mercedes has decided to equip every 'A'-Klasse with 'ESP' as a result, and the car will return to showrooms in March.

Apparently, this has upset other car manufacturers' plans to equip their little cars with the same device, because the independent supplier didn't anticipate the extra demand.

Weren't architects whimsical when they made shopping emporiums, before the invention of low-headroom malls?

'ESP' is a device which combines ABS, BAS and ASR, with an extra 'plus;' all of which are supposed to help you stop your car, and used to simply be called, 'brakes.'

There must be a certain lack of co-ordination chez Mercedes, because Friday's edition of Le Parisien has a photo of the Mercedes-Swatch little 'Smart' car and says that Mercedes big boss ordered it to have a 'Moose-test' some weeks ago, which it failed. Its launch date has been moved from spring to October 1998.

The Missing 30 Metres and the White Uno

Trevor Rees-Jones, Dodi al-Fayed's bodyguard and the only survivor of the crash which took the lives of his employer, Princess Diana and the driver, Henri Paul, was in Paris on Friday.

He was interviewed for two hours by judge Hervé Stéphan at the Palais de Justice. Mr. Rees-Jones has already talked to the judge two times; once while still in the hospital. Apparently, Mr. Rees-Jones' memory of the minutes immediately preceding the crash has not improved.

After four months of enquiry, two essential questions remain unanswered: what happened during the last 30 metres of the car's voyage? What were the circumstances of its touching - or collision with - a mysterious Fiat Uno; white in color and built between 1985 and 1987?

The police have looked at 1,800 possible cars registered in Hauts-de-Seine, a thousand in Yvelines and are waiting for a green light to look at all of the 37,000 possible matches which are registered throughout France.

Judge Stéphan has other enquiries in mind and his investigation is expected to continue for some months more.

Mr. Al-Fayed senior, owner of the Ritz Hotel, is reported to have hired a high-powered team of private detectives to look into the hotel's security arrangements at the time of the accident.

Meanwhile, Sunday evening TV-news reported that the family of Princess Diana, has launched a civil suit against the Ritz Hotel; for damages of 80 million francs.

The World Cup SportsBar Is Open Throughout the Holidays

Real SportsFans should hang out the SportsBar where the fans have all the eggnog they can make themselves, at the Football Café, and have relaxing bowls of popcorn while discussing the finer points of the world of football, without getting too 'psychorigide' about it. Cool.

Less uplifting are the 'official' Web sites: represenred by the FIFA - which stands for Federation International - and the French Organizing Committee, known to all far and wide as the CFO. I don't what the initials stand for, just like SNCF does not sound like RR to me.

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