It Was Somebody Else's Fault

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Who Is Responsible For a Subordinate's Actions?

Paris:- Saturday, 17. January 1998:- I have been having eye problems lately, but I'm not sure if this is the reason I am unable to find any reports about the Maurice Papon trial in Le Parisien.

Every morning I hear reports direct from Bordeaux on radio France-Info about it, but I do not take notes because I'm counting on it being in the papers. Today's Libération merely says the courtroom got a fright yesterday when two spotlights blew out their bulbs.

For the second round-up and the fourth convoy taking Jews to Drancy near Paris, the prosecution has only rain - pont Louis Philippe been able to show one piece of paper with the signature of Maurice Papon on it. This one signature alone is enough for a conviction of crimes against humanity.

The court notes that all the written orders to the police to carry out arrests, come from the prefecture, and do not come from the Nazis.

Caught in sudden rain on the Ile Saint-Louis.

Papon does not deny it his signature, but says there is only one, and it is only on the paper that details the results of the operation [of arrests]. Papon claims this is not proof he initiated the operation.

But, the court argues, the 'Service des Questions Juifs' in the prefecture was under his authority, and its chief, Pierre Garat, dealt directly with the occupying forces. Garat was Papon's loyal subordinate, the court reminds us.

Papon never gives up. He agrees that this service was under his authority. But, he says, it was run by a 'résponsable.' This was, of course, Mr. Garat.

Papon says that when Garat brought a list from the Nazis, he was flanked by two German officers. He says the French police were accompanied by Nazi troops too, when they went to make arrests.

The court insists; 'the instructions to the police, were sent by the prefecture, sent with Garat.

This sets Papon off, "No one never talks about the commands of the Germans..."

I am writing that this is a trial, but it is called a 'procès.' The act that is taking place now is an 'instruction.' Physical evidence is produced, declared to be genuine and then its relevance is discussed. The accused is asked questions; but he is permitted to make any reply he chooses. The Président of the court, explains the truth of things. The civil lawyers, who instigated the trial, can also ask the accused questions - not necessarily about what is under discussion at the moment - and he doesn't necessarily answer. His defense after rain, on pont Louis Philippe attorney makes ironic comments for the benefit of the jury.

Then Papon says, "These debates permit seeing more clearly into this somber affair. One talks about the prefect Sabatier, one talks about Garat - to the point where I forget this is my trial." "C'est mon procès."

It's not sunshine, but it is only five minutes later - on the pont Louis-Philippe.

This is followed by Papon complaining about how hard it is to remember, from papers, at what exact time Garat received a list; at what time did he return it? Those 55 years ago. He tells the court there are holes, there are blanks, that break the continuity of the dossier. He says there are two verities; the one of memories and the one of the papers, which are incomplete.

The court's president, Castagnède, says there are 'holes' that nothing can fill, not even the accused. But there have been other living witnesses at this trial too, and many of their memories were without significant 'holes.'

The trial continues.

Web Sites With Contents About the Papon Trial:

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.

The Banks

In addition to the Papon trial, prosecutors are now looking at what financial records they can find, for traces of the plundering of funds belonging to French Jews. Apparently nobody has bothered before to examine the role French banks played during the occupation, but after the Swiss came under the magnifying glass, it looks as if the French will be next.

Unlike the Swiss, French banks have the alibi that they acted under administrative orders. In fact, investigators began to look for plundering in 1948, but in 1952 ran into the wall of bank secrecy and the funds for the search were stopped.

A new law last year set up an investigative body named the Mattéoli Commission and it is working away, without a great deal of co-operative enthusiasm from the financial institutions. It hasn't helped either, that a document storage place for records from the Bourse, caught on fire last year in August.

Wildcat Strike by Unemployed Gains Steam

With three or four million people in the country without much to do, combined with clement winter weather, it has seemed a foregone conclusion that the current round of labor unrest can only grow in amplitude.

After last weekend's government offer of a billion francs to go home and watch daytime TV was received with calculated indifference, the government has had to call out the mutiny police to clear the unemployed out of the unemployment agencies they were occupying in scattered locations around France.

This of course has mobilized yet more and during the week they have been holding warm-up marches in various cities of the Republic. The massive number of unemployed have been invisible for years, and now everybody can see them.

Polls indicate that a whopping 70 percent of the French are in sympathy with the current agitation. When I went to see the 'massive' demo at Bastille with Professor Greb on Wednesday, 30. December there were only seven present and another 50 or so had moved on. Last Tuesday, there were 10,000 in the streets of Paris.

ntidiness in Paris
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