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.

Untidiness in Paris

If you have been just passing through the city recently you may have noticed a certain untidiness in the big métro stations of Châtelet, Etoile, Gare-de-Lyon or out at La Défense.

This is not normal. The cleaning of the stations is subcontracted and every once in a while the subcontractor's employees seem to need to show their boss they don't like the working conditions or the pay; and the subcontractor feels the need to show these employees he is not an old softy.

There is talk of outside 'casseurs' aiding, by bringing in outside garbage, the 70 to 100 strikers - out of 700 cleaning employees - and there is also talk by the CGT of the subcontractor bringing in strike-breakers, with police assistance.

Today, the strike has been on for two weeks and things are beginning to stink.

No Funnies

The only early Paris paper to hit the newsstands Friday morning was the Communist Party's l'Humanité, and Le Monde made it in the afternoon.

Serge July, who runs Libération was sufficiently annoyed to tell readers about it on the front page of his paper's Saturday edition.

In a top-left column, under the headline, 'Libération Censuré' he wrote that some union members were trying to censor the contents of the newspaper. He mentioned that this happened at Le Figaro too; a paper on the opposite side of the political fence.

There have been sporadic stoppages of selected papers for several weeks now, but the non-editions seem to be getting more regular - with Le Parisien getting hit about once a week.

Government Stamps OK On Internet

All of the papers - when they have been on the stands - have been spending a lot of ink on 'multimedia' and 'Internet,' almost all week. Apparently the government has made an official decision that the 'Internet Is Okay for the French.'

This is about one year after President Jacques Chirac discovered the Internet at an ANPE employment office in Boulogne-Billancourt - which was accidently discovered a week earlier by an alert Metropole Paris reporter, and reported here.

Last week somebody threw a magic switch on a modem at the Elysée Palace and put Jacques Chirac, Président de la République Française, online. According to Libération, if Jacques decides to answer your email to him, it will be via La Poste.

Alain Juppé went online when he was Prime Minister and I think confiserie, r F MironLionel Jospin took over the same email address. If you have any good ideas about how he can make four million unemployed happy within about two weeks, I think Mr. Jospin would like to hear from you.

The time of day and the kind of place, that makes you want to run into and buy something warm.

The most complete reference about the Web in France is supposed to be really up-to-date, also according to Libération - which of course did not appear with its weekly 'Multimedia' section yesterday; leaving me in the dark about Internet affairs in France.

Libération's editorialist points out that the Internet is a decentralized network which permits individual interactivity, which is totally at odds with the notions of Colbert which govern France - which may permit the French to sidestep the government's strangulation of individualism.

Now there's a notion for you. The France we all know and love commits hari-kari by becoming wired.

World Cup Bouchons

As far as I know, the French had to apply for permission to hold this summer's World Cup in France. They weren't forced to do it. If I can believe Le Parisien, it appears as if the planners are like the guy who painted this big floor, and now he's stuck in a corner waiting for the paint to dry.

In a double-page spread, which is mostly a map, the paper shows where the brand-new Stade de France is in relation to access roads and public transport.

The map is detailed enough to show where and how many tour-buses can park. Six of them can fit into the space between the A86 autoroute and the SNCF's RER line 'B,' for example. None of these bus parking spots are in the stadium's parking lot, but there are not terribly far away.

The paper has two sets of graphics, each showing a 'Scénario Catastrophe.' One is for road travellers and the other is for public transport.

One of the 'catastrophe' examples is the A1 autoroute. It has a capacity for being able to handle 8,000 automobiles per hour. In a matelassier usual rush-hour there are 6,500 travelling on it, but for the World Cup another 7,000 extra are expected to join the flow; turning it to a colossal standstill. The A86 is slightly better off, with an overbooking of only 3,000 cars per hour.

In the Marais, you still see craftsmen, doing crafts in the old ways - but not often.

Both the RER 'B' and 'D' look just about feasible with the football fans packed in like thin sardines, but the older and smaller métro line 13 looks like it is supposed to carry 5,000 passengers an hour more than its capacity.

The stadium can hold 80,000 spectators, and exactly 5,000 parking places are available; 4,000 of them for 'VIP's. Within a two-kilometre radius there are maybe another 2,000 spots of street parking.

France plays against Spain on 28. January and Prime Minister Lionel Jospin has already said he's taking the RER. It's a good thing he's not the same size as Chancellor Kohl, who is a big fan.

The World Cup SportsBar May Go Dry at Times, But Never Closes

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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