Papon Gets 10 Years

bistro: au vrai paris
The name of this bar is apt - for 65 years ago.

Le Pen Loses Civil Rights; Is Fined

Paris:- Saturday, 4. April 1998:- On Thursday, Maurice Papon was found guilty of Crimes Against Humanity and was sentenced to a 10 year prison term. Since the sentence will be appealed, he will remain free until a final decision by the appeals court.

The verdict was reached after 19 hours of deliberation by a jury of nine laymen and women, and three judges. They entered the Bordeaux assize court at 9:02 to hear the verdict pronounced by the President of the court, and by 9:29, condemned, Maurice Papon walked out of the courthouse with his lawyers.

The dominate opinion of the last weeks of the trial was reached. Papon: guilty; but not 'as guilty' as Paul Touvier or Klaus Barbie, both also tried for Crimes Against Humanity. Thus, a sentence of less than life-imprisonment, satisfied opinion.

This idea was first put forward by Serge Klarsfeld; it was thought by some to be a 'devaluation' of the crime. However, any way it was looked at, Maurice Papon was no head of the Vichy police like René Bousquet or his assistant, Jean Leguay. The public prosecutor demanded 20 years, and 10 were settled on.

When the trial started in October, one could have imagined a long and serious lesson in history.

Instead, it became a trial of spectacles, surprises; the prosecution was not sure of itself, witness did not say what was expected, judges were not in agreement, lawyers staged surprises; there were interruptions, suspensions - and the jury had to follow a dark thread through all of this.

The defendant, Maurice Papon, came to defend himself, with vigor, pride, sometimes contemptuous; sometimes too ill to take the stand because of his age.

The prosecution did its homework imperfectly. Nobody from Germany was questioned or even sought. Co-workers of Papon were ignored. This was little 'hard' evidence; little paper, fewer signatures. Very few eyewitnesses.

But out of the mass of dialogue, paper, an administrative undertone came through. An 1942 order to prevent Jews leaving Bordeaux by train. An arrested mother leaving her children withmotorcycles a neighbor. A later order to fetch these children. If the mother knew, how ignorant was Papon?

In the end, the jury did not accept the defense thesis of lack of proof, nor that it was a 'collective crime.' Nor did they accept 'life imprisonment.' They refused this to a scapegoat, but they refused to let him go home whitewashed.

On Friday, the court, in a civil session, ordered Papon to pay 4.6 million francs for legal fees for the civil parties, and damages to the victims and their lawyers. More than 20 lawyers, representing 20 organizations and 54 individuals, have been working for the past six months on the trial, without compensation. Some have been working on the case for 17 years.

Five months and 25 days after the trail began, it was over. The Ministry of Justice estimates it has cost taxpayers more than 15 million francs. Maurice Papon is thought to be insolvent.

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 End of the Untouchables

In an editorial in Friday's edition of Libération, Serge July says the conviction of Maurice Papon is sure to be a profound shock to the administration, which he describes as the backbone of the country:

'The religion of the public functionary, where the gentlemen lawyers, the engineers and the technocrats form an all-powerful state bourgeoisie; concocted by all regimes as the virtual vertebral column of the nation, and which has, through the centuries, been an active part of its greatness.

'But the history of this has its black pages. Until now, access to them has been forbidden. These 'untouchables' escape common laws which judge ordinary man's responsibility for their acts.

'[Maurice Papon] was simply general-secretary of the prefecture. He was condemned, not for any tragic accord with a monstrous ideology - but for his activity as a high functionary - efficient and indifferent to the consequences of his acts.

'Until now, a high functionary in France has been considered as one from whom it would be unthinkable to demand accounting for administrative acts.

'Nobody should forget it, starting with the high functionaries of today. By ricochet, they have suddenly stopped being untouchable.'

The Anti-Papon

Friday's Libération has seven pages relating to the Papon trial. One-third of one of them is about Bernard de Chalvron, who was a diplomat and an agent for the military cabinet of Field-Marshal Pétain at Vichy.

In July 1942 he had enough. In August he wrote, "It is enough to remember that simply being French comes before loyalty or being a Pétainist."

From that moment, he was in the resistance. He furnished accounts of government meetings to the US Embassy. A few months later, he joined and ran the resistance network, 'Super Nap.' Bernard de Chalvron was caught and sent to Buchenwald, like 24,000 other French resisters and political 'outlaws.' He was freed from the camp by the US Army in April 1945.

Who knew what, when? Didier Epelbaum, the author of this 'Anti-Papon' article, writes that two months after the invasion of Poland, one could read in a French Jewish paper, that the "total destructionbar sans souci of Polish Judaism is at the mercy of Hitler and it is only a question of months, if not weeks.

"Polish Jews face physical annihilation if the Nazi regime continues." This 1939 message was repeated in a BBC broadcast in May of 1942. At about the same time, prisoners at the Drancy camp near Paris were talking about being sent to 'Pitchipoï,' which was someplace close to nowhere.

Like a lot of French in the summer of 1942, Bernard de Chalvron - like Papon too - knew that Jewish women and their children were shipped out of France in freight wagons, and that old people were torn out of their beds at the Rothschild Hospital.

He saw large groups of police involved in round-ups and saw them watching the train stations and major roads. He knew the 'exclusion doctrine' of the regime and he saw it go into action.

Like other French, seeing these things provoked in Bernard de Chalvron an "Universal revolt against the treatment inflicted on Jews." Prefects noted a hifting French opinion, and the "sympathy of the Parisians for the Jews" during the round-ups in July 1942. Some wrote to Pétain to protest against 'French dishonor.' Bishops spoke of it.


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