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The Verdict MAGAZINE
Vol.1 - Issue #1
The Papon Trial |
The Papon trial, presently underway in France, is a set of three parallel trials:
The trial of Papon, the individual.
The trial of the Vichy government,:
The anti-Semitic policies of the Vichy government, the identification of the Jews, stamping of the ID and the ration cards with the word Juife (Jew), the internment of Jews, the extensive use of French police in roundups, helped the Nazis in the Final Solution. They were already found guilty.
The Trial of the French society.
First to raise his voice in the defense of the Jews was Monsignor Jules-Gerard Saliege, the partly paralysed arch-bishop of Tolouse:
"That children, that women, fathers and mothers be treated like cattle, that members of a family be separated from one another and dispatched to an unknown destination, it has been reserved for our own times to see such a sad spectacle. ....the Jews are real men and women. Foreigners are real men and women. . . They are a part of the human species. They are our brothers like so many others."The pastoral letter issued by the bishop of Montauban was no less resounding:
"I give voice to the outraged protest of Christian conscience, and I proclaim that all men, Aryans or no-Aryans, are brothers,because created by the same God; that all men, whever their race or religion, have the right to be respected by individuals and by states. "
France was one of the countries controlled by the Germans at the early stages of war, but it had a high level of democratic tradition of Liberte, Fraternity and Egalite. In France about 75000 Jews perished out of a population of 350,000, about 70% survived. Many factors contributed to the relatively high survival rate, the most important factor was the attitude of the silent majority, who made it difficult of the Germans to identify and catch the Jews. Even the local police cooperated only reluctantly with the Germans, Jews were provided with false identification papers, given shelter and moral support.
In my eyes the French people redeemed themselves by their actions. n France 75% of the Jews survived, and for me, this is the most important consideration when relating to the French people. For me the help the Jews received from the French people is more important then the misdeeds of Laval, Petain or Papon. Collective consciousness is very selective and like history very subjective. It is bad to remember only the evil and forget the good. Nevertheless, I am glad that the Papon trial will bring the Holocaust closer to the collective consciousness of the French people.