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L ’E s p r it C r éa teu r “ Q u e f a ir e d e V ic h y ? ” Special issue of Esprit, #181 (May 1992): 3-87. 75F. “ Que faire de Vichy” is a collection of articles by French historical and legal specialists on Vichy, which appeared in the May 1992 issue of Esprit, one month after a French court acquitted Paul Touvier of crimes against humanity regarding his wartime activities in Vichy’s Milice. In French law, crimes against humanity must involve state policies of “ ideological hegemony,” which the court contended Vichy had not followed. Ignoring the 3 October 1940 restrictive decree on Jews, signed by Marshal Pétain, the court held that Vichy had never proclaimed Jews as enemies of the state. The controversies generated by the April 1992 verdict revolve around the meaning of Vichy to the French—questions of legitimacy of both Pétain’s government and the Resistance, which have been hotly debated since the defeat of 1940 and the liberation in 1944 and which are echoed in the pages of Esprit. In November 1992, the French Supreme Court ruled that one count of the Touvier case should be tried again, but it refrained from commenting on the lower court’s evalua­ tion of Vichy. The Vichy issue will not go away, as the Touvier case clearly shows. Not surprisingly, Esprit has also got caught up in the affair. In practice, the Esprit collection adds little new to the ongoing discussions but it does highlight some important points in the French debate over Vichy. Eric Conan and Daniel Lindenberg note that shortly after the war, the defense of Xavier Vallat, Vichy’s Commissioner for Jewish Questions, was based on the claim that Vichy’s anti-semitism was grounded on native French traditions rather than subordination to the Germans, making collaboration with the enemy rather than crimes against humanity the operative concept. Serge Klarsfeld adds that the police for Jewish Questions investi­ gated more than it arrested Jews and, accordingly, did less harm than did the regular French police. Henry Rousso notes that the Touvier case, in terms of crimes against humanity opened in 1973, is the first in France to activate this juridical procedure, now the only way to prose­ cute him. Pardoned for war crimes in 1971 by President Georges Pompidou, Touvier is now immune from prosecution on any further charges of war crimes because the statute of limitations has expired. Paris Attorney-General Pierre Truche notes that the postwar French legal distinction between war crimes with a statute of limitations and crimes against humanity without such limitations does not exist in “ Anglo-Saxon” or international juris­ prudence (83). The French law concerning crimes against humanity, according to Truche, refers to race as a criterion without established genetic scientific validity. Because of the lack of a statute of limitations, it inspires a variety of victimization claims, such as hemo­ philiacs who received contaminated blood transfusions being portrayed as victims of genocidal crimes against humanity (84-85). Today Vichy continues to haunt the French, still caught in the moral and legal dilemmas of collaboration and resistance. The Catholic clerics who harbored the fugitive Touvier prior to his arrest in 1989 have revived the debate about Vichy and the Church and the Touvier affair has again inflamed passions in France, as François and Renée Bédarida point out in Esprit. Be r t r a m M . G o r d o n Mills College 126 Sp r i n g 1993 ...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1931-0234
Print ISSN
0014-0767
Pages
p. 125
Launched on MUSE
2017-07-05
Open Access
No
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