web analytics
December 20, 2014 / 28 Kislev, 5775
 
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
8000 meals Celebrate Eight Days of Chanukah – With 8,000 Free Meals Daily to Israel’s Poor

Join Meir Panim’s campaign to “light up” Chanukah for families in need.



France and the Jews

Looking ahead, we can only hope that France will somehow choose not to sacrifice Israel, now arguably, the individual Jew in macrocosm, to the genocide planners in Iran and 'Palestine.'

Louis Rene Beres

Louis Rene Beres

Many readers have probably seen the film “Sarah’s Key,” a powerful 2010 movie that reminds its viewers of overwhelming French collaboration with the Nazis. Even today it seems widely believed that France carried on more or less heroically under the German occupation, and that the 1942 roundups of Jews in occupied France must have been carried out by the SS or Gestapo directly. In fact, however, as “Sarah’s Key” instructs in understated yet utterly hideous detail, these roundups were executed, more or less enthusiastically, by the regular French police.

What is even less well known is that France, after the war, only rarely prosecuted Nazi war criminals for crimes committed during the occupation, and that these prosecutions often dishonored the Jewish victims – victims of the insidious French collaboration in deportation and mass murder – as much as of France’s wartime German masters. Nowhere was this more apparent than in the French trial of Klaus Barbie, the notorious “Butcher of Lyons.” The Barbie trial took place between May 11 and July 4 1987.

Though found guilty and sentenced to life in prison (there was no death penalty in France), Barbie succeeded, with undisguised prosecutorial complicity, in blurring the Nuremberg-based charge of “crimes against humanity.” This distortion continues to defile the very memory of justice.

Believing that crimes of war have a statute of limitations, and that crimes against humanity contain no such statute, the French authorities decided to indict Barbie only on the latter charge. This was a big mistake, however, and their elementary factual error led them to treat all of the defendant’s cruelties – deportation-related crimes, and crimes against the Resistance – as qualitatively indistinguishable. According to the authoritative Convention on the Non-Applicability of Statutory Limitations to War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity: “…there is no period of limitation for War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity.”

There is an irreducible specificity to crimes against humanity; hence, France’s fusion of such crimes with crimes of war had the effect of diminishing the terribly unique fate of French Jews during the Holocaust. After the war, France received survivors and victims of the Resistance as heroes, but generally tried to ignore those who had been known simply as the “racially deported.” These were the ones in “zebra” clothes, the Jews.

This stark dichotomy had substantial consequences. Indeed, on November 11, 1945, Jewish victims were excluded from the mortal remains symbolically reunited around the flame of the Unknown Soldier. It was not until 1954 that a national day was even declared to memorialize “The Deportation.”

An implicit hierarchy of pertinent criminality arose in post-war France, one that elevated the victims of war crimes, i.e., the Resistance, to substantially higher status than that accorded to victims of crimes against humanity. In this vaguely obscene competition of memories, the Barbie trial reinvigorated the hierarchy. Because the French prosecutor believed, erroneously, that crimes of war were bounded by a statute of limitations while crimes against humanity were not so constrained, the magistrate in charge retained only the crimes inflicted upon the Jews.

As for Nazi actions against the fighters of the Resistance, against France’s “authentic heroes,” these were declared off limits to criminal prosecution. Never mind that in 1943, in German-occupied Poland, a tiny handful of beleaguered Jews had held off the extinction of the Warsaw Ghetto, and for an even longer period of time than it had taken France to surrender its entire armies.

First, the grand jury in Lyons confirmed the magistrate’s opinion. But when certain Resistance organizations objected strenuously, the criminal court of appeals, on December 20, 1985, accepted an interpretation of crimes against humanity that was less restrictive. This interpretation, it was agreed, would include crimes committed against the Resistance.

Thereafter, the French definition of crimes against humanity included “inhuman acts and persecutions that, in the name of a state practicing a politics of ideological hegemony, have been committed in a systematic way not only against people by reason of their belonging to a racial or religious group, but also against the opponents of this political system, whatever the form of their opposition.”

This greatly expanded definition of crimes against humanity was very troubling. The French authorities could have avoided blurring the lines between crimes of war and crimes against humanity by recognizing that both penal categories had been unaffected by those statutory limitations pertinent under international law. Failing such recognition, however, they came to sully the memory of the deported French Jews, and trivialized the indisputably core meanings of “humanity.”

There was also something paradoxical in the spectacle of Resistance organizations demanding the broadened view of crimes against humanity. After all, having previously accepted the hierarchic superiority of war crimes, they were now asserting their right to a status that had formerly been rejected as unheroic. “We the victims have never asked to be considered as heroes,” Simone Veil intoned on behalf of the deported, “so why do the heroes now want to be treated as victims?”

The answer was plain. On account of the incorrect presumption that only crimes against humanity have no statute of limitations, the hierarchic ranking of war crimes and crimes against humanity had been surreptitiously inverted by the French criminal justice system. There were palpable consequences.

A result of this inversion, in addition to demeaning the Holocaust and enabling Holocaust denial, was Barbie’s own reversal of the role between defender and accused. If one had listened to Jacques Verges, Barbie’s defense lawyer, not only was the Holocaust a trifling matter of minor significance, but French colonial crimes were even more serious than those of the Nazis. This argument was intended to highlight France’s alleged lack of moral authority to even try Klaus Barbie. Known in law as tu quoque, this corollary defense strategy focused attention on all post-war crimes that had remained unpunished, especially the broadly generic crimes of “imperialism” and “racism” in which France had allegedly been so deeply involved.

In essence, the three lawyers for Barbie – the Congolese M’Bemba, the Algerian Bouaita, and the French-Vietnamese Verges – spoke as delegates of a despised nonwhite humanity, transferring the racism of the crime itself onto the memory of the crime. The six million Jews condemned by the Final Solution, therefore, had no right to any universal commiseration. After all, the Final Solution was simply a family affair, with white prisoners and white executioners. Here, counsel instructed, one could not properly expect sympathies of any kind from the “genuinely oppressed” peoples of the Third World.

More than a quarter-century ago, France’s 1987 trial of Klaus Barbie was notable for the manipulation of convenient Third World rhetoric to defend a notorious Nazi criminal. Rather than allow France, in a very small way, to finally “make up” for its abysmal wartime behavior, it ended up as just one more glaring expression of that country’s documented unconcern for Jewish memory and Jewish justice.

Looking ahead, we can only hope that France will somehow choose not to sacrifice Israel, now arguably, the individual Jew in macrocosm, to the genocide planners in Iran and “Palestine.” Any such glaring sacrifice could represent the ultimate triumph of what the Germans called realpolitik, or power politics, over justice.

About the Author: Louis René Beres (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) is professor of political science and international law at Purdue University and the author of many books and articles dealing with international relations and strategic studies.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

2 Responses to “France and the Jews”

  1. France didn't whone the war, but they say yes, specially Degaulle, they are hypocrites, they are anti-semits.

  2. France didn't whone the war, but they say yes, specially Degaulle, they are hypocrites, they are anti-semits.

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
funny rocket joke
Israel Retaliates: Hits Terror Infrastructure Targets
Latest Indepth Stories
The annual  Chabad menorah lighting in Sydney has been called off this year because of the murders in the Lindt cafe.

The decision to not publicly light the Menorah in Sydney, epitomizes the eternal dilemma of Judaism and Jews in the Diaspora.

Greiff-112814-Men

Am Yisrael is one family, filled with excruciating pain&sorrow for losing the 4 kedoshim of Har Nof

Two dreidels from the author’s extensive collection.

What is its message of the dreidel?” The complexity and hidden nature of history and miracles.

Keeping-Jerusalem

Police play down Arab terrorism as mere “violence” until the truth can no longer be hidden.

The 7 branches of the menorah represent the 7 pillars of secular wisdom, knowledge, and science.

Obama obtained NO verifiable commitments from Cuba it would desist from acts prejudicial to the US

No one would deny that the program subjected detainees to less than pleasant treatment, but the salient point is, for what purpose?

For the past six years President Obama has consistently deplored all Palestinian efforts to end-run negotiations in search of a UN-imposed agreement on Israel.

It’s not an admiration. It is simply a kind of journalist fascination. It stands out, it’s different from more traditional Orthodoxy.

For Am Yisrael, the sun’s movements are subservient to the purpose of our existence.

Israelis now know Arab terrorism isn’t caused by Israeli occupation but by ending Israeli occupation

Anti-Semitism is a social toxin that destroys the things that people most cherish and enjoy.

Amb. Cooper highlighted the impact of the Chanukah/Maccabee spirit on America’s Founding Fathers

Zealousness has its place and time in Judaism; Thank G-d for heroic actions of the Maccabees!

More Articles from Louis Rene Beres

A “Palestine” could become another Lebanon, with many different factions battling for control.

Louis Rene Beres

President Obama’s core argument on a Middle East peace process is still founded on incorrect assumptions.

Once upon a time in America, every adult could recite at least some Spenglerian theory of decline.

President Obama’s core argument is still founded on incorrect assumptions.

Specific strategic lessons from the Bar Kokhba rebellion.

Still facing an effectively unhindered nuclear threat from Iran, Israel will soon need to choose between two strategic options.

For states, as for individuals, fear and reality go together naturally.

So much of the struggle between Israel and the Arabs continues to concern space.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/louis-bene-beres/france-and-the-jews/2013/05/29/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: