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					The case against Rene Bousquet is the last chance to try the Vichy regime for sending French Jews to
the Nazi gas chambers. But resistance to his trial shows the French are still haunted by the occupation

THE PICTURES of Rene Bousquet taken                                                                                                                     administration". He concluded that "the
in 1942-43 show a young, proud, handsome                                                                                                                son of a Jewish deportee has been made a
man, fastidiously dressed, with a faintly                                                                                                               minister o! justice to ensure that the Vichy
louche smile, authoritative and luxuriantly                                                                                                             chief of police goes unpunished".
at ease as he inspects a police parade or                                                                                                                  Perhaps Kiejman's comments pricked
commands the confidence of some visiting                                                                                                                the very judges with whom responsibility
Nazi dignitary. After a meteoric rise                                                                                                                   lay for deciding who might judge Bous-
through the pre-war public service, he is, at
32. the police chief of Vichy, a post of min-
isterial rank in the collaborationist govern-
ment of southern France headed by
Marshal Petain. Bousquet is young. But
then Helmut Knochen, Nazi commandant
                                                       ON VICHY                                                                                         quet. For despite Klarsfeld's scepticism,
                                                                                                                                                        the chambre d'accusation of Paris decided
                                                                                                                                                        on 21 November that, even if the High
                                                                                                                                                        Court of Liberation Justice were the only
                                                                                                                                                        body competent to proceed with a trial of
                                                                                                                                                        Bousquet. that need not prevent a com-
of the police and security services in                                                                                                                  mon-law court from conducting an investi-
German-occupied Paris, is also 32. Theo                                  BY R O B E R T COTTRELL                                                        gation into the case against him. Bous-
Danneker, architect of the French compo-                                                                                                                quet's appeal against this finding was
nent of Eichmann's "final solution", is just                                                                                                            rejected on 31 January. Since then, no
29. Bousquet is a young man in a young                                                                                                                  obstacle has remained to the reopening of
man's world.                                                                                                                                            the case. The end of the affair may still be
   He is not much older, and just as smart-                                                                                                             surrounded by thick legal fog, but there is
ly dressed, in the pictures taken at his trial                                                                                                          limited visibility ahead.
in 1949. He does not smile. His head is in
his hands. But the French High Court of                                                                                                                  WILL THE case advance? Perhaps. But it
Liberation Justice, a court specially consti-                                                                                                            is impossible to overstate the confusion of
tuted to try high functionaries, its jury                                                                                                                feelings which Vichy, the war and the
made up of parliamentarians who were in                                                                                                                  occupation excite in France, even today.
office in 1939, is coming to the end of its                                                                                                              The simplified stories told by the small-
legal life. The war has been over for four                                                                                                               town French war museums of evil German
years. The hearings are more cursory and                                                                                                                 soldiers and heroic Resistance fighters are
the sentences more symbolic than those                                                                                                                   true enough. But so, too, are the more
which took place in 1945, when memories                                                                                                                  complicated stories of the complicities and
and wounds were fresh.                                                                                                                                   collaborations of ordinary life, of Petain-
   The trial of Bousquet lasts three days. A                                                                                                             ism, of anti-Semitism, of the grey areas of
local paper describes it as taking place in                                                                                                              wartime memory which can now be
"an open and cordial atmosphere . Bous-                                                                                                                  addressed to popular acclaim by films like
quet advances the classic justification of                                                                                                               Claude Berri's recently released Uranus,
Vichy, that it was an instrument not for                                                                                                                 but which were for decades simply too
furthering Nazi rule but for moderating i t .                                                                                                            painful for most people to touch.
"It may appear." he says, "that 1 have im-                                                                                                                   It appears impossible now to say, to the
plemented a policy of racial persecution.                                                                                                                satisfaction of a lawyer or a historian, how'
Well, gentlemen, it 1 have supported that                                                                                                                much individual members of the Vichy
p lc
 oi y   it has bn
               e    as   the   rope   supports the                                                                                                      regime knew about the fate of the Jews,
hanged man. And. in truth, I believe that if                                                                                                             and when they came to know it. What is
you want to talk about me as a collaborator                                                                                                              certain, however, is that, from 1940
in this area, you would do better to think of                                                                                                            onwards. Vichy took its own initiatives, in
the collaboration which exists between the                                                                                                               advance or in excess of those required by
lightning and the lightning-conductor."                                                                                                                  the Germans, when passing legislation
    Bousquet is sentenced to five years'             From hunter to hunted: (above) Bousquet with                                                        which deprived Jews in France of their civil
"national degradation" for having "direct-           German officers in Marseilles in 1.943; (right) as                                                  rights, when subjecting them to arbitrary
ly and indirectly assisted the enemy" as             he is today, a reclusive, 80-year-old retired                                                       arrest and detention, and when author-
police chief of Vichy. The sentence is com-          banker, living in the shadow of retribution                                                         ising their rounding-up and deportation in
muted in recognition of the help which the                                                                                                               conditions which must have proclaimed
court considers Bousquet to have given 10            statute of limitations, no Frenchman has                                                            even to the least illuminated of bureau-
the French Resistance. He Has spent three            ever been tried for such a crime. The High                                                          cratic minds the sort of fate which lay at
years in prison, hut ne leaves the Jock u            Court of Liberation Justice was concerned                                                           the distant end of that journey. With the
free man. He is 39. with most of his life still      with treason, not genocide. As the present                                                          Vichy government's help, 7h,000 Jews
before him.                                          French justice minister. Georges Kiejman,                                                           were deported from France between 1941
                                                     said in November: "You would not only-                                                              and 1944. to die in Nazi gas chambers.
A VIDEO-CLIP snatched by a French                    have to put Vichy on trial, but also the                                                                Bousquet represents, by Klarsfeld's
television station last year shows Bousquet          justice of 1949. The dossier against Bous-                                                          analysis, the last chance to put the Vichy
at 80. the reclusive occupant of an expen-           quet contained all the elements necessary                                                           regime on trial for the worst of its crimes.
sive tlat on the Avenue Raphael near the             for convicting him. The judges who judged                                                           Hight years ago, in Vichy Auschwilz, the
Arc de Tnomphc, a discreet "R B" on the              him did not care, they were utterly blind.                                                          definitive study of France's role in the Ho-
bell in the lobby. He has been in retire-            The fate of the Jews, in 1949. did not inter                                                        locaust, he placed the responsibility on the
ment for a decade, after 30 years in the             est them."                                                                                          shoulders of "five personalities, the only
service of the Banque Indochine, later                   To establish Bousquet's part in the                                                             ones whose responsibilities covered all
Indosuez, where he was one of the quiet              arrest and deportation of Jews from                                                                 anti-Jewish actions: Petain as head of
and powerful grandees of French finance,             France as the basis for a new trial, Klars-                                                         state, Laval as head of government, Bous-
director of two dozen companies around               feld advances two pieces of evidence which           of the Palais de Justice until, in October     quet as chief of police in Vichy, Leguay as
the world. In this image, he is visibly dis-         he says were not considered in 1949. The             1990. the prosecutor finally responded by      Bousquet's representative in German-oc-
tressed by the presence of the camera                first is that Bousquet took part in a meet-          saying that if Bousquet were to be tried       cupied France, and Darquier as the Com-
crew. Greyer and heavier with age, he                ing on 2 July 1942 at which French and               again, the only court competent to accept      missioner-General for Jewish Questions."
turns away grimacing. The picture is                 German officials reached an outline agree-           the case would still be the High Court of          Of the five, Laval was executed in 1945.
blurred. But its subject is unmistakeably            ment on the wave of seizures and deporta-            Liberation Justice. Since that court had       Petain was spared execution by virtue of
the same Rene Bousquet. descendant                   tions which took place that summer: the              been dissolved 40 years previously, and its    his age, and died in 1950. Darquier, con-
within the same body and possessor of the            second, that Bousquet shared responsibil-            possible jurors were almost all dead, this     demned to death in his absence, fled to
same soul as the polished Vichy police               ity for the deportation of Jewish children           was as much as to say that the case had no     Spam, where he died in 1980. Leguay went
chief of 1942.                                       from France, a cruelty exceeding the                 future. New legislation would be needed to     to the United States after the war, where
    In this latest image, Bousquet is being          demands even of the Germans themselves.              restore the court to life: and the justice     he worked for the Nina Ricci group,
hunted by the camera as others were once                 Yet if studies of Vichy and the Jews,            minister, himself the son of a deportee,       retired to France, and, at the time of his
hunted w i t h less gentle motives by his            including Klarsfeld's own, can he found in           was making clear the government was not        death in 1989. was still being investigated
police. He is being hunted, too. in the law          any Paris bookshop, the subject is none the          likely to help. There are," Kiejman            for "crimes against humanity" on the basis
courts, where Serge Klarsfeld. the barrister         less one which the French legal and politi-          announced, "other w ays of denouncing the      of evidence presented by Klarsfeld. It was
and president of the Association of Sons             cal establishment still appears keen to              cowardice of the Vichy regime."                 Leguay's death which provoked Klarsfeld
and Daughters of Jewish Deportees from               keep out of the courtroom. After Klars-                 To Klarsfeld. the decision could be         into moving against Bousquet. And it will
France, has asked the public prosecutor to           feld's dossier against Bousquet was first            explained only "by a desire, at the highest    be with Bousquet's trial, or death, the last
investigate Bousquet for "crimes against             presented to the public prosecutor in Sep-           political levels, not to see judgement         of the five, the old man in the Avenue
humanity". Although this is a category of            tember 1989, it spent a year shuttling from          passed on the anti-Jewish actions of the        Raphael, that Klarsfeld's race against the
offence which under French law enjoys no             office to office in the various departments          Vichy government, on its police and on its     clock will reach its conclusion.            D

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