Coping with Life and Death: Jewish Families in the Twentieth Century

By Peter Y. Medding | Go to book overview

Vichy and the Jews: A Past That is Not Past
Richard J. Golsan (ed. ), Memory, the Holocaust, and French Justice: The Bousquet
and Touvier Affairs
. Hanover and London: University Press of New England,
1996. xxxiii + 217 pp.
Lawrence D. Kritzman (ed. ), Auschwitz and After: Race, Culture, and “The Jewish
Question” in France
. New York and London: Routledge, 1995. x + 335 pp.
Lucien Lazare, Rescue as Resistance: How Jewish Organizations Fought the Holo-
caust in France
, trans. Jeffrey M. Green. New York: Columbia University
Press, 1996. xii + 400 pp.
René Rémond, Le “Fichier juif”: Rapport de la commission présidée par René
Rémond au Premier ministre
. Paris: Plon, 1996. 233 pp.
Tzvetan Todorov, A French Tragedy: Scenes of Civil War, Summer 1944, trans. Mary
Byrd Kelly. Hanover and London: University Press of New England, 1996.
xx + 138 pp.
Richard H. Weisberg, Vichy Law and the Holocaust in France. New York: New York
University Press, 1996. xxiii + 447 pp.

In 1988, the French postmodernist philosopher Jean-FranÉois Lyotard originated the concept of “a past that is not past. 1 A slightly different version of the phrase gained a wider audience with the 1994 publication of Eric Conan and Henry Rousso's Vichy, un passé qui ne passe pas. The aptness of this notion is confirmed by the impassioned French and worldwide attention given to persistent questions surrounding French behavior during the war. Wartime documents that had been used to track and capture Jews, which the government claimed to have destroyed, have been discovered. Apartments seized from Jews have recently appeared in inventories of government property. French industry is suspected of having produced poison gas for Nazi death chambers. Stolen art has surfaced in French museum collections. The greatest outrage has been produced by the difficulty of bringing to trial four French war criminals (René Bousquet, Jean Leguay, Paul Touvier and Maurice Papon). Government foot-dragging transformed these individuals into symbols of Vichy and heightened the desire for catharsis, which then focused on obtaining convictions. Announcing the death in prison in July 1996 of Touvier, the only Frenchman thus far to have been convicted of crimes against humanity, a major French Jewish weekly entitled its article “Vichy Has Not Finished Dying. 2

The case of Touvier, long protected by high echelons of the French Catholic church, reinforced suspicion that Catholic antisemitism contributed to Vichy attitudes, legis

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