Former Collaborator Loyal to a Murky Past
Gumbel, Andrew, The Independent (London, England)
Francois Mitterrand may enter the history books as the figurehead of the modern French Socialist Party but there was nothing straightforwardly left-wing about his political heritage.
Born into a provincial, bourgeois right-wing family, he spent his youth first as an opponent of the Popular Front government of the 1930s and then, for the first three years of the Nazi occupation of France, as an official of the Vichy regime.
He saw his progression from right to left as a symbol of the country's evolution from the ambiguities of war and occupation to the more progressive values of democratic capitalism and European integration. But he never entirely shook off the shadier side of his past, to the consternation and occasional alarm of his Socialist colleagues.
In the last two years of his presidency a flurry of books appeared detailing the young Mitterrand's awkward intimacy with the nationalist, anti-semitic Action Francaise and with some members of the right-wing terrorist group La Cagoule.
What was most remarkable was that the ageing Mitterrand seemed completely at ease with friends he had made in the 1930s and remained unflinchingly loyal to them. The President admitted quite happily to one of his biographers, Pierre Pean, that his circle included members of the Vichy-era interior ministry responsible for rounding up and deporting thousands of Jews.
He even had warm words for Rene Bousquet, the police chief who masterminded the …
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Publication information: Article title: Former Collaborator Loyal to a Murky Past. Contributors: Gumbel, Andrew - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: January 9, 1996. Page number: 8. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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