Fascism's Return: Scandal, Revision, and Ideology since 1980

By Richard J. Golsan | Go to book overview
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Bertram M. Gordon

World War II France Half a Century After

In July 1995, half a century after the Second World War, French President Jacques Chirac's public apology for France's complicity with Nazi German political and racial persecution during the German occupation once again drew public attention to the war years. Chirac's statement reinforced the impact of the 1994 public disclosures and media discussions of then President François Mitterrand's Vichy activities and his repeated refusal to assign any responsibility to the Republic for French involvement in the Holocaust. Not surprisingly, the contrasting actions of the two French presidents focused attention on ways in which World War II and its recollections influenced French history during the fifty years that followed the war.1 This attention was maintained in 1996 and 1997 by government initiatives to make restitution, where possible, to the Occupation victims of art and apartment expropriation. An appellate court ruling in January 1997 to try former Vichy Secretary General of the Gironde Prefecture Maurice Papon for crimes against humanity also contributed to a focusing of attention on the wartime years.2 In February 1997, the news magazine Le Point published a story asserting that Michel Junot, an aide from 1977 through 1995 to Jacques Chirac, then Mayor of Paris, had served as subprefect in Pithiviers, in the Loiret, under Vichy and in this capacity had helped maintain order in French concentration camps from which Jews were later deported to Auschwitz.3 These events, together with the election of three National Front mayors in France in 1995, plus an enhanced visibility of the European Right in the form of the National Alliance in Italy, the Freedom Party in Austria, and right-wing manifestations in reunified Germany and the former Soviet Union and East Bloc countries, made retrospective views of the war years the foci of considerable historical discussion in France and elsewhere.

Suggesting that fascism, in terms of scandal, revision, and ideology, has somehow returned in Europe since 1980 raises the question of whether 1980 was a turning point in the history of the European


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