Golson, Richard J. Memory, The Holocaust and French Justice: The Bousquet and Touvier Affairs. University Press of New England, Hanover and London. 1996.
Two Affairs Flanking a Larger Complex
The compartmentalization in Memory, the Holocaust, and French Justice by Richard Golsan is commendable. Complicity of the French with the Germans in the prosecution of the Jewish is referred to as affairs, and the book culminates in the trial of Paul Touvier. This is particularly intriguing because he was among the last of the men who tortured and persecuted the Jews of France to be tried. He was ultimately freed.
It is useful to look for comparisons in his trial to that of René Bousequet. He died due to his involvement as the head of Vichy police. The argument he attempted to run was that he was unaware of the actions of the Germans in exterminating those who were deported (127). Touvier had a role more distinctly personal to the Jewish question.
As the head of the Milice, in trial a great part of the discussion lies on the veracity of the claims made against Touvier. Reminiscent of the larger question that lingers among all French, is the role assassinations and political repression enacted by this branch of Vichy enforcement played in German success. While France appears to be laudable in obstruction of justice, as Touvier argues in his specific case, the reality is that a rigorous contextualization of the domestic military conflict between the Gestapo, the Jews, and the Resistance shows a higher level of cooperation than in other nations. The question of justice further complicates this relationship, as an inferred interpretation from inconclusive statements leaves the danger of deeming the actions of the Gestapo in prosecution of the Resistance as illegal, some of which were not, and the actions of the Milice enacting brutality in its own name a legal act.
Golsan flanks this argument with two supplementary points. Firstly, in Holland, one of the highest rates of Jewish extermination in Europe was perpetrated by the Nazism (82). The nation was heavily occupied, and included some of the only public demonstrations against Germann treatment of Jews, as late as 1941, though. Secondly, in Hungary the Admiral Horthy refused to deport any Jews out of the nation for two years during the extermination. The Germans subsequently carried out among their most brutal operations in Hungary.
It can be seen to be apparent that results do not always imply effort. In the case of Touvier, one main argument for his release is that many of the times he killed Jews, he had saved others. There is a young jeweler who worked for the underground. Without other trouble, Touvier returns him safely home and does not raid the shop despite his economic incentive to do so (131). These are stories that obfuscate the full severity of his actions as an interrogatory function of German repression.
Golson does not attempt to tackle the question of the German occupation simply as a single historian, but draws on the work of others in order to create a tangible web at through which a single thesis is explored and reinforced. More importantly, analysis of the court documents releasing one guilty party and convicting another provide contrasting perspectives contemporary to the progression of the understanding of the war. In the trial of Bousquet, in addition to the plea of ignorance and perhaps contradictorily, the high survival rates of Jews in France is portrayed as a solvent to the edge of accusatory agents (81).
Finally, as with the larger movement in France regarding the French role in the Holocaust, Touvier relies in his argument on plain and simple denial. When faced with the accusations of a survivor, Louis Goudard, he simply claims they did not occur (139). As a prisoner with seven Jews, Goudard survived because he was not one and because they were. He also witnessed the torture of prisoners with cattle prods. Here the denial is not complete. “At first I was interrogated without the ‘machine’. Just blows everywhere. After that, there was the tub of water, the electric prods, then more blows, the needles under the fingernails.” Faced with this, Touvier replies in a quavering voice that there were no electric prods. There can be little doubt that had he been tried during the war a guilty verdict would have been reached.