The Cagoulard Conspiracy
The atmosphere of plot and intrigue that surrounded the last few years of the Third Republic, writes Geoffrey Warner, has given French right wing extremists a taste for armed conspiracy.
On January 27th, 1937, Dmitri Navachine, a distinguished Russian-born economist, was stabbed to death in the Bois de Boulogne near Paris.
On May 17th, 1937, the body of Laetitia Tourreaux, a hat-check girl in a Paris night-club, was found in the first-class compartment of an underground train near Porte Doree station. She, too, had been stabbed.
On June 11th, 1937, police discovered the bodies of two Italians, Carlo and Sabatino Rosselli, in a wood near Bagnoles-de-l’Orne in Normandy. They had been killed with hideous brutality, the body of Sabatino Rosselli bearing seventeen knife wounds.
On September 11th, 1937, two time-bombs exploded at about 10pm at the offices of the General Confederation of French Employers and at those of the Paris branch of the Metal Industries Federation, both near the Etoile in Paris. The buildings were empty, but a concierge was injured and two policemen killed by falling debris.
These frightful crimes made headlines in the French press, but it was not until later that it was revealed that they had all been committed by the same organization, the C.S.A.R. (Comité Secret d’Action Révolutionnaire), or, as it became more popularly known, La Cagoule—“The Hood.”
On November 24th, 1937, Marx Dormoy, Socialist Minister of the Interior in the Chautemps Government, issued a communique to the press. It began:
“Nothing less than a conspiracy against the institutions of the Republic has been revealed,” and went on to describe how the Sûreté Nationale had uncovered arms dumps and secret documents which proved conclusively that an extremist political group had been plotting to seize power.