Sins of the Fathers

Carmen Callil talks to Martin Evans about her recent excursion into the lies and hypocrisy of Vichy France.

In October 1978 the French magazine L’Express published a chilling interview with eighty-one-year old Louis Darquier de Pellepoix, the former Commissioner for Jewish Affairs in Vichy France.  Still in exile in Spain, the country to which he had fled after the Liberation, Darquier used the opportunity to pour forth once again with unrepentant anti-Semitic bile. As he scribbled away, a tape recorder concealed in a fan, the journalist Philippe Ganier-Raymond was aghast at the violence of Darquier’s language. The man might have been a bedridden octogenarian but confronted with his war-time record Darquier showed no remorse. To the charge that he was the French Eichmann Darquier retorted that the Holocaust was a ‘hoax’ and that only ‘lice’ were gassed at Auschwitz. The work of Serge Klarsfeld who had painstakingly chronicled the names of all the Jewish deportees from Occupied France was dismissed as a ‘Jewish invention’. Indeed at one point Darquier even accused Ganier-Raymond of being an Israeli spy.


Darquier’s rantings, printed in their entirety under the title In Auschwitz They Only Gassed Lice, caused uproar in France, largely because it was a shock to learn that he had been alive and well under Franco, despite having been sentenced to death in absentia in December 1947. How had he escaped justice? Moreover why was he not being extradited to stand trial? However, as the Ministry of Justice quickly underlined, Darquier’s case was complicated. He had been condemned to death for  collusion with the enemy, not for crimes against humanity, so his death sentence had lapsed in 1968 when the statute of limitations ran out. 


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