Dernière mise à jour : le 01/11/2002
Translation by Laurent Ditmann
Barbie and Papon: same crimes, same defense strategies
The trial resumes today after a week-long recess ordered by the judge so that Papons bronchitis could be treated. On the plaintiffs side, the talk is again of Papons release without which the purported illness would have been avoided. Papons defense strategies are much discussed. It is argued that he did not wish to face Professor Robert R. Paxton in court. It is well known that Paxtons testimony may be devastating against Papon. Since Dr. Paxton came all the way from the United States, delaying his testimony may cause the witness to go back home without testifying. Whether they admit it or not, this idea is central to defense attorneys strategy. Case in point: Mr. Varaut causes yet another incident by requesting that Paxtons testimony be excluded. At first, this request is of course denied by Judge Castagnède. Mr. Varaut having refiled his motion, however, the court postpones its final decision until Monday. Another element which seems to support the presumption that such a strategy is being used is that Papon is not coughing at all. This appears to contradict the hypothesis that Papon is really suffering from bronchitis or any other acute respiratory ailment.
As Mr. Jakubowitz explains, the request to exclude testimonies from recognized historians (a group which, understandably, does not include Henri Amouroux) pertains to the same strategy used during the trials of Paul Touvier and Klaus Barbie. They were all accused of the same crime.
Decidedly, there are a good many common points between Barbie, Touvier, and Papon: exclusion of historical testimonies, procedural extorsion, refusal to acknowledge any responsibility. If you believed them, you would have to accept that Hitler was the sole perpetrator of the Shoah. At least, Papon distinguishes himself by claiming to be a former Resistance-fighter, something Barbie and Touvier could hardly do.
Finally, Mr. Varaut is scolded by Judge Castagnède himself when he declares falsely that Papon is on trial for being an accessory in a crime again humanity. Without a doubt Mr. Varaut, who is used to lying on the facts of the charges against his client, believed he was still talking to the media. In any case, he is compelled to extend an apology to the court.
At that point I am reminded of my mothers testimony. She was sitting beside me while Amouroux was talking about the lack of knowledge of the Final Solution, the very principle behind Papons defense: "But what does it matter that he did not know about the horror of the gas chambers? Whether he knew about it or not, to what extent can it excuse Papon for his actions? The facts are there. The horror is there. Whether one knew or not. Being an accomplice meant being part of the crime because a certain outcome resulted."
At that moment I think of Ms. Simone Weill. I remember the extreme disappointment I felt a few years ago when I wrote her to enlist her assistance in our action against Papon. She never responded. Did my letter actually reach her? I had rather believe it did not, since this woman is much more than a symbol to me. She is a sort of mother to all Jewish children who returned from the camps without their parents.
Today the proceedings start with a motion by Mr. Boulanger to enter several exhibits and documents as evidence. There are several articles from newspaper Libération and weekly LExpress as well as three documents concerning the 70 Algerians allegedly killed [by Paris police] during the October 1961 riots [when Papon was Paris Police Prefect]. They all go to show that Papon is a liar. In a similar vein, Mr. Boulanger refers to a television program broadcast on Antenne 2 during which journalist Jean-Pierre Elkabach gave Papon a copy of Jean-Luc Einaudis book [La Bataille de Paris, an exposé of police violence against Algerians during the 1961 anti-war riots]. Papon now claims he never owned a copy of the book. The last document submitted by Mr. Boulanger is an article published in a Ministry of Defense journal in which Papon argues that the Police Prefect his fully and directly responsible in all administrative decisions.
Judge Castagnède grants Mr. Boulangers motion and the documents are entered as evidence.
Mr. Blet then moves that an article from Le Monde be entered as evidence as well. This article concerns the Portuguese consul in Bordeaux who saved thousands of people in 1940 and 1941.
Mr. Varaut retorts by saying: "I have no observation to make other than the fact that these proceedings are straying from the facts contained in the indictment."
Judge Castagnède scolds Mr. Varaut: "The jury is composed of adults. They will be the judge of that."