October 4, 2004


Britons secretly kept in postwar French camps: After the liberation De Gaulle's government held on to internees from many countries in officially closed centres to hide collaboration (Jon Henley, October 4, 2004, The Guardian )

The government of Charles de Gaulle held hundreds of foreigners in an internment camp near Toulouse for up to four years after World War II, according to secret documents.

The papers, part of a cache of 12,000 photocopied illegally by an Austrian-born Jew, reveal the extent to which French officials collaborated with their fleeing Nazi occupiers even as their country was being liberated. They also show that, when the war was over, France went to extraordinary lengths to hide as much evidence of that collaboration as possible.

The documents are in a mass of registers, telegrams and manifests that Kurt Werner Schaechter, an 84-year-old retired businessman, copied from the Toulouse office of France's national archives in 1991. They are uniquely precious: under a 1979 law most of France's wartime archives are sealed for between 60 and 150 years after they were written. [...]

By far the most awkward of his recently unearthed documents are those that appear to show that Noe camp, 40 kilometres south of Toulouse, continued to function secretly for several years after the war. It was one of 300 camps set up after 1939 to hold Jews, communists and other "anti-French" militants, Gypsies, criminals and enemy aliens. [...]

Officially, the only camps still open after 1945 were a handful housing Gypsies, stateless persons and French collaborators. But Mr Schaechter says his documents indicate that a "special section" of Noe was active until at least 1947, when the camp's accounts show inmates were still being forced to pay for their "lodging". [...]

The papers also show officials continued to deport inmates of all nationalities to a near-certain death in Germany even as France was being liberated.

You know, if confirmed Communists like Maurice Thorez hadn't previously assured us that all Frenchman bravely fought in the Resistance, I'd start to think the historical record was trying to tell us something.

Posted by Matt Murphy at October 4, 2004 6:09 PM

Y'know, I really hate it when the world reveals (again) that it's even more brutal than I had previously thought, and people even less noble.

As far as I'm concerned, the French have now officially been re-paid for their assistance in the American Revolution, merci beaucoup, allez maintenant loin, vous souillent sur l'existence humaine.

They're on their own, and the sooner the cheese-eating surrender monkeys' culture gets replaced by good ol' fashioned Americanism, (or at least by American slang, music, and consumerism), the better it'll be.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at October 4, 2004 6:53 PM

The Romans called this "being Peninsular" -- the occupied government/country trying to show they can be more like their Imperial Overlords than the Overlords themselves. Like a mass-political Stockholm Syndrome.

In the case of WW2, the French were trying to show the NSDAP how they could be even more good little National Socialists than the NSDAP themselves (especially in the matter of solving the Jewish Problem).

They will make good little Dhimmis, probably even more Faithful (at least on the outside) than the Faithful themselves.

Posted by: Ken at October 4, 2004 7:31 PM

Meantime, some of the leading former
collaborators, like Mitterand,Papon,
Touvier, Bousquet et al; were mid level
officials in the post war governments; Mitterand in the Colonial and Defense Ministries, Papon, in
the Quai D'Orsay,Paris police chief; then D'Estaing's Budget Chief; Touvier, sheltered by
French monasteries for a generation (the subject
of Brian Moore's roman a clef the Statement. Bousquet; on the board of the Indochine Bank;
the bank that financed the first (really the
second war in Indochina; the rest were executives
at L'Oreal (re; Bar Zohar's Bitter Scent)

Posted by: narciso at October 4, 2004 9:20 PM

I don't know how long it lasted, but the Russians did something similar: for at least some of the German concentration camps they overran, they just replaced the German guards with Russian ones and kept the inmates in.

Posted by: PapayaSF at October 4, 2004 10:54 PM

Nobody who was released after 1947 ever mentioned this? The French killed them all?


(For those of a cynical turn of mind, it does seem to be true that the British kept thousands of Britons prisoner in France and evidently killed a lot of them, but that was earlier.)

Posted by: Harry Eagar at October 5, 2004 3:53 PM