French Nazi collaborator ‘doing better’
PARIS, Feb 13, 2007 (AFP) - French war criminal Maurice Papon, 96, convicted for his role in the World War II deportation of French Jews to Nazi death camps, is "doing better" after he underwent heart surgery on Tuesday, his lawyer said.
“The operation went very well and he’s doing better. He is gradually recuperating,” Francis Vuillemin, who participated in Papon’s defence during his 1998 trial, told AFP.
Papon “will remain under medical supervision for a few days. I don’t know exactly how many,” he added.
Papon was admitted to hospital late Thursday in the eastern Paris suburbs for a heart operation described by Vuillemin ahead of the procedure as “worrying for a man approaching 97 years of age.”
A senior official under the wartime Vichy government, Papon was sentenced to 10 years in jail in 1998 for his role in organising the deportation of hundreds of Jews to Nazi Germany, where most of them died in extermination camps.
He was released from jail in 2002 on medical grounds. He suffers from heart and kidney ailments, and has been living at his family home at Gretz-Armainvilliers, 20 miles (32 kilometres) east of Paris.
Born in 1910, Papon joined Philippe Petain’s collaborationist government after the German occupation of 1940, and became a top administration official in the southwestern city of Bordeaux.
Between 1940 and 1942 he arranged the arrest and deportation of 1,560 Jews, who were sent by train to the Drancy internment camp outside Paris and then on to Auschwitz and other death camps.
After the war Papon enjoyed a high-ranking career including posts as Paris police chief and budget minister under president Valery Giscard D’Estaing.
Evidence about his wartime activities emerged in the 1980s, and he was finally brought to court in 1997. The six month trial was the longest in French history.
Papon was convicted of complicity in crimes against humanity, after the court rejected his plea that he was a civil servant following instructions from above.
The verdict came after President Jacques Chirac had for the first time acknowledged French responsibility in the Jewish genocide, and appeared to confirm a new willingness to face up to the country’s wartime past.
Papon fled to Switzerland in 1999 on the eve of his appeal, but he was repatriated and served three years at La Sante prison in Paris. His release in 2002 angered Jewish groups, who said that at his trial he never expressed sorrow for the victims of his bureaucratic zeal.
Subject: French news