Home News Top French court blocks traveller bid for WWII restitution

Top French court blocks traveller bid for WWII restitution

Published on September 25, 2020

France’s top administrative court on Friday rejected two traveller associations’ claim for restitution of goods looted during the country’s World War II occupation.

Organised in the UDAF and FLV groups, the travellers had asked the Council of State to annul or expand provisions of a 1999 decree that provided compensation for “victims of looting under the anti-Semitic laws” in force at the time, wording that excluded their community.

But in a ruling that stuck close to past decisions, the court found it legal to differentiate between victim groups, because only the Jews were subject to a “policy of systematic extermination” under the Nazi occupation and its laws.

“No kind of compensation has been created for the travellers,” Olivier Le Mailloux, the lawyer representing the groups, told AFP earlier in September.

A decree of April 6, 1940 placed so-called “nomads” under house arrest for the entire war, and up to 6,500 travellers were locked up in camps run by French authorities until 1946. Some were deported to death camps.

Meanwhile French police confiscated goods belonging to the travellers, including caravans, fairground rides and personal possessions.

Henriette Theodore, an 88-year-old traveller who was detained with her family between 1941 and 1945, attended a September 9 hearing at the Council of State.

“We were treated like animals in the camp at Montreuil-Bellay” in western France, she told AFP. “By the time we got out we had nothing left. They took everything from us.”

For Theodore, the case before the Council of State was “a symbolic measure, for the memory” of that time, she said.