March 17, 1994

By Bernard Edinger

VERSAILLES, France, March 18 (Reuter) - Lawyers defending Nazi collaborator Paul Touvier sought unsuccessfully on the first day of his historic trial for crimes against humanity to deflect his accusers and have all but one barred from court.

The frail, silver-haired Touvier, who is within three weeks of his 79th birthday and who has spent many of the last 50 years in hiding, took his seat in a bullet-proof glass box to answer charges that he had seven Jews executed in June 1944 when he was intelligence chief of the French militia in occupied Lyon.

His humble bearing contrasted with the harsh attack that his lawyer, Jacques Tremolet de Villers, unleashed on Thursday.

Defending the first Frenchman to be tried for crimes against humanity, Tremolet de Villers attempted to have 33 of the 34 civil plaintiffs removed from the courtroom, arguing their suits had been filed too late to be valid.

"The victims woke up too late, and this proves that the injury was not that serious," he said.

Touvier, wearing a green jacket, red shirt and black string tie, carefully avoided the civil plaintiffs' gaze, staring impassively at the judge throughout the hearing. He faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

"Touvier, Paul Claude Marie, born April 3, 1915, in Saint-Vincent de Jabron, of French nationality, no profession," he said in a fragile voice when asked to identify himself. Told he could sit down, he quietly thanked the judge.

The call for their exclusion incensed his accusers, who are mostly resistance fighters and relatives of the executed Jews.

"Touvier does not want to hear his victims speak," lawyer Gerard Weltzer said. "He cannot run away today as he has for more than 30 years."

The public prosecutor also opposed the defence motion and the court dismissed the challenge after a two-hour deliberation.

Outside the courthouse, the children of Jews deported to Nazi death camps bore sad witness to French collaboration with the German occupation during World War Two.

About 100 demonstrators held banners reading "Justice for the victims," "Touvier to prison" and "The flame of Resistance will never be extinguished."

"At last. That's all I can say -- at last. People have done everything they could to prevent this trial," said Henri Glasser, the son of one of the seven Jews who were shot dead.

Liliane, a young woman standing in the cold, said: "My sister and I, then aged five and seven, were saved by a non-Jewish family but the trauma of what happened because of people like Touvier has never gone away."

The trial has focused public attention on the extent of Vichy France's collaboration with the Nazis, long obscured by the Gaullist legend of a heroic, insurgent nation betrayed by a handful of traitors.

For the prosecution, Touvier symbolises the darkest side of Vichy -- the 30,000 French militiamen who followed Nazis out of ideological conviction and shared some of their worst excesses.

Former Gaullist prime minister Jacques Chaban-Delmas, in a letter read in court declining to testify on health grounds, said the militia was "more dangerous than the Gestapo (secret police)" because it had informers throughout French society.

Touvier says he picked the execution victims under duress and managed to spare 93 other Jewish prisoners from execution.

Twice sentenced to death in absentia after the war, Touvier was arrested in Paris in 1947 but mysteriously escaped. He was hidden for more than 40 years by Roman Catholic traditionalists and finally arrested in a monastery in Nice in 1989.

The sentences elapsed after 20 years and then president Georges Pompidou pardoned him in 1971 on Vatican intercession.




March 17, 1994

VERSAILLES, France, March 17 (Reuter) - Prime Minister Edouard Balladur on Thursday asked to be excused from testifying in the trial of Nazi collaborator Paul Touvier, saying he had nothing to say about the Frenchman's crimes or character.

The trial of Touvier, the first Frenchman to be brought to justice for crimes against humanity, opened on Thursday. He faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment for the execution of seven Jews in June 1944.

Touvier's defence lawyer sought to have Balladur testify because he was a senior aide to President Georges Pompidou when the latter pardoned Touvier on Vatican intercession in 1971.

Touvier was twice sentenced to death in absentia after the war, but the death sentences elapsed after 20 years and Pompidou pardoned him.

"I would not know how to shed any light on the character of the accused. If the issue is the pardon which he was granted, I played no part in the favourable outcome to his request," Balladur said in a letter read out by the judge.

"That is to say, my testifying would not be of use," Balladur added.

Touvier's lawyer, Jacques Tremolet de Villers, said he wanted to ask Balladur whether he had studied documents on the pardon request, and whether Pompidou had mentioned the execution of the Jews.

The court said it would decide on Balladur's request after hearing Pompidou's former private secretary, Anne-Marie Dupuy, on April 1.

It said it would also consult the cabinet, which would have to give the green light for Balladur to testify in court.


Headline: Accused French Nazi collaborator denies he is anti-semitic

The United Press International

March 21, 1994

PARIS, March 21 (UPI) -- Accused wartime Nazi collaborator Paul Touvier, on trial for "crimes against humanity" for the alleged murder of Jewish hostages 50 years ago, Monday denied that he is anti-semitic.

"I don't consider myself anti-semitic at all; I have never been," Touvier told the court from behind his bullet-proof glass enclosure on the third day of his trial in Versailles, outside Paris. "I am a practicing [Roman] Catholic. My father, in spite of his readings, was not (anti- semitic) either. We have never been anti-semitic in my family."

When asked by a lawyer about his concept of [Roman] Catholicism, he replied, "Everything is summarized in the creed. I believe in God, creator of heaven and earth. I believe in the creed. There is not an iota of anti- semitism in it."

Touvier is being tried for "crimes against humanity" under a new French penal code for his alleged involvement in the murder of seven Jewish hostages at Rillieux-la-Pape near the southern French city of Lyon in June 1944.

The new code defines "crimes against humanity" as "inhuman acts inspired by political, philosophical, racial or religious motives and organized and carried out as a concerted plan against a group within the the civilian population." The penalty is life imprisonment.

Now aged 78, Touvier was head of intelligence for the pro-Nazi French militia in Lyon during the German occupation of France in World War II.

Sentenced to death in absentia in 1946, he spent much of the next 40 years on the run and living in [Roman Catholic] monasteries.

The death sentence automatically expired in 1967, but the widespread outrage provoked by a pardon granted to Touvier in 1971 by the then French President Georges Pompidou forced him back into hiding.

Touvier was finally arrested in May 1989 at a monastery in Nice run by supporters of the ultra-traditionalist Roman Catholic Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.


[ Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre was typical of ALL WWII era RC clergy ]