French Government Criticized for Failure to Reject Unsatisfactory Restitution Laws

Marked disappointment was expressed here today as a result of the government’s decision to proceed with the much criticized draft of the ordinance for restitution of property to Jews and other victims of Vichy discriminations, which the Cabinet voted last week to send to the Consultative Assembly.

Until the Cabinet’s decision had been announced, it was hoped here that the government would reject the draft worked out by the Ministries of Finance and Justice, which falls far short of the expectations held out by previous government declarations, and would request a new draft more favorable to the victims of despoliation.

According to Le Populaire, Socialist spokesman, the present measure, as amended, establishes a distinction between the first acquirer of property under Vichy legislation, “who made himself an accomplice of the laws of rapine,” and the second purchaser who may have acted in good faith. The paper calls this a “specious distinction” and urges the Assembly to remove it. The Catholic newspaper L’Aube stresses the difficulty and the delicacy of the problem “for purchasers who, perhaps, acted in good faith.”

The newspaper Liberation, a resistance organ, recalling that France was a signatory to the United Nations Declaration on restitution of confiscated property, takes the view that “it should be considered a prieri ‘ evidence that all present holders of the property acted in bad faith. It should be up to them”, the paper continues, “to preve the contrary under penalty of surrendering the property without compensation.”

A sharp protest against the continued anti-Jewish propaganda in France, which largely revolves around the question of restitution, is published in Le Franc Tireur, another resistance publication, by Father Elie Corvin, who was a chaplain with the Marquis forces during the occupation. The article quotes leaflets which have been distributed here and warns that this is not a question for the Jews alone. In 1940, he recalls, anti-patriotic agitation began as a campaign against foreign Jews and was then extended to French Jews and eventually to all of the French resistance. The present campaign, he concludes, can be extended “to all who desire to clean and purify France.”

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