Protest Decision by Court Not to Prosecute Former Gestapo Chief

Former resistance fighters and former deportees throughout France are energetically protesting against the Paris Criminal Court decision not to prosecute former Gestapo militiaman Paul Touvier for “crimes against humanity” and for his role in the deportation and murder of countless Jews and resistance fighters.

The Paris Criminal Court, acting as a court of appeal, declared that Touvier could no longer be prosecuted for crimes committed during the war as they were covered by the statute of limitations. The French Parliament decided in 1964 to cancel the statute but the court found that such a decision could not be applied retroactively.

Paul Touvier, a Frenchman, joined the Gestapo in the early years of the Nazi occupation of France and eventually became head of its Lyons branch. In this capacity he carried out executions, torture and was responsible for the deportation of countless Jews and resistance fighters. After the war, he was twice sentenced to death in absentia by French military courts but was pardoned by President Georges Pompidou at the request of the French Catholic Church.

Yesterday’s hearings were heard at the request of a number of former deportees and families of a number of victims. Their request took the form of a “private criminal plea.” The court’s decision gave rise to a wave of protests. Numerous organizations representing former deportees and resistance fighters as well as LICA and MRAP (organizations against anti-Semitism and racism) have appealed to the government “not to let his crimes go unpunished.”

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