PARIS (Apr. 21)
Elaborate funeral services will be held at the Chapel of St. Louis Des Invalides Tuesday for Marcel Bloch-Dassault, France’s leading manufacturer of combat aircraft for two generations, whose Mystere and Mirage jets gave Israel mastery of the air which spelled victory in the 1956 Sinai Campaign and the Six-day War of 1967.
Dassault, born Marcel Bloch, the son of a Jewish physician, and converted to the Roman Catholic faith about 10 years after his liberation from the Buchenwald concentration camp, died last Friday at the age of 94. He will be buried close to the crypt where Napoleon is buried. Prime Minister Jacques Chirac will be the main speaker at the ceremonies, which are expected to be attended by dozens of former Premiers, government Ministers and military commanders.
Dassault was re-elected to the National Assembly last month and was scheduled to deliver its opening address. He had been a Deputy since the end of World War II and always amassed huge majorities in his re-election campaigns.
Dassault, a multimillionaire, was believed by many to be the richest man in France and was often described by leading financial publications as one of the 10 richest men in Europe. He was a graduate of France’s school of aeronautical engineering and achieved fame during World War I as the inventor of the most sophisticated combat and reconnaissance planes of their time.
Returning from Buchenwald feeble and ill, he nevertheless rebuilt his company into one of the world’s largest aircraft manufacturers, Avions Marcel Dassault-Breguet, which employed 16,000 people. He also became a major figure in real estate, heavy industry, and financial, publishing and film companies.
WAS ON INTIMATE TERMS WITH ISRAELI LEADERS
Although he never visited Israel, Dassault was on intimate terms with many Israeli leaders and reportedly took pride in the way Israeli pilots handled his high-performance Mysteres, Super-Mysteres, and later Mirage and Etandard jets, which helped give Israel its overwhelming victories over larger Arab forces.
When President Charles de Gaulle imposed an arms embargo against Israel after the 1967 Six-Day War, the flow of French aircraft was cut off and the Israel Air Force turned to the American jets which now constitute the backbone of its air power.
Many reasons have been given why Marcel Bloch converted from Judaism to Roman Catholicism in 1957, after changing his name to Dassault. Some old-time associates say he took the step because of the trauma of deportation and incarceration in Buchenwald. He returned physically shattered, weighing only 70 pounds. Others say he changed his religion to further his business interests.