Frenchman Who Headed Vichy Regime in Boreaux Indicted for War Crimes

The man who was governor of the Bordeaux region during the Nazi occupation of France was indicted last week for his role in the mass deportations of French Jews from that area between 1942 and 1944.

Maurice Sabatier, 91, faces charges of “crimes against humanity.” His subordinate, Maurice Papon, 79, was similarly charged in June, but his indictment was announced only last week.

They were the No. 1 and No. 2 men respectively of the Vichy regime in Bordeaux. The investigating magistrate is reported to have told Sabatier’s lawyers that regardless of his advanced age, his indictment is necessary in order to press charges against Papon.

Both are accused by Nazi-hunter Serge Klarsfeld and many surviving Jews of having helped the Nazis identify and arrest local Jews, who were subsequently deported to death camps in Eastern Europe.

Sabatier has claimed repeatedly that he secretly helped many Jews and resistance fighters escape. When Gen. Charles de Gaulle’s Free French forces liberated the Bordeaux region in 1944, Sabatier was suspended from office for four days while his file was examined.

He was subsequently appointed inspector general of the Defense Ministry.

Papon went on to serve as budget minister in the government under former President Valery Giscard d’Estaing. He was Paris’ longest serving police chief before that.

Meanwhile, Maurice Duverger, a Sorbonne law professor who taught in Bordeaux during the Sabatier-Papon regime, has filed a libel suit against the left-wing monthly L’Actuel for claiming that he approved of the Vichy government’s anti-Jewish legislation during the war.

The periodical said Duverger published an article in 1942 in “a spirit which showed at least acceptance and understanding for those laws.”

Duverger, now one of France’s best-known jurists, is demanding $85,000 damages. He admits writing the article, but says its purpose was “to show the victims how to avoid the laws or appeal against them.”

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