PARIS (Jun. 24)
A key figure in an investigation of the role the Catholic Church played in helping a convicted Nazi collaborator evade justice for years after World War II was kidnapped for two hours Saturday night in Lyon.
Charles Favre, 63, vice president of the Jewish-Christian Friendship Association, was released unharmed at about 2 a.m.
The two men who forced him into a car near his home at midnight stole the keys to his apartment and files he kept on Paul Touvier, head of the pro-Nazi militia in Lyon during the war.
Favre told police he was blindfolded and driven through the streets of Lyon while his captors questioned him about his research into the church in Lyon and the help it gave Touvier.
Favre has been guiding a commission of historians through the archives of the archdiocese of Lyon. They were opened for study 18 months ago by Cardinal Albert Decourtray, the archbishop of Lyon, who agreed to an investigation.
Elements of the Catholic Church in France and other countries have long been accused of helping wanted Nazi war criminals escape.
Touvier was twice tried in absentia and sentenced to death in 1946 and 1947 But the police never managed to apprehend him.
He and his wife reportedly hid out in various convents until, in 1971, he was secretly pardoned by President Georges Pompidou.
That infuriated former Resistance fighters and the families of people whom Touvier and his militia helped to deport.
Nevertheless, he was a free man until new evidence led to reopening his case. Touvier, still in hiding, was arrested in May 1989 at the St. Francis convent in Nice. As he was being taken away, he shouted, “I regret nothing.”
Favre suspects that Touvier remained at large for so many years because the police were reluctant to arrest him. The former collaborator is said to know much about the Lyon police’s involvement with the Nazis during the war.