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Cabinet Member Denounces Attempt to Vindicate French Collaborators

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Attempts to vindicate Nazi collaborators were denounced by a French Cabinet minister Sunday at a ceremony in memory of a French couple murdered by them.

Louis Mexendeau, who heads the Veterans Affairs Ministry, spoke at a memorial in Lyon for Victor Basch and his wife, killed in 1944 by the pro-Nazi Vichy militia.

Basch, who was Jewish, was president of the League of Human Rights. He and his wife were both 80 when they were slain.

Mexendeau lashed out at the Paris Court of Appeals for recently dismissing all charges against Nazi collaborator Paul Touvier, former head of the Vichy militia in Lyon, who was accused of crimes against humanity.

The court “was supposed to render justice and not rewrite history by whitewashing the Vichy regime of its anti-Semitism and of its repression of democracy and human rights,” Mexendeau said.

The court’s decision, announced on April 13, touched off mass protests in Paris, Lyon and other French cities. It is being appealed before the Supreme Court of Appeals.

Touvier, 77, was twice sentenced in absentia to death after World War II. A close associate of the late Klaus Barbie, who was Gestapo chief in Lyon, Touvier was particularly brutal toward Jews and Resistance fighters.

He personally handed over seven Jews from Rillieux-le-Pape, near Lyon, who were shot in reprisal for the assassination of a Vichy minister by the Resistance.

But the Paris court claimed there was no evidence to prove that Touvier’s acts were crimes against humanity, enacted within a framework aimed at persecuting or trying to eradicate a people.

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