TORONTO (Jun. 15)
Canada’s Immigration Department is investigating a tip that Paul Touvier, the 78-year-old French Nazi collaborator who is scheduled to stand trial in France later this year for war crimes, may have fled from Paris to Quebec in late May.
Sol Littman, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Canadian office, informed Immigration Minister Bernard Valcourt last week that the center’s Paris office had received information that Touvier had left for Quebec.
Littman told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the information came from a French government source who was “well-informed and usually reliable.”
Littman added, though, that “the information was not given to us as a certainty.”
A French appeals court, overruling an earlier decision, decided earlier this month that Touvier, a police commander with the Vichy regime in Lyon, must stand trial for ordering the 1944 execution of seven Jewish hostages as a reprisal for the killing of a Vichy regime official.
However, Touvier was not placed under any travel restrictions and his lawyer denies he has left the country.
Jewish groups fear that Touvier may have gone into hiding, as he has in the past. In 1991, Touvier was discovered in a Catholic monastery in the south of France and became the first Frenchman to be charged with crimes against humanity.
Littman speculated that Touvier may be seeking refuge with friends of the late Count Jacques de Bernonville, who was Klaus Barbie’s right-hand man.
Touvier also worked under Barbie, the German Gestapo chief in Lyon from 1942 until the city’s liberation in 1944. Barbie was tried and convicted of war crimes in France in 1988.
De Bernonville slipped into Canada from the United States in 1946 dressed as a priest. He remained in Canada’s French-speaking province of Quebec for five years, staving off deportation through the help of the Catholic Church, other powerful sectors of Quebec society and supporters in Ottawa’s House of Commons.
In 1951, when it seemed de Bernonville was about to be extradited to France, Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent gave him warning and the Vichy collaborator escaped to Brazil.
Touvier eluded capture in his native France for 44 years by being sheltered in some 20 Catholic institutions, abbeys and monasteries.