Civil plaintiffs in Papon trial raising funds to publicize case

PARIS, March 5 (JTA) — The civil plaintiffs in the case against former Vichy official Maurice Papon are setting up a fund to help pay the cost of bringing hundreds of people to the southwest city of Bordeaux for the trial. The plaintiffs and their lawyers also plan to set up a headquarters near the court that will be equipped with telephones, fax machines, archives and interpreters for the 150 civil plaintiffs and witnesses, and for the 150 reporters and 30 lawyers who are expected to attend the trial. The group estimates its costs at some $175,000. The campaign to collect funds will begin in mid-March and will appeal to the Jewish community and in the media. The group is also looking for local residents willing to lodge some of the trial’s participants. The trial, which is expected to take place in the fall, will give the French people an exhaustive examination of the Vichy government’s role during the Holocaust. “It is a historic trial which is going to draw a lot of people,” said Michel Slitinsky, spokesman for the civil plaintiffs. “The law courts take care of organizing the judicial debates but doesn’t get involved in receiving people.” Legal proceedings against Papon, which were first undertaken in 1981, were delayed by successive French governments in the hope that Papon would die before a trial took place that would recall a period many French people would rather forget. The trial is expected to last two months. Papon, 86, is charged with crimes against humanity for ordering the deportation of 1,560 Jews, 223 of them children, to Nazi death camps when he was secretary general of the Bordeaux region’s local government during Germany’s wartime occupation of France. His prominence in French public life after the war as Paris police chief in the 1960s and as budget minister in the 1970s has made it an exceptionally high-profile case. Cultural events around the time of the trial are also being organized, including lectures by historians, and documentary screenings and exhibits, one of which will be about Jewish children during the Nazi occupation.

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