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Behind the Headlines Prying into the Nazi Past

November 24, 1978
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

A prominent French businessman and former senior government official, 69-year-old Jean Leguay, has been accused of having helped the Nazis to round up Jews in France and have them sent to the death camps of Eastern Europe. Nazi hunter Serge Klarsfeld told a press conference here recently that he is suing Leguay for his past action and intends to shed all the light on his collaboration with the Nazis.

Leguay served between 1942 to 1944 as secretary general of the French national police. Dismissed from government service after the war he was reinstated after he appealed to the Supreme Court which ruled that Leguay “had done whatever he could to counteract the enemy’s (Nazi Germany) plans and actions.” Klarsfeld told the press conference that he has new evidence to show that Leguay did cooperate with the Nazis in rounding up the 75,000 Jews deported from France.

Since 1957, Leguay has been in business. After serving as general manager of Nina Ricci perfumes in the United States, he went on to head the Jacqueline Cochrane cosmetics industry in New York. Back in Europe, he headed successively a number of large American companies’ European subsidiaries. His latest post was that of president for Europe of the Warner-Imbaret House.


Meanwhile, 33 years after the war, Western Europe is prying once again into the troubled waters of its World War II past. By a strange coincidence, this introspection simultaneously hit Holland, West Germany and France. In Holland a prominent minister, Willem Aantjes, 55, resigned after the National Historic Institute announced that he had served in the SS during the war. In West Germany, Bundestag President Karl Carstens has admitted to having been, though involuntarily, a member of the dreaded SA and of the Nazi Party. Carstens, 64, was slated to succeed Walter Scheel as President of West Germany. The public revelation of his past has plunged the country into a political storm.

These scandals are focusing public attention on what went on in these respective countries a generation ago. The local papers in half a dozen countries are trying to pry open more secrets and obtain new revelations. Not a day passes without an “in depth” debate on the Nazi past of countries and regimes on television or in the press.

One of the first effects has been a renewed demand for the extension of the statute of limitations which is due to go into effect in West Germany next year and on renewed investigations into the past of many men now heading government bodies or large business corporations in their respective countries.


While in Western Europe’s capitals people were prying into the past, 500 neo-fascists from half a dozen West European countries met in Marseilles earlier this month. The city’s Mayor Gaston Deferre had barred the participants from using a municipal hall and holding a public demonstration, but the neo-fascists managed to rent a cinema hall in one of the city’s suburbs.

In spite of a mass demonstration of some 5000 liberals with Deferre at their head, the police insisted that the neo-fascists were legally entitled to meet behind closed doors. Leftwing demonstrators clashed with police while trying to break into the meeting hall. Several people were wounded and 10 demonstrators, four belonging to the left and six to the neo-Nazis, were detained by police.

The neo-fascist demonstrators who belong to a federation of “European Rightwing Organizations, ” come from France, Belgium, Spain, Greece and Italy. At the end of their meeting they voted resolutions supporting South Africa, Rhodesia and the Lebanese Phalange.

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