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Henry Torres Dies in France; Was Defender in Historic Jewish Cases

January 6, 1966
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Henry Torres, a prominent French-Jewish trial attorney, whose career included the successful defense of Samuel Schwartzbard, a Jewish watchmaker who shot and killed in Paris Simon Petlura, the leader of the “Petlura Government” in the Ukraine during the notorious pogroms on Jews which took place there in 1919, died here yesterday at the age of 74. Torres also defended Herschel Grynzpan, the young Jewish refugee from Poland who shot and killed Ernest von Rath, a member of the German Embassy in Paris, in 1938.

At his trial, in 1927, Schwartzbard admitted the killing of Petlura but the jury held the murder was justified. Colleagues of Petlura testified that, though he had been nominally responsible for the 1919 pogroms, he took no part in the actual killing of Jews. Torres contended that Schwartzbard had avenged a crime against his people.

The shooting by Grynzpan of the Nazi diplomat was as a protest for the “Crystal Night” attack on Jewish persons and property in Germany on November 9, 1938. The youth vanished from a French jail during the war and is believed to have been tortured to death by the Nazis.

M. Torres was also a journalist, author, historian and playwright, as well as a legislator and jurist. He served in the French National Assembly as a Socialist from 1932 to 1936, and in the Senate as a pro-Gaullist member from 1948 to 1958. In recent years, he withdrew his support from de Gaulle. He was also assistant chief justice of the French High Court of Justice from 1956 to 1958.

Forced to flee from France by the Nazis, M. Torres lived for a time in Brazil, where he served as a professor on the law faculty of the University of Rio de Janeiro and the University of Sao Paulo. He was awarded the Free French Medal for World War II for his service as director of the Free French newspaper in New York, from 1942 until 1946, when he returned to France.

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