Why Barbie may never be tried

R.W. Johnson

  • The People’s Anger: Justice and Revenge in Post-Liberation France by Herbert Lottman
    Hutchinson, 332 pp, £12.95, November 1986, ISBN 0 09 165580 3

Modern states very seldom acknowledge their own crimes. In 1944, however, France had to assume responsibility for the fact – unlike Germany or Italy, there was no army of occupation to do it for her – that in almost every field her élites had been compromised. The resulting purge was not only a comprehensive attempt to found a new moral order: it had undeniable echoes of the Revolutionary Terror. Indeed, prosecutors and ministers alike frequently compared themselves to Danton and Robespierre, often with a note of genuine admiration for the latter. Robespierre, they said, had always had the guts to take public responsibility for his actions: Liberation justice, too, should have no truck with anonymity. Teitgen, the Christian Democrat Minister of Justice, for instance, boasted that he had purged more people than the sea-green incorruptible himself.

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