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Last Wartime Vichy Minister Dies

June 25, 1998

PARIS (AP) _ Francois Lehideux, a former minister in the pro-Nazi Vichy regime who tirelessly defended its anti-Jewish measures, has died. He was 95.

Lehideux, the last surviving Vichy minister, died Sunday, the Le Monde daily reported Thursday. No cause of death was given.

For years after the war, Lehideux was among France’s most ardent supporters of Marshall Philippe Petain, who led France’s collaborationist regime during World War II.

The son of a banker, Lehideux became one of the ablest and brightest of France’s civil servants to put their talents to work for the Nazis.

He headed the country’s automobile commission in the early 1940s and then, as minister of industrial production until 1942, established collaborative links between top French companies and Nazi Germany.

Lehideux married a niece of the founder of the Renault automobile company. In 1940, he agreed Renault would furnish parts to the German army, repair tanks and provide any technical assistance necessary to their war effort.

Le Monde writer Nicolas Weil described Lehideux as a ``young idealist who dreamed of modernizing and industrializing France for its place in a German Europe.″

He was arrested and jailed after the Allies liberated France, but was freed in 1946. Charges of collaborating with the enemy were dropped in 1949. He went on to head Ford France until 1953.

Lehideux never regretted his wartime collaboration. In interviews on the eve of the war crimes trial of Maurice Papon, a former budget minister, he said there were ``extenuating circumstances″ to justify Vichy’s systematic looting of Jewish assets.

No details on survivors or funeral arrangements were immediately available.

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