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Lawyers: Papon Helped Deport Jews

December 9, 1997

BORDEAUX, France (AP) _ Lawyers for the families of alleged victims of Maurice Papon presented documents Monday aimed at undermining the former Vichy official’s claims to have helped Jews during World War II.

The lawyers read to the court official letters written to and by Papon when he oversaw Jewish questions as a police supervisor during the German occupation.

Papon, charged with signing arrest orders that led to the deportation and deaths of 1,690 Jews, including 233 children, has claimed since his war crimes trial began in early October that he went out of his way to help Jews from the Bordeaux region.

Seeking to disprove Papon’s claim, civil party lawyer Arno Klarsfeld presented a series of wartime letters to and from Papon recording an exchange with a Tunisian Jew who sought permission to return to the then-French colony of Tunisia with his eight children.

``Tunisian in origin, resident of Bordeaux for 26 years, I request of your benevolence that you let me obtain a pass for my family and me to be able to return to my country of origin, where I would find my parents and I could work,″ wrote the Tunisian Jew, Victor Hadad, the lawyer said.

Papon’s reply said the ``German chief of police″ had rejected Hadad’s request, Klarsfeld said. ``Please be assured of my distinguished considerations,″ Papon said in his letter, according to the lawyer.

Hadad, his wife and two of his children were deported to Auschwitz, said Klarsfeld, who represents the families of Jews from the Bordeaux region who died in Nazi death camps.

Another civil party lawyer, Francis Jacob, read aloud a letter Papon sent in January 1944 to a subordinate. The letter said ``interesting Jews″ _ those decorated with the Legion of Honor, military heroes and others _ should be freed or, at least, interned in a French camp instead of German death camps.

Papon rose to high government posts after the war, including budget minister, and is the highest-ranking official of the pro-Nazi Vichy regime to stand trial for crimes against humanity.

The trial has been delayed several times by Papon’s ill health and is not expected to finish before March.

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