Vichy Police Chief Led Life of Privilege With AM-France-Bousquet, Bjt
PARIS (AP) _ Rene Bousquet was a hero before he became national police chief in Nazi- occupied France, and his signature on orders sending tens of thousands of Jews to their deaths never kept him from leading a privileged life.
Born into a middle-class family in 1909, Bousquet proved a brilliant student and was only 20 when he took an important post in the regional administration of southwestern France.
His career took off a few months later when he saved several people from drowning in a flood. He became a national hero and was given the Legion of Honor, France’s highest award.
Tall and distinguished, he began moving among France’s elite of bureaucrats, industrialists and politicians. He became a close friend of Pierre Laval, who served Marshal Philippe Petain as prime minister in the Vichy regime.
The 1940-44 regime collaborated actively with the Germans in Nazi-occupied France. Laval tried to win over the Germans by deporting Jews to Nazi death camps.
Laval named Bousquet as chief of Vichy’s police April 18, 1942. Hoping to preserve Vichy influence as the Germans began resorting to direct rule, Bousquet ordered roundups of Jews well above quotas set by the Nazis.
Bousquet lifted rules exempting Jews younger than 18 from deportation, and parents with children younger than 5. He is also blamed for ordering the notorious Vel d’Hiv roundup of 13,000 Jews in Paris on July 16, 1942. Most perished in the death camps.
Bousquet resigned Dec. 31, 1943 and went to work for the Banque d’Indochine. Six months later, with the Allies landing troops in France, he was taken by the Gestapo to Germany.
Gen. Charles de Gaulle had Laval executed as a traitor, but few lower- ranking collaborators were prosecuted. Bousquet returned from Germany and resumed his career with the state-owned bank.
In 1949, Bousquet was convicted of treason, but the five-year prison term was immediately struck down because of actions he took in sparing some Resistance fighters from execution.
Bousquet led a quiet, well-to-do banker’s life for the next 30 years, until a state report into Vichy’s persecution of Jews made public his role and forced him to retire from the bank, now Banque Indosuez.
″My brother did what he could,″ said Louis Bousquet, a lawyer, said Tuesday. ″I consider that, as secretary-general of the police, his conduct was honorable and courageous.″
In 1989, Holocaust survivors started working to charge Bousquet with crimes against humanity. He was charged last year in connection with the deaths of hundreds of Jewish children.
Bousquet never denied the charges, but claimed he was carrying out orders. He remained free until his murder Tuesday, walking his dog each morning in a park near his home in the posh 16th district of Paris.