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Victims Wrap Up Case Against Papon

March 16, 1998

BORDEAUX, France (AP) _ Lawyers for Holocaust victims and their families wrapped up their case against Maurice Papon on Monday, with one calling him ``an impostor without a soul or a conscience.″

Papon was a ``link in the criminal chain,″ said lawyer Alain Levy. He said there was no difference between Papon and Klaus Barbie, the Gestapo chief known as the ``Butcher of Lyon.″

``What a liar!″ Papon exclaimed at the end of Levy’s argument.

It was the last day of marathon final arguments by about two dozen lawyers representing victims and their families. The state prosecution makes its case later this week, and Papon is to wrap up his defense next week.

The trial, now in its sixth month, is expected to end late next week.

Papon, chief police inspector for the Bordeaux region during World War II and later a budget minister, is the highest-ranking official of the pro-Nazi Vichy regime to stand trial for complicity in crimes against humanity.

He is accused of signing arrest orders that led to the deportation of 1,690 Jews from Bordeaux during World War II. They later died at the Nazi death camp Auschwitz.

Papon claims he helped the French Resistance during the war and maintains he was just following orders from his boss, Maurice Sabatier, the wartime prefect of Bordeaux.

Levy told the court Monday that the Jewish Affairs department, ``under the authority of Maurice Papon, directed everything, from the documentation to the gathering of the deportees.″

He added that to beef up the convoys, Papon and his colleagues deported people of nationalities that weren’t required to be there under the terms specified by the Nazis.

Referring to Papon’s claim that he didn’t know about the Final Solution _ the Nazis’ systematic extermination of the Jews _ Levy said, ``Maurice Papon knew that the Jews were going to their deaths. If he didn’t know about industrialized death, he knew about mass death.

``Maurice Papon was more efficient in persecuting Jews than a vulgar SS (officer) committing a murder in cold blood.″

The final civil party lawyer to speak, Michel Zaoui, concluded: ``Papon, like the others, participated in a French plan to annihilate the Jews.″

And he noted: ``Not a single train of deportees left late.″

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