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Bousquet’s Assassin Gets Ten-Year Jail Term

November 14, 1995

PARIS (AP) _ The man who killed France’s highest-ranking Nazi collaborator was sentenced Monday to 10 years in prison.

Christian Didier, 51, confessed to the 1993 slaying of Rene Bousquet, who was Vichy police chief during World War II.

At the time, the 84-year-old Bousquet, a close friend of former President Francois Mitterrand, was awaiting trial for crimes against humanity.

Bousquet was charged in the deaths of thousands of Jews from the Paris area, including ordering the notorious Velodrome d’Hiver roundup on July 16, 1942.

Early that morning, French police took at least 13,000 Jewish men, women and children to the cycling stadium. They were held for four days in sweltering heat without food, water or sanitary facilities before being shipped to Auschwitz.

In all, about 76,000 Jews, including 12,000 children, were deported from France to Nazi death camps. Only about 2,500 returned.

Didier, whom police described as a deranged publicity-seeker, also tried to shoot Klaus Barbie, the German Gestapo chief known as the ``butcher of Lyon,″ during his three-month war crimes trial in 1987.

Court psychiatrists ruled last week that Didier was sane when he shot Bousquet five times at his home in Paris on June 8, 1993.

But a court spokesman announcing the verdict late Monday said the court had taken into account Didier’s mental instability when deciding on the relatively moderate prison sentence.

His six-day trial included testimony from Didier, his family, Jewish Holocaust survivors and two former French justice ministers who denied having stalled legal proceedings against Bousquet at Mitterrand’s request.

Although Bousquet’s death deprived France of a forum to re-examine the Vichy regime’s systematic persecution of Jews, Didier’s trial showed that divisions still run deep.

His son, Guy, took the stand Monday and argued that his father’s death did not deprive the nation of ``a historic trial.″

``It is a bad thing to believe that a single period can be judged through one man ... an elderly, half-blind man ravaged by cancer,″ he said.

The younger Bousquet also lashed out at Serge Klarsfeld, the Nazi hunter who in 1989 uncovered new evidence _ including the telegram ordering the Velodrome d’Hiver roundup _ that lead to Bousquet’s indictment for crimes against humanity.

Guy Bousquet accused Klarsfeld of ``demonizing″ his father and ``falsifying history.″

Didier’s defense got an unexpected boost from Holocaust survivor Joseph Weismann. The 64-year-old, orphaned at 11 when his parents were rounded up in July 1942, admitted he had thought of killing Bousquet.

``I didn’t have the courage or the nerve,″ he said looking straight at Didier. ``It was good that he did what he did. I thank him.″

Last summer, President Jacques Chirac became the first French leader to publicly recognize France’s role in the mass deportations of Jews under the Vichy regime of Marshal Philippe Petain.

The only Frenchman to be convicted of crimes against humanity is Paul Touvier, a former militia chief. He is serving life in prison.