French Intellectuals Wanted Truth Told

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Date: July 23, 1995
Publisher: The New York Times Company
Document Type: Brief article; Letter to the editor
Length: 264 words
Lexile Measure: 1970L

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To the Editor:

In "French War Stories" (Op-Ed, July 19), Tony Judt goes so far in praising President Jacques Chirac for finally admitting French Government complicity in the deaths of 76,000 Jews during the Nazi occupation, and in attacking the French left, that he seriously distorts history.

He writes that the left has been "curiously silent" on French responsibility for the deportation of Jews, naming intellectuals such as Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Jean Lacouture and Jacques Derrida.

To be sure, former President Francois Mitterrand, leader of the Socialist Party, said in a notorious 1992 statement that only the Nazis and not the French state were responsible.

On June 15, 1992, a petition signed by more than 200 mainly leftist intellectuals, including Mr. Derrida, Regis Debray, Cornelius Castoriadis, Mr. Lacouture and Nathalie Sarraute, noted that the French occupation government in 1942 acted "on its own authority, and without being asked to do so by the German occupier." It called on Mr. Mitterrand to "recognize and proclaim that the French state of Vichy was reponsible for persecutions and crimes against the Jews of France."

Mr. Judt might have noted that Mr. Chirac and his Government have enacted some of the most draconian anti-immigrant legislation in French history. He might also have mentioned Mr. Chirac's failure, on the eve of this year's Presidential elections, to condemn strongly and specifically the neo-fascist, Holocaust-denying, anti-immigrant National Front for the murder of an Arab immigrant on May 1 during a National Front march in Paris. KEVIN ANDERSON Associate Professor of Sociology Northern Illinois University Dekalb, Ill., July 20, 1995

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A150679970