Henry Coston

Henry Coston, writer and activist: born Paris 1910; married; died Caen, France 26 July 2001.

Henry Coston, writer and activist: born Paris 1910; married; died Caen, France 26 July 2001.

In France the history of anti-Semitism is the history of France itself. From Dreyfus to Le Pen the figure of the Jew has haunted the politics and culture of France – always accompanied by its negative, the fanatical anti-Semite.

Henry Coston, who has died aged 91, was known as the "Pope" of French anti-Semitism. For Coston did nothing else throughout a long and active career but militate against every form of Judaism real or imaginary, through books, political parties, newspapers, organisations, magazines and clubs.

At 15 Coston was an active figure in Action Française and devoted disciple of Edouard Drumont, a pathological anti-Semite whose notorious journal La Libre Parole was re-launched by Coston. In 1930 Coston, then 19, launched "Jeunesses Antijuives" ("Anti-Jewish Youth") and stood for political office in Oran in 1936 as the one official " candidat antisémite". Coston distributed imitation 100-franc notes, the reverse bearing rants about the Jewish banking system and his policy that Jews should be deported from France and their holdings seized.

An early Nazi enthusiast, by 1934 he was already in contact with the Nazi propaganda centre at Efurt and described as one of the few "authentic National Socialist idealists" in France. In 1934 he was received by Julius Streicher and began collecting regular payments from the Nazis to help with his work, such as the re-publication of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Come the Second World War he was a staunch collaborator with German occupation forces and in Vichy became Vice-President of the Association des Journalistes Anti-juifs. He continued to publish insanely anti-Semitic books which make Céline look like a Zionist, such as Je vous hais (1944), a pamphlet extolling the concentration camps.

Coston fled to Germany in August 1944, was arrested in 1946 and sentenced to hard labour for the rest of his life. This sentence was cancelled in 1952 when he was granted pardon through his numerous political contacts. He had served a bare five years in jail.

After this he resumed his life's work of anti-Jewish agitation, with the added twist of negationism, being amongst the first to claim gas chambers never existed. Coston did have one other hobby, pursuing the supposed conspiracy of Masons or " franc-maçons" (he published works such as La Franc-maçonnerie, voilà l'ennemi), a peculiarly French obsession which like anti-Semitism is as alive today as in 1901.

Coston led the way for violent fringe movements by creating his own, "Publications Henry Coston", from a postbox number in Paris. This put out his revisionist Dictionnaire de la Politique Française (1967-) and Les Financiers qui mènent le monde, published in 1955 and still recommended by the Front National as an economic textbook. Coston's books were available from the Librairie Française, a bookshop run by his wife Gilberte in Paris.

He wrote for all the post-war Fascist publications in France – Jeune Nation, Europe Action, Défense de l'Occident and National Hebdo, where he was still a columnist in the Nineties. The death of " l'archiviste de la droite nationale" (as he was reverentially known) was kept secret until he had been given a quasi-military send-off by the Bureau Politique of "Unité Radicale".

Despite his pedigree as a veteran of France's extreme right-wing organisations, Coston's last years were dogged by unfortunate revelations. One of his last publications was Infiltrations ennemies dans la droite nationale et populaire, about the split in the Front National and its infiltration by partly Jewish figures. This was directly related to the discovery that his own mother had been partly Jewish: Coston himself should thus have been a candidate for extinction under the Nazi laws he proudly promoted all his long life.

Adrian Dannatt

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