Michel Slitinsky: Resistant who exposed Vichyites

 

Michel Slitinsky was a wartime resister whose research was instrumental in the prosecution of Maurice Papon. Papon was a civil servant who served in the Vichy regime and played a key role in sending French Jews to Nazi death camps.

Michel Slitinsky was born in Bordeaux in 1925, the son of Jewish parents. In 1912 the family had sought refuge in France, leaving their Ukrainian homeland, which was part of the Czarist empire. Under the Czarist regime Jews faced a precarious existence, while France was seen as the land of liberty. After living in Paris the family moved to Bordeaux. The family opened a shop and all went well until the fall of France in 1940.

Last-minute diplomacy between Britain and France, aimed at keeping France in the war, failed and power was handed over to the widely revered "Victor of Verdun" in 1916, Marshal Philippe Pétain. He promised an "honourable" end to the hostilities with Nazi Germany. Instead, much of the country was occupied and he established a new regime at Vichy to rescue France from the "decadence" of the pre-war Third Republic. A purge of the political Left, the Jews, freemasons, and other "undesirables", followed. All Jews became second-class citizens.

Most of France was hit hard by the German Occupation from 1940 to 1944, but in Bordeaux the wine business was thriving. Yet the internment camps were filling. Police raids took place and, by 1942, the camps were full of immigrant Jews and those deemed subversive.

Slitinsky's father Abraham was arrested in October of that year by the French police and held in the notorious Drancy internment camp outside Paris before being handed over to the Germans. He was one of almost 76,000 deported Jews who did not survive; in his case he was gassed in Auschwitz. His wife Esther hid in a cellar for three years while Michel, then 17, escaped on the night of the raid over the roofs to safety. He joined the network of resistance which became part of the maquis of Auvergne.

After the liberation Slitinsky took up a commercial career, but he was determined to research and to write up the history of the Resistance in the Gironde, collecting evidence which was published in two books, in 1969 and 1972. His last book, La Nuit des Evasions [The Night of Escapes], appeared in 2007.

He also felt passionately about exposing the Vichyites. One particular target was Maurice Papon, who had been in charge of the police in Bordeaux during the war. After the war Papon had prospered, being appointed Chief of Police in Paris in 1958. He became notorious for his repression of peaceful demonstrators, especially in 1961.

Then in 1981 details about his Vichy past emerged, when the satirical and investigative newspaper Le Canard Enchaîné published documents, discovered by Michel Bergès, a young French historian, signed by Papon that revealed his responsibility for the deportation of 1,690 Bordeaux Jews to Drancy from 1942 to 1944. After a long investigation, Papon's trial started in 1995. He argued that he had had no choice, that he did not know about the nature of the Nazi camps, and that he had tried to save Jews – including Slitinsky's sister, who had been arrested at the same time as her father. She was released in December 1942.

Papon produced written evidence that he had intervened, successfully, on her behalf. In 1998 he was convicted of crimes against humanity. The highest-ranking French civilian ever to be brought to justice for Nazi war crimes, he was sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment but walked free in September 2003, because of old age and poor health.

"Obviously there is a double standard when it comes to justice in France," Slitinsky, President of the Association of Families of Victims of Deportation in the Bordeaux region, commented. Papon, he said, "walked out of prison ... looking not at all like someone who's on his deathbed. This is a revolting decision." Papon died in February 2007 aged 96.

Michel Slitinsky was buried in the Jewish cemetery in Bordeaux – "A great man," said the Mayor of Bordeaux and former Prime Minister, Alain Juppé. "With the disappearance of Michel Slitinsky a great voice of the resistance and of memory has gone." President Hollande called Slitinsky a "tireless defender of justice."

David Childs

Michel Slitinsky, résistant: born Bordeaux 5 February 1925; married (two children); died Bordeaux 8 December 2012.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Richard Norris in GQ
mediaGQ features photo shoot with man who underwent full face transplant
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Your picture is everything in the shallow world of online dating
i100
News
The Swiss Re tower or 'Gherkin' was at one time the UK’s most expensive office when German bank IVG and private equity firm Evans Randall bought it
news
Life and Style
Attractive women on the Internet: not a myth
techOkCupid boasts about Facebook-style experiments on users
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Coordinator

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: The Green Recrui...

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

Embedded Linux Engineer

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...

Senior Hardware Design Engineer - Broadcast

£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on