Roger Garaudy: Veteran of the Resistance who later became a Holocaust denier

Briefly

Roger Garaudy, who died in Paris on 13 June at the age of 98, was a long-time Communist who fought in the French resistance in the Second World War but became a Holocaust denier in old age.

The philosopher was fined 120,000 francs by a Paris court in 1998 for his anti-Zionist work The Founding Myths of Israeli Politics. The court found that his account had distorted the wartime deaths of an estimated six million Jews.

His career was marked by feuds. His dispute with another philosopher, the social theorist Michel Foucault, led him to change universities, and he even turned on the Muslim cleric who converted him to Islam.

Born in Marseille in 1913 into a Catholic family – he later became a Protestant – Garaudy joined the French Communist Party in 1933 while he was a university student; he was eventually expelled from the Party in 1970 after he criticised the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, although he had defended the Soviet intervention in Hungary 12 years earlier.

After university he fought in the Second World War, receiving the Croix de Guerre, was sent to a prison camp in Algeria by the Vichy government, and then worked with the Resistance radio and the Communist newspaper Liberté after he was freed.

After the war, he served in parliament as a Communist deputy and senator. Within the Party hierarchy he was known as "the Cardinal" both for his sense of authority and his attraction towards the Church. He was for years the darling of the French media and intellectual milieu for his philosophical work and his political courage. He taught philosophy at the universities of Clermont-Ferrand and Poitiers and wrote around 70 books, describing himself as a Don Quixote fighting the windmills of capitalism.

Garaudy converted to Islam in 1982. He became an extreme anti-Zionist – The Founding Myths of Modern Israel claimed that most of the Jews sent to concentration camps died of typhus and were not deliberately killed.

While his anti-Zionist stance made him a pariah at home, it won him may friends in the Muslim world. The head of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, for example, cited his treatment as an example of the West's "hypocrisy and duplicity", and in 2002, Garaudy won the then Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's human rights prize. The head of the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions, Richard Prasquier, said, however: "He ended up pitifully, on an intellectual level, with the lowest kind of revisionism."

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