Amerikali Turk


Some Observations About the French and Genocide

December 29, 2011 5:19 PM

Those of us who know history stare in utter amazement at the actions of the French National Assembly in criminalizing the denial of the events in Armenia in 1915 (by imposing a hefty fine and imprisonment should anyone in France deny that these events in Armenia constituted "genocide").

The French actions illustrate the fact that it is quite convenient to point fingers at others, so as to deflect attention to one's own actions.

It is not even 70 years ago when the French Vichy government was complicit in real genocide against the Jews of France. The French Vichy Regime and its gendarmes and political officials worked hand in hand with the Nazis to round up and deport the Jews of France to their deaths. Even President Chirac of France said that "the criminal madness" of the [Nazis] "was assisted ('secondée') by the French, by the French state""

In July 1942, French police arrested thousands of Jews, including thousands of women and children in Paris during what became known as La Grande Rafle ('the big round-up'). Most were temporarily interned in a sports stadium (the Vel D'Hiver) in conditions described by an eyewitness as follows:

'All those wretched people lived five horrifying days in the enormous interior filled with deafening noise ... among the screams and cries of people who had gone mad, or the injured who tried to kill themselves'.

Thousands of Jews were transported to Drancy in the Paris suburbs, the main transit center for Auschwitz. Children as young as three were separated from their mothers - French gendarmes used batons and hoses - before being sent to Germany under French guard, after weeks of maltreatment.

I can never forget a photo I once saw of a little French Jewish boy, perhaps 4 or 5 years old, in the stadium having been rounded up, with a French policeman standing guard over him. Can you imagine - a French officer guarding a helpless little child!

This is the truth of French Vichy actions in WWII. For me, this is personally very important, because my both of my parents were in Auschwitz and my father's entire family was annihilated.

But now the French have decided that they can judge others, when their own leaders' actions amounted to real Genocide.

The French legislature has placed itself on a high pedestal and proclaimed to the world that it is capable of deciding how historical events in other countries should be interpreted - and have even prohibited people from talking about these events for fear that they will be prosecuted and fined. As an American, freedom of speech is sacred - I can't understand how the French have the guts to prevent people from speaking freely!

One other important point: Historians disagree about what occurred in Armenia in 1915. In fact, the Protocols agreed to by Turkey and Armenia in 2009 with respect to normalizing their relations provided for the establishment of an historical subcommission to look into the events in Armenia in 1915. Ironically, if such an historical subcommission were to meet in France, and this new law were enacted, all the historians would be thrown into jail and fined just for discussing these issues. It seems to me that the determination of what occurred in Armenia in 1915 should be left to the historians, just as the Turkey-Armenia Protocols intended, and should not be a political issue in the French Parliament - and certainly criminalizing the discussion of these issues is just outrageous.

So instead of pointing fingers at Turkey (in large part because of political considerations), the French Parliament should focus its attention on the heinous crimes of genocide the Vichy government (and its officials and police officers) committed against French Jews during the Holocaust.

There still may be some hope since the French Senate would need to approve this ill-advised measure for it to become a law. The French foreign minister strongly opposes the law. Hopefully, sanity will prevail and these French legislators will understand the real meaning of "genocide", as evidenced by the Holocaust (including what happened in Vichy France) - and also that it is inadvisable for people in glass houses to throw stones.

Mark Meirowitz