France faces history

France’s highest court, the Council of State, has admitted the nation’s role in deporting Jews to Nazi death camps in World War II:

France’s highest court has recognised the state’s "responsibility" for the deportation of Jews in World War II.

The Council of State said the state had permitted or facilitated deportations that led to anti-Semitic persecution without being coerced by the occupiers.

But the council also found reparations had since been made "as much as was possible, for all the losses suffered".

Correspondents say the ruling is the clearest such recognition of the French state’s role in the Holocaust.

Between 1942 and 1944 some 76,000 Jews were deported from France by the Vichy government in collaboration with the German occupying army.

The court case was the result of a suit brought by the daughter of a woman killed in Auschwitz, seeking reparations for the loss of her mother. The court, in essence, said "France has done enough."

I wonder. Reparations for past atrocities are tricky issues. On the one hand, there is a debt to be made right. On the other, with the passage of time, fewer and fewer victims are left, and the connection of their descendents to the original atrocity becomes tenuous — what’s fair compensation for something done to your great-grandfather? Thus I supported compensation to the Japanese-Americans for their internment during World War II, for many of the victims and their children were still around. At the same time, I oppose calls for reparations for American slavery: too much time has passed, and anyone who could reasonably claim to have been harmed by it is long gone.

My gut feeling, without knowing the specifics of the case, is that the French high court erred in denying this woman compensation. She has a good case that she was denied her mother’s care and love, and suffered trauma, due to French state actions. She’s not a distant descendent arguing some ancient grievance: she’s a living victim of one of the great crimes of human history — the Holocaust. Saying "sorry" in this case just isn’t enough.

(hat tip: LGF)


One Response to France faces history

  1. James says:

    You say that you oppose slavery reparations, because “anyone who could reasonably claim to have been harmed by it is long gone.”
    Yet surely you’re aware that the freed slaves were never compensated, that their families faced brutal discrimination until the 1960s, and that as a result, their descendants to this day have not made up the gap that existed in 1865?

%d bloggers like this: