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Britons secretly kept in postwar French camps
The Guardian (U.K.) ^ | October 4, 2004 | Jon Henley

Posted on 10/04/2004 8:18:29 PM PDT by Stoat

Britons secretly kept in postwar French camps

After the liberation De Gaulle's government held on to internees from many countries in officially closed centres to hide collaboration

Jon Henley in Paris
Monday October 4, 2004
The Guardian


The government of Charles de Gaulle held hundreds of foreigners, including at least three Britons, in an internment camp near Toulouse for up to four years after the second world war, according to secret documents.

The papers, part of a cache of 12,000 photocopied illegally by an Austrian-born Jew, reveal the extent to which French officials collaborated with their fleeing Nazi occupiers even as their country was being liberated. They also show that, when the war was over, France went to extraordinary lengths to hide as much evidence of that collaboration as possible.

The documents are in a mass of registers, telegrams and manifests which Kurt Werner Schaechter, an 84-year-old retired businessman, copied from the Toulouse office of France's national archives in 1991. They are uniquely precious: under a 1979 law most of France's wartime archives are sealed for between 60 and 150 years after they were written.

"This is an untold story of the dark side of France's liberation 60 years ago," Mr Schaechter, a former musical instruments salesman, said at his home in Alfortville, a Paris suburb. "French functionaries were involved in a national scandal that continued until 1949: the despicable treatment of allied and neutral civilians interned during the war."

Mr Schaechter's activities - last year he used some of the papers to try to force the French railway SNCF to admit its responsibility in shipping 76,000 Jews to Nazi death camps - have infuriated some French historians, who say their privileged access to classified archives has been compromised. But others have backed the campaign for freer access to documents relating to a part of France's past that it has long preferred to ignore.

By far the most awkward of his recently unearthed documents are those that appear to show that Noé camp, 25 miles south of Toulouse, continued to function secretly for several years after the war. Noé was one of 300 camps set up after 1939 to hold Jews, communists and other "anti-French" militants, Gypsies, common criminals and enemy aliens.

Many of its inmates were quickly shipped out as France was progressively liberated in the summer of 1944. But, said Mr Schaechter, not everyone could be got out in time: "Allied bombing of the railway lines, and intensified fighting on the ground, meant many simply could not be moved."

Officially, the only camps still open after 1945 were a handful housing Romanies, stateless persons and French collaborators. But Mr Schaechter says his documents indicate that a "special section" of Noé was active until at least 1947.

Among the papers is a letter dated February 23 1946 from the camp's director to the prefect in Toulouse. It seeks to "draw urgent attention" to Noé's "increasingly delicate financial situation", adding that sums seized from those "sheltered" in the camp "are no longer adequate to meet the costs of maintaining it, or of feeding [the inmates]". The camp's accounts show that inmates were still being forced to pay for their "lodging" in September 1947.

There are also letters between the interior ministry's inspectorate of internment camps and the prefecture querying the number of "administrative internees" held in the département's camps. They are dated March 5 and March 29 1949 - three years after the last internment camp in mainland France was officially closed.

Photocopies of the camp's registers from 1945, 1946 and 1947 show that Noé's postwar inmates, along with citizens of Switzerland, Sweden, Holland, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Argentina and Brazil, included three Britons: Abdul Hussan, born in 1901 in Port Louis, Mauritius; Leonard Wynne, born in London in 1891; and Alfred Smith, born in Manchester in 1888.

Mr Schaechter believes they were not released at the end of the war because it would have been too embarrassing.

"The last thing De Gaulle wanted, when he was trying to build up France's image as victor and hero," he said, "was to reveal the true extent of its collaboration by freeing neutral and allied internees held in French camps by French guards."

The papers also show that officials continued to deport inmates of all nationalities to a near-certain death in Germany even as France was being liberated.

A neat register shows that, in March 1944, Noé contained inmates of 25 nationalities, including three Americans and 13 Britons aged between 21 and 55, and one other Briton aged over 55.

On June 24 1944, two weeks after the allies landed on the beaches of Normandy, the camp commandant wrote to the Toulouse prefecture. "I have the honour to inform you," he said, "that on the 22nd of this month nine British citizens were transferred to this camp." Their names include William Rogerson, born in Manchester in 1874; Edward Josephs, London, 1898; and Walter Slack, Hull, 1891.

On June 26 the commandant informed the prefecture that he had four American "guests": Moore Sumner Kirby, born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania in 1895; Herbert Lespinasse, Stamford, 1884; Gerald McLanghin, Detroit, 1898; and James Smith, Los Angeles, 1904.

Some of these Britons and Americans "regrouped" in Noé on the eve of the liberation were wealthy residents of the Côte d'Azur; Sumner Kirby had married Leonida, Princess Bagration-Muhranskaja - later the wife of Vladimir, a grand duke of the Romanovs - in Nice in 1934. Others, such as Joseph Edwards and Thomas Berridge, were farmers or agricultural labourers.

Many, without doubt, were on the last transport of aliens to leave Noé-Longages station on July 30 1944. This "transfer" is referred to in a telegram from the camp commandant on August 28 - two days after a million cheering French men and women thronged the Champs-Elysées in Paris for Charles de Gaulle's victory parade. Mr Schaechter believes most of them ended up in Dachau; Sumner Kirby is known to have died in the Leau concentration camp near Bernberg, Germany, on April 7 1945.

But what happened to those, many elderly and infirm, who stayed? Some are marked "transferred". Others were moved in 1947 to Pithiviers or Rivesaltes camps, both officially closed. Some are marked: "Agreed with Mr Casse - to be lost". And what that means, no one knows.



TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Foreign Affairs; Government; Miscellaneous; News/Current Events; United Kingdom
KEYWORDS: collaboration; collaborators; degaulle; france; french; greatbritain; history; nazi; prisoners; unitedkingdom; war; ww2; wwii
France's collaborationist past has been shown in recent years to be far more extensive than what has been admitted. France has much to atone for and little to be proud of.
1 posted on 10/04/2004 8:18:30 PM PDT by Stoat
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To: Stoat

Why is it no one has seen fit to write about the France-nazi connection in depth?


2 posted on 10/04/2004 8:20:47 PM PDT by Publius6961 (I, also, don't do diplomacy.)
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To: Stoat

The rot and smell from France's collaboration and anti-Allied activities extends far past what this article mentions.

The AWB Has Expired - Gun Owners Have Won Again For All Americans!

3 posted on 10/04/2004 8:24:23 PM PDT by Southack (Media Bias means that Castro won't be punished for Cuban war crimes against Black Angolans in Africa)
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To: Publius6961

I guess france and germany still have that close bond,
hence their refusal for us to go in and unplug saddam.


4 posted on 10/04/2004 8:26:23 PM PDT by 1FASTGLOCK45
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To: Publius6961
"Why is it no one has seen fit to write about the France-nazi connection in depth?"

Good question. Similarly, I often am struck by how the WW2-era German citizenry are commonly painted as entirely composed of dedicated, fire-breathing Nazis when there was in reality a vast number who were adamantly opposed to the Nazis. Being disarmed, however, the public was unable to rise up and rebel. If you dared to speak out, you were shot or hung from a lamp post in the village square. Little factoids like that seem to escape many "historians".

5 posted on 10/04/2004 8:26:46 PM PDT by Stoat
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To: Stoat

The French-Nazi collaboration is well-known and there have been long-held suspicions that the collaboration went far deeper than France ever dared to admit. This latest revelation only helps cement what many figured was the case a long time ago.


6 posted on 10/04/2004 8:28:37 PM PDT by Prime Choice (It is dangerous to be right when wicked is called 'good.')
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To: Stoat

France is a cesspool. It's a disgusting place filled with more disgusting people. I think the Germans should invade again and bring soap.


7 posted on 10/04/2004 8:31:34 PM PDT by Artemis Webb
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To: Publius6961

I'm sure if you looked you could find considerable documentation. After the war, to make a big issue out of it would have served no good. Now, it's ancient history.


8 posted on 10/04/2004 8:31:49 PM PDT by MagnumRancid
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To: Publius6961

There really is quite a bit written about it but overall it had little effect on the war effort besides a small amount in North Africa. You need to remember that Vichy France and Petain were nothing but a German puppet state basically set-up to allow the Germans to gain control over Frances colonies. You also need to remember there were many brave French that took part in the resistance as well as the Free French Army. De Gaulle on the other hand was an egotistical bum and it's a shame that the Allies couldn't find somebody more cooperative to lead the French after the war.


9 posted on 10/04/2004 8:40:09 PM PDT by whershey (www.worldwar4.net)
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To: Publius6961

You gotta give credit to those Frenchies -- they continued to appease the Nazis even after the Nazis had already lost.


10 posted on 10/04/2004 8:41:18 PM PDT by vbmoneyspender
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To: Publius6961
"Why is it no one has seen fit to write about the France-nazi connection in depth?"

Actually, the article itself provides a clue:

"...under a 1979 law most of France's wartime archives are sealed for between 60 and 150 years after they were written. "

There simply hasn't been any information available, thanks to the French wanting to sweep it under a rug for 150 years. These people are beneath contempt and deserve international shunning.

11 posted on 10/04/2004 8:42:23 PM PDT by Stoat
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To: Stoat
Surprising from the left wing "U.K. The Guardian" after all the French are the leader of the evil U.S. movement
12 posted on 10/04/2004 8:48:40 PM PDT by tophat9000 (Kerry's foreign policy..........."Mommy may I ?")
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To: tophat9000

I have frequently been surprised by quality articles from the Guardian. Their editorial bias definitely slants way over to the hard left and they seem to find the United States more of an irritation than anything else, but every now and then they come out with a really outstanding piece of groundbreaking journalism.


13 posted on 10/04/2004 8:52:34 PM PDT by Stoat
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To: Stoat

Just more evidence to prove that France is part of the Axis of Evil. Maybe France should be the next target in the war on terror.


14 posted on 10/04/2004 8:59:05 PM PDT by ArmedNReady (George Bush has Global Test-icles)
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To: ArmedNReady

Although I applaud your sentiment in a general way, I have a concern that once occupied (there would of course be an instant surrender and no 'resistance' except in print) weaning the French population from Socialism will likely be a more difficult and expensive task than street-sweeping Iraq of the terrorist infestation.


15 posted on 10/04/2004 9:03:43 PM PDT by Stoat
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To: Stoat

Nothing that surprising about this. The Guardian has always carried a wide range of op-ed political opinion, which frequently strays well beyond the newspaper's own editorial line. In fact I would say that the range of opinion is far wider than you would find in any single conservative British newspaper. However, The Guardian's 'contrarian' articles rarely get posted here, so it's easy to get the impression that it's a rather more doctrinaire newspaper than is actually the case. In any case, I wouldn't say that editorially The Guardian is particularly sympathetic to France.


16 posted on 10/05/2004 1:20:08 AM PDT by Winniesboy
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To: Stoat

Nothing that surprising about this. The Guardian has always carried a wide range of op-ed political opinion, which frequently strays well beyond the newspaper's own editorial line. In fact I would say that the range of opinion is far wider than you would find in any single conservative British newspaper. However, The Guardian's 'contrarian' articles rarely get posted here, so it's easy to get the impression that it's a rather more doctrinaire newspaper than is actually the case. In any case, I wouldn't say that editorially The Guardian is particularly sympathetic to France.


17 posted on 10/05/2004 1:21:38 AM PDT by Winniesboy
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To: AnnaZ; HangFire

Just when I thought I could not like the French any less.....they prove me wrong.


18 posted on 10/05/2004 11:33:06 AM PDT by Feiny (The use of intoxicants is one of the distinguishing marks of the higher types and races of humanity.)
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Comment #19 Removed by Moderator

Comment #20 Removed by Moderator

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