Maurice Papon, the only French Nazi official to be convicted of complicity in crimes against humanity, has died at the age of 96. A former cabinet minister under the Vichy government, Papon came to symbolise France’s collaboration with the Nazis. After his guilty verdict in 1998, he fled to Switzerland but was caught and jailed in 1999. However, he was freed just three years later because of bad health.
Papon was accused of ordering the arrest and deportation of 1,690 Jews, including hundreds of children, from the Bordeaux region to the Nazi death camps. While found guilty of complicity, Papon was absolved of guilt in the death of the deportees after a jury accepted his defence that he was not aware of the Nazi’s “final solution”.
After the war, Papon, who claimed to have worked with the resistance, went on to pursue a successful career as a politician under General de Gaulle. But in another sombre affair, it was revealed he was also behind the killing of several hundred Algerians during a crackdown on protests in Paris in 1961. Had it not been for revelations about his past, published in a French newspaper in 1981, the old man might well have slipped quietly into retirement.