Although several acts of violence and vandalism were committed against
Jewish targets, 1997 was a relatively quiet year. Strict police surveillance
forced activist far-right groups to restructure. The ultra-right Front National,
which has the support of 15 percent of the electorate, maintained a hard-line
rhetoric, openly supporting racism as well as anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial.
The defense of Holocaust denier Roger Garaudy during his trial was a principal
cause of the far right in 1997. In regard to Jewish assets stolen during World
War II, President Chirac named a national commission to investigate the extent of
the spoliation and to propose compensation. The long-awaited trial of the
collaborationist prefect and former Gaullist minister Maurice Papon began in
Bordeaux in September.
THE JEWISH COMMUNITY
The French Jewish community numbers about 600,000 out of a total population of
59 million. The largest community is in the Paris area (300,000), followed by
Marseilles (80,000), Lyon (30,000), Nice and Toulouse (20,000 each). Strasbourg,
where 12,000 Jews live, is a major religious and cultural center. The three main
organizations of French Jewry are the Conseil Representatif des Institutions
Juives de France (CRIF), the Consistoire Central and the Fonds Social Juif Unifié
During the last ten years there has been a dramatic revitalization in communal
life, which is expressed in the growing number of Jewish private schools (over 80)
and synagogues (over 150 in the Paris area).
EXTREMIST MOVEMENTS AND HATE GROUPS
Extreme Right-Wing Political Parties
The only active ultra-right party in France today is the Front National (National
Front -- FN), with a membership of about 50,000. At the end of March 1997 it held
its annual congress in Strasbourg, which resulted in a reshuffle of the party
leadership in favor of the old guard led by chairman Jean-Marie Le Pen. Over
40,000 protesters from Jewish, leftist and anti-racist groups took part in a mass
demonstration against the FN during the congress.
The party polled 15.06 percent in the June 1997 general election (some 3.8 million
voters), a slight improvement over Le Pen's showing of 15 percent in the April
1995 presidential election. Only one FN candidate won a seat in parliament:
Jean-Marie Le Chevallier from Toulon, but his election was invalidated in January
1998; a by-election was due to take place early in 1998, with the mayor's wife,
Cendrine Le Chevallier, standing as the FN candidate. The party also holds seats
in all regional assemblies. Since June 1995 it has held mayoralties in three
cities in southern France: Orange, Marignane and Toulon, and in 1997 Catherine
Mégret, wife of the Le Pen's second-in-command Bruno Mégret, was elected mayor of
Vitrolles, while Gerard Freulet was elected a councilor in Mulhouse (Alsace) in
Fears of an alliance between the FN and the Gaullist center-right coalition
RPR-UDF were fueled after it was revealed that meetings had taken place between
senior party officials. Since the coalition's defeat in the 1997 general election,
an increasing number of its supporters have suggested a rapprochement with the NF.
It seems that the FN has not been harmed by the existence of the Mouvement pour
la France, an archconservative, but not extremist, anti-EEC party based on
Catholic values and launched by the anti-Maastricht viscount Philippe de Villiers,
who polled 5 percent in the 1995 presidential election but only 2.08 percent in
the 1997 general election.
As Le Pen approaches the age of 70, there is a growing internal feud within the
party among the various contenders for his position. One of them, party secretary
general since October 1995 Bruno Gollnisch, a professor of law at the University
of Lyon, is backed by the Catholic fundamentalist wing of the party and the old
guard of Le Pen's friends. His main adversary is Bruno Mégret, a technocrat and
former official of the Gaullist Rassemblement pour la République. Supported by the
New Right wing of FN, Mégret is seeking to become a French Gianfranco Fini (see
Italy) and has been extending his hand to the liberal and conservative right.
However, Mégret has always said that if an agreement is reached between FN and
the mainstream right, the latter will have to share his party's platform,
especially on immigration.
After adopting the new slogan "Neither left nor right" in September 1995, the
party has been active in creating small-scale trade unions in the police force,
the penitentiary administration, the state-run transportation system and recently
among workers in the private sector. For the first time in 1997, the FN ran in
union elections and won a few seats, most of which were later invalidated. Among
the police, the FN polled 8 percent. Early in 1998, Frédéric Jamet, a party
official responsible for the FN police union, was arrested and charged with
working for the Italian Mafia.
The FN continues to establish contacts with foreign right-wing groups, in an
attempt to create a transnational network. In November 1997, while attending the
Greater Romania Party (PRM) congress in Bucharest, Le Pen announced that this
network would take the name Euronat. While in Eastern Europe, he met with Srpska
Radikalna Stranka (Serbian Radical Party) leader Vojislav Seselj. The FN congress
in Strasbourg was attended by delegates from the PRM, the Hungarian MIEP, the
Croat HSP, and the FN's usual West European partners. At the September 1997 annual
festival of FN, the Fête des Bleu-Blanc-Rouge in Paris, participants included
representatives of Sverige Demokraterna from Sweden, of the British publication
Right Now!, published by Tory right-wingers, and of Rauti's MSI-FT (see Italy).
Immediately following this festival, FN New Right activist Yvan Blot traveled to
Rome to support the launching of Adriano Tilgher's Fronte Nazionale, a splinter
group from the MSI-FT.
Currently, there are three competing anti-Semitic factions within the FN, albeit
in disguised form: the Catholic fundamentalists who rally around Bernard Antony's
Chrétienté-Solidarité (Christian Solidarity) and its bi-monthly newspaper
Reconquête; the wing of the party composed of former New Right activists, who
control the party's journal Identité, edited by Jean-Claude Bardet, a former
GRECE executive; and the national-revolutionary, or Völkisch (national), wing,
represented by Pierre Vial's Terre et Peuple movement, which largely controls the
youth movement Front National de la Jeunesse led by Samuel Maréchal, Le Pen's
son-in-law. Lately, the Catholic wing has drawn closer to the Mégret group, in an
attempt to secure its position when Le Pen steps down as party chairman.
The general trend among extra-parliamentary groups is to draw closer to the
radical wing of FN, especially to its youth movement. It is now clear that most
of their leaders or middle-level executives are either FN members or plan to join
the FN. Within the French "national camp," most of the radical groups do not share
the FN's ideas (for example, most are avowedly anti-democratic), but realize that
the only way to achieve their goals is to join the party. Therefore, dual
membership is now common and even encouraged.
In 1997 many national-revolutionary and skinhead groups joined forces in order to
build some kind of a common platform and structure. This was a result of the
"Appel des 31 pour l'unité" (Call of the 31 for unity) published by Nouvelle
Résistance (see below). Consequently, small publications such as Azraél and Jeune
Résistance (a Nouvelle Résistance outlet), as well as skinhead fanzines, such as
Sound of the Hammer and Biermacht 88 (Bourges), and Le Glaive (Vosges area), now
cooperate with members of Oeuvre française and PNFE (see below).
The anti-Israel, Holocaust denying Oeuvre française was one of several extremist
extra-parliamentary groups which suffered in 1996-97 from defections. A group led
by Thierry Maillard defected to FN and is working closely with Nouvelle Résistance.
Another member, Liliane Boury, became an FN official in Lyon. The Paris group
around Oeuvre française leader, former collaborationist Pierre Sidos, and the
Lyon group around Yvan Benedetti, editor of the monthly Jeune Nation, now operate
Two pagan neo-Nazi fringe groups have also suffered defections: the Parti
Nationaliste Français (French Nationalist Party -- PNF), which has been in decline
mainly because its ideological leader Pierre Pauty returned to the FN, and the
Parti Nationaliste Français et Européen (French and European Nationalist Party --
PNFE), headed by Eric Sausset. In 1997, the PNFE's chief in the Paris area, Didier
Magnien, defected to Nouvelle Résistance as did the former editor of the skinzine
Martel en tête, David Causanillas, from Perpignan, and former Faisceaux
Nationalistes Européens (European National Alliance) activist Daniel Milan, from
Nice. The publications of the nationalist, Bolshevik Nouvelle Résistance (National
Resistance) continued to express admiration for and solidarity with the
non-aligned Muslim countries, especially Libya and Iran, but hostile to Zionism
and the United States. Its leader Christian Bouchet frequently visits Libya.
The student group Groupe Union Défense (GUD), founded in 1969, became closely
associated with Nouvelle Résistance at the end of 1997. Led by Frédéric Chatillon
and Pierre Oldoni, it is chiefly active in Paris. GUD is a violent group with a
record of aggression against foreign and Jewish students on university campuses.
Chatillon's publishing house Riwal was instrumental in disseminating Roger
Garaudy's book, The Founding Myths of Israeli Politics. In February 1998, GUD
launched a campaign supporting Iraq and calling for a boycott of the US.
Nazi Satanism, a relatively new and disturbing phenomenon, was responsible for
some of the 37 cemetery and church desecrations which occurred in 1996. An
investigation into the June 1996 desecration of the Toulon Catholic cemetery by a
group of young "black metal" (Satanist rock music) fans resulted in the arrest of
Hervé Guttuso and members of Deo Occidi (see below) in 1997. Guttuso and the Deo
Occidi team, as well as the Toulon gang, are linked to the Satanic group the Black
Order, a New Zealand-based group whose chief ideologist is the British Nazi David
Myatt. Deo Occidi was the French branch of the Black Order and may have been
linked to another Satanic group, the New-Zealand based Ordo Sinistra Vivendi
(OSV), led by Harri Baynes. The Satanist magazines with the largest circulation
in France are Filosofem (Metz; published in connection with the Norwegian black
metal Nazi-Satanist Varg Vikernes); Raven's Chats (published in Toulouse by J. P.
Tabone), Requiem Gothique (published in Rennes by Hans Cany, devoted to "gothic
rock" music) and Napalm Rock ( published in Aix-en-Provence by Gregory Ombrouck,
devoted to black/death metal). Apart from Filosofem, all share an interest in
Satanic black or dark metal music bands, and are closely linked to Nouvelle
Royalist and Catholic fundamentalist groups also spread anti-Semitic ideas.
Various members of the latter movement (see ASW 1996/7) believe in the conspiracy
theory, presented in the periodical Lectures françaises and in the works of
veteran anti-Semites and anti-Freemasons such as Jacques Ploncard d'Assac and
Henry Coston, or their younger heir Emmanuel Ratier, publisher of the monthly
Faits et Documents.
Violence, Vandalism, Threats and Abuse
Although several acts of violence and vandalism were committed against Jewish
targets, 1997 was considered a relatively quiet year. Two Molotov cocktails were
thrown in May in the city of Villerbanne near Lyon, one at a synagogue and the
other at the Center for Jewish Studies. In October a Molotov cocktail was flung
at the St. Marguerit neighborhood synagogue in Marseille. There were no casualties
and only slight property damaged. As in 1996, Jews were the targets of several
serious assaults by Arabs, two in Marseilles in November: one at the train
station, where a Jewish woman was seriously beaten and one near the synagogue,
where the attackers tore up a young man's prayer shawl.
Jewish institutions frequently received abusive and threatening messages. In June
a threat and obscenities were left on the answering machine of the Betar Club in
Paris, including phrase such as "Dirty Jews," "Jews should be finished off with
gas" and "We'll wipe out all the Jews."
Anti-Semitic Propaganda and Holocaust Denial
The chief anti-Semitic periodicals in France today are Present, a daily published
since 1982, with a circulation of about 20,000, and Rivarol, both supporters of
the FN; and National-Hebdo, the weekly organ of FN. The latter, edited by Martin
Peltier, has become openly anti-Semitic and mildly revisionist. Its October 1997
cover showed a Star of David with the slogan "Judapo," a clear reference to
"Jewish-Gestapo." Anti-Semitic and Holocaust denial ideas can be found also in
Minute-La France, Monde et Vie and Le Libre Journal (see previous reports).
On several occasions during 1997 Le Pen expressed his anti-Semitism. In March he
called President Jacques Chirac "a hostage of a Jewish conspiracy" which prevented
him from joining in a union with the FN, and claimed that the New York- based
Jewish organization, B'nai B'rith, was responsible for that conspiracy . Twice in
1997 Le Pen minimized the Holocaust. In an interview with the New Yorker in April,
he repeated his remark of 1987 that the Nazi gas chambers were "a detail of
history," and compared Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu with Hitler. A
few months later, at a news conference in Munich, he declared that only a few
lines were needed to deal with the Holocaust in history books. Le Pen also
denounced the apology of the Roman Catholic Church in France for its behavior
during the Holocaust (see below). He said that this statement was "absolutely
scandalous" and showed "disdain for historical truth."
On February 27, 1998, a Paris court fined the Holocaust denier Roger Garaudy
£120,000 for denying crimes against humanity in his book The Founding Myths of
Israeli Politics, published in February 1996 by the radical leftist publishing
house La Vieille Taupe, directed by Pierre Guillaume, who was indicted but not
acquitted. Garaudy's lawyer was Jacques Vergès, who also defended the
pro-Palestinian terrorist Illitch Ramirez Sanchez, alias Carlos. (During his trial
in 1997, the terrorist made many references to the "Jewish conspiracy.") The
defense of Garaudy was a principal cause of the far right in 1997. His trial was
attended by Holocaust deniers Robert Faurisson and Henri Roques, as well as by
left-wing lawyers, far-right activists and representatives of the Arab press.
Faurisson himself was being investigated in late 1997 following a complaint
against dissemination, on the revisionist website AAARGH, of his article "The
Absurd Visions of the Holocaust," in which he called the Holocaust "a fiction."
He is awaiting trial under the Gayssot Law (see below).
French schools were the target of Holocaust denial propaganda in 1997. The
principals of 21 schools in Paris received envelopes containing microfilm of texts
of Faurisson and Garaudy, material from Radio Islam (see Sweden) and demands to
abolish the Gayssot law. Further, Vincent Reynouard, a mathematics teacher in
Cannes, was suspended after it was discovered that he shared his ideas with his
students and used the school computer to file documents denying the Holocaust and
the fax machine to send Holocaust denial tracts to sympathizers. Reynouard is the
publisher of Nouvelle vision and is also associated with AAARGH. The public
prosecutor is investigating the case.
ATTITUDES TOWARD THE HOLOCAUST AND THE NAZI ERA
In a statement described as a confession of error, the Roman Catholic Church in
France apologized to the Jews for its failure, silence and acquiescence in the
face of French collaboration with the Holocaust. The statement came just before
the 57th anniversary of the promulgation, on October 3, 1940, of the first of more
than 160 anti-Semitic laws and decrees passed by the Vichy regime that
progressively excluded Jews from public life and opened the way for their dispatch
to the death camps. Police officials and representatives of the medical profession
have also issued official apologies for collaboration in the persecution of the
In September 1997, the trial began in Bordeaux of former Gaullist Minister Maurice
Papon, 87, for his responsibility in the deportation of 1,690 Jews, when he was a
senior civil servant (prefect) of the Vichy regime. The trial prompted a bitter
debate between those who contended that Papon, although a servant of the Vichy
regime, was also a member of the Resistance, and those who saw him as a willing
executor of the racial laws. However, the main topic of the Papon trial was not
his behavior during the war, but the way Vichy France and the Resistance reacted
to the mass murder of the Jews: Did the Vichy regime know about the death camps?
And did the Resistance wittingly underestimate the extent of anti-Jewish
persecution in order to unite the ideologically antagonistic factions of the
underground? In April 1998, Papon was convicted of complicity in crimes against
humanity and sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Seeking to disprove charges that it was concealing art works seized by the Nazis,
France unveiled some 987 such works that had remained unclaimed by their owners or
heirs since the end of World War II. This followed President Chirac's naming of a
national commission to investigate the extent of looting of Jewish property during
World War II and to propose compensation. In another development, revelations
showing striking similarities to the Swiss banks affair (see Switzerland) appeared
in the French national daily Le Monde. The paper alleged that French banks kept
hundreds of millions of dollars deposited by Jewish Holocaust victims and then
failed to hand over the funds to a special state agency.
At a ceremony marking the 55th anniversary of the Vel d' Hiv roundup (on July 1942
13,152 Jews were rounded up and sent from there to Nazi death camps), Prime
Minister Lionel Jospin pledged that his government would make sure that the
commission investigating the fate of Jewish property confiscated during World War
II would bring all the facts to light. At the ceremony Jospin reminded his
countrymen that the French bore responsibility for the mass arrest. "Not one
German soldier was needed to accomplish this hideous crime," Jospin said.
RESPONSES TO RACISM AND ANTI-SEMITISM
The newly elected coalition government of the left abandoned the Juppé
government's proposal to draft an anti-racist law which would make the 1990
Gayssot Law more efficient. (Communist Jean-Claude Gayssot, now a senior minister
in the Jospin Cabinet, had drafted this legislation in the aftermath of the
Carpentras affair (see previous reports). Many MPs and experts of the far right
believe that the existing law is sufficient to prosecute Holocaust deniers if it
is properly applied, which it has not been up to now.
In December 1997, police arrested Charlemagne Hammerskins leader Hervé Guttuso,
who was hosted in London by Charlie Sargent of the National Socialist Alliance.
Guttuso, who published the newsletter WOTAN (Will of the Aryan Nations), is
charged with disseminating death threats against Jewish figures on his Internet
website. He was due to be extradited to France. In this connection, Eric Monnier,
also 25, another Hammerskins leader and computer expert, was jailed in Lyon, as
were the publishers of the Nazi-Satanist fanzine Deo Occidi, Ronald Robin and
Four neo-Nazi skinheads were sentenced to prison terms of up to two years for the
desecration of the Jewish cemetery of Carpentras in 1990. In their confession, the
four, who were all members or sympathizers of the PNFE, said they had desecrated
the graves and disinterred a body as a tribute to Hitler and to mark the
anniversary of Germany's surrender on May 8, 1945.
The left-wing Ras L'Front network remains the main anti-FN force, selling some
10,000 copies of its monthly newspaper and mobilizing demonstrators by the
thousands against FN meetings. It has connections with the Centre de recherche,
d'information et de documentation antiraciste (CRIDA).
The Observatory of Extremism, launched by journalist Jean-Philippe Moinet in order
to acquaint politicians and the media with FN ideology, publishes its own monthly
called Vigilance Républicaine and has established a lasting partnership with the
Centre Européen de Recherche et d'Action sur le Racisme et l'Antisémitisme (CERA),
a subsidiary of the European Jewish Congress. CERA publishes a yearly report on
right-wing and left-wing extremism in Europe.
These new associations are more aggressive than the traditional anti-racist
organizations such as LICRA (Ligue internationale contre le racisme et
l'antisémitisme), and MRAP (Mouvement contre le racisme et pour l'amitié entre
les peuples), which was traditionally associated with the Communist Party.
SOS-Racisme, which has subsidiaries all over Europe, is also active in fighting
all kinds of racial discrimination and extremism.