Sunday 25 August 2019

Have no doubt Hitler would have wiped out Arabs after Jews

MAURICE Papon, lowered into his grave along with his precious Legion d'honneur last week, proved what many Arabs have long suspected but generally refuse to acknowledge: that bureaucrats and racists and others who worked for Hitler regarded all Semitic people as their enemies and that - had Hitler's armies reached the Middle East - they would ultimately have found a "final sol

MAURICE Papon, lowered into his grave along with his precious Legion d'honneur last week, proved what many Arabs have long suspected but generally refuse to acknowledge: that bureaucrats and racists and others who worked for Hitler regarded all Semitic people as their enemies and that - had Hitler's armies reached the Middle East - they would ultimately have found a "final solution" to the "Arab question," just as they did for the Jews of Europe.

Papon's responsibility for the 1942 arrest and deportation of 1,600 Jews in and around Bordeaux - 223 children among them, all shipped off to the Drancy camp and then to Auschwitz - was proved without the proverbial shadow of a doubt at his 1998 trial.

Less clear were the exact number of Algerians murdered by his police force in Paris and hurled into the Seine in 1961. He organised the police repression of the independence demonstration by 40,000 Algerians; in the cities of Algiers and Oran and Blida and other areas of modern-day Algeria where this atrocity festers on among elderly relatives, they say that up to 400 Algerians were massacred by Papon's flics. Some historians suggest 250. The same was always claimed of Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. From Hitler, he obtained a promise that "when we (the Germans) have arrived at the southern Caucasus, then the time of the liberation of the Arabs will have arrived - and you can rely on my word." All this came back to me last week when I received a remarkable letter from Toulouse in my Beirut mailbag. It was a response to an article I wrote last year about Irene Nemirovsky, whose magnificent, Tolstoyan novel of the Nazi occupation of France was unfinished when Irene was herself sent to Drancy and on to the crematoria of Auschwitz. My article earned a stiff call of complaint from the press attache at the French embassy in London.

The letter, in slightly ungrammatical English, was written by Nemirovsky's only surviving daughter, Denise Epstein, and I hope she will not mind if I quote from it: "Allow me to present myself: I am the girl of Irene Nemirovsky . . . and I wanted to thank you for having spoken so well about my mother.

This book caused a certain awakening of the consciences undoubtedly but according to what you teach me from the attitude of the French embassy when one evokes the memory of the Jewish children assassinated with the complicity of the authorities of the time, I realise that the memory is really diluted very easily and which that opens the door with other massacres innocent whatever their origin.

IT is thus with emotion and gratitude that I want to send this small message to you.

I am now 77-years-old and I nevertheless live the every day with the weight of this past on the shoulders, softened by happiness to see reviving my parents, and at the same time as them, I hope to make revive all those of which nobody any more speaks. PS: Sorry for my very bad English!"

It would be hard to find more moving words than these, a conscious belief that the dead can be recalled in their own words along with that immensely generous remembrance of other innocents who have died in other massacres.

And that extraordinary image of the "dilution of memory" carries its own message. This, of course, is what Haj Amin suffered from. Papon, too, I imagine, before they buried the terrible old man last week. (© Independent News

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