French Nazi collaborators to be exposed as official reports published online
Thousands of French people who collaborated with the Nazis during World War II are set to be unmasked as official reports from the era are finally made public.
All of the files will be scanned and published online.
They include information passed on to the Gestapo by those who lived during the Occupation of 1940 to 1944.
Since the Liberation of Paris all have been kept hidden in cardboard boxes in the basement of the Police Museum in the French capital.
‘They include notes from interrogations, as well as information passed on to the authorities willingly,’ said a museum spokesman.
‘All of it will now be easily available.’
The released archive will include every police log from stations across France, as well as details of every arrest, fine and interview.
They will shed new light on the work of the Gestapo across France.
The files will also illuminate the role of the Brigade Speciale (Special Brigade), which tracked down resistance fighters and other ‘enemies’ of the Nazi regime.
All of the paper work is officially protected by an official 75-year classification order issued by the post-war government.
But work has already started on digitalising them, as the 1940 material will all be publicly available in 2015, with the rest to follow over the next four years.
Until now it was always thought that the increasingly faded, dog-eared documents would remain in their boxes, available only to a few historians and civil servants.
But the French government believed that ‘complete openness’ would be a better policy, said a spokesman for the national archive.
At least 77,000 Jews were deported to their deaths from French transit camps between 1942 and the end of German occupation in December 1944.
Of these, around a third were French citizens and more than 8,000 were children under 13.
The French police, led by the sinister Rene Bosquet, played a particularly important in this work.
SS boss Heinrich Himmer described the Frenchman as a ‘precious collaborator within the framework of police collaboration.’
He was in charge of the police during the notorious Battle of Marseilles in 1943, when men, women and children were all rounded up by their fellow countrymen, and then taken away to be tortured and killed.
Like thousands of other French people, Bosquet initially managed to disguise his crimes after the war and – incredibly – was not brought to justice until many years later.
He was finally shot dead on June 8th 1993, just before his trial for crimes against humanity was due to begin.
In a dramatic ruling last year, the Council of State – France’s highest judicial body - said the Vichy government of the period held 'responsibility' for deportations.
It ruled that Nazi officials did not force the French to betray their fellow citizens, but that anti-Semitic persecution was carried out willingly.
But until now many of those involved in this grisly work – or their descendants - have been able to keep their record secret.
Paris officials will begin scanning the thousands of hidden documents this summer.
Some of the papers are of extremely poor quality, or even altered by those concerned about what people will find out about their wartime conduct.
In 1995, the then French President Jacques Chirac spoke for the first time about his country’s responsibility in the deportation of Jewish people, putting an end to decades of ambiguity by successive governments.
'These dark hours forever sully our history and are an insult to our past and our traditions,' said Mr Chirac.
'Yes, the criminal folly of the occupiers was seconded by the French, by the French state.'
Despite the passing of time, wartime bitterness lingers on in France, which is only slowly coming to terms with its collaborationist past.
Today France has western Europe's largest Jewish community of around 500,000.