Independent online - Nazi Hunters TV -
The death of the former Vichy official Paul Touvier in a Paris prison will inevitably reopen the debates about the Nazi occupation of France, especially the ambivalent role played by the Catholic Church.
Surveying his pre-1940 career, there is little surprise that Touvier should have been drawn to Vichy. Born near Nice in 1915, he was part of a fiercely Catholic and anti-Republican family. Already displaying anti- Semitic prejudice, in 1936 he joined the extreme right-wing Parti Social Francais. In 1939 he was enlisted into the army, and saw service in Norway where he was wounded. Disorientated by shell-shock, he was suspected of desertion and only narrowly escaped prosecution, his first brush with French justice.
On returning to France, he joined the newly created Legion Francais des Combattants, a servicemen’s organisation which was designed to propagate Vichy’s National Revolution values of ‘travail, famille, patrie’, and keep a close watch on subversive behaviour. As public disenchantment with Vichy grew and resistance became more widespread, the Legion moved in a more sinister direction and established a paramilitary wing, the Service d’Ordre Legionnaire. In 1943, under the guidance of the distinguished First World War hero Joseph Darnand, the SOL became the infamous Milice Francaise. In its brief existence, it recruited some 30,000 young toughs whose job it was to help the Germans root out resisters, Jews and those fleeing Vichy’s compulsory work service in the Reich.
Dedicated to the Nazi cause and imbued with a hatred of Bolshevism, Touvier had no compunction in serving both the SOL and the Milice. He became head of the intelligence and operations sections of the Milice in Savoy, and then in the Rhone, where he worked alongside Klaus Barbie, ‘the butcher of Lyons’. Touvier soon earned a similar sobriquet, ‘the hangman of Lyons’, and in January 1944 was involved in the murder of Victor Basch, the former president of the Human Rights League which in the 1890s had rallied to the defence of Dreyfus, the Jewish army captain falsely accused of treason. Independent online article 20 July 1996, Obituary: Paul Touvier
Paris, France, March 1988: the Second World War had been over for forty-three years. Yet France’s most notorious war criminal was still at large. He was a Nazi collaborator who murdered Jews and French Resistance fighters alike: Paul Touvier. Now a high-ranking detective was given the task of hunting him down. Nazi Hunters: Paul Touvier
There was a long-standing rumour going around that Paul Touvier had been sheltered by far-right elements within the French Catholic Church. ibid.
Touvier worked closely with the notorious Klaus Barbie. Barbie was known as the Butcher of Lyon; and Touvier the Hangman of Lyon. ibid.
The French detectives raced through the night. They were speeding to a monastery in Nice. After more than a year their hunt for Paul Touvier was entering the end game. ibid.
After more than four decades on the run Nazi collaborator Paul Touvier was cornered. ibid.