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BOOK REVIEW: ‘Bad Faith’ Reminds Us How Anti-Semitic Many French Were in 1930s, WW II; Catholic Hierarchy Force Behind Jew Hatred, Anti-Freemasonry in Fascist Vichy Regime

Posted by kinchendavid on October 15, 2006

By David M. Kinchen
Huntington News Network Book Critic

Hinton, WV   – I don’t envy the John Le Carres, Frederick Forsyths, Robert Harrises and Len Deightons of the literary world, trying to come up with characters for their political thrillers that even come close to matching the real thing. Carmen Callil has crafted a nonfiction thriller in “Bad Faith: A Forgotten History of Family, Fatherland and Vichy France” (Knopf, $30.00, 640 pages, illustrations, maps, notes, bibliography, appendixes, index) that reminds us that the Germans weren’t alone in their efforts to wipe out the Jews of what British historian Mark Mazower has aptly called “The Dark Continent” – Europe.

Vichy France – named for the spa city which served as its capital – was more like Franco’s Spain than Hitler’s Germany, in Callil’s assessment. It is necessary to remember that although he was anti-Semitic in the conservative Roman Catholic tradition, Francisco Franco never participated in the Holocaust. Franco did provide sanctuary for many French war criminals, including Louis Darquier (1897-1980), a rabid anti-Semite and “Commissioner for Jewish Affairs” for the Vichy collaborationist regime from 1942 to 1944.

Movie fans will remember the regime from “Casablanca” (1943) set in a French Morocco ruled by Vichy before the Allied Invasion of North Africa. Real movie buffs will recall a marvelous documentary by filmmaker Marcel Ophuls called “Le Chagrin et la pitie” (“The Sorrow and the Pity”) depicting life in the Vichy French town of Clermont-Ferrand, focusing on French participation in the Holocaust. Clermont-Ferrand is the hometown of Blaise Pascal and the founders of the Michelin tire firm and is the headquarters of Michelin.

The 1970, 270-minute film (it’s the best documentary ever made in the view of many critics – and in my opinion) was how Callil, born in Australia in 1938 and living in London when she met Dr. Anne Darquier, made the connection between her therapist – Anne Darquier — who was only eight years older than Callil and the Holocaust. In a true tale that sounds stranger than fiction, Carmen Callil, founder in 1972 of the Virago Press and later managing director of Chatto & Windus, an English publisher, learned of Anne Darquier’s connection with Vichy France from watching “The Sorrow and the Pity” in London.

In the film, Darquier meets Reinhard Heydrich, whom many consider the Nazi behind the “Final Solution” that led to the extermination of 6 million human beings of the Jewish faith and millions more who were gypsies, Communists, Jehovah’s Witnesses and – yes—Masons. The French, driven by Catholic hatred of a competing cult, were fiercely against Freemasonry and Darquier shared this prejudice. The meeting took place in May 1942; Heydrich was assassinated in Prague on June 4, 1942. The Germans massacred the entire town of Lidice, Czechoslovakia in reprisal for the assassination of Heydrich, born in 1904 and rumored to have had a Jewish grandparent. Heydrich was dubbed the “Blond Beast” and “The Hangman” by his fellow Nazis.

In many ways, Vichy France, led by World War I military hero Marshal Henri-Philippe Petain, was what Catholics considered payback time for the turn of the 20th Century Dreyfus affair, which led to anticlericalism and the separation of Church (the Catholic variety) and the French state in 1905.

Those who defend the Catholic Church – an extreme branch of which claims Mel Gibson’s dad Hutton Gibson – for its actions and inactions in the 1930s and 1940s do not include author Callil. She blames the hierarchy of the Church, including Pope Pius XII, and the entire top rank of French Catholic bishops and cardinals. She says that many parish priests and ordinary French gave sanctuary to Jews – many as a way of protesting the hated Vichy Regime and the many French who collaborated with the Germans. It was probably more a case of hatred of Germans and collaborators than any love of Jews in a France where anti-Semitism persists to this day, despite the murder of at least 75,000 French Jews – including many young children – in the death camps of Germany and Poland or the French concentration camps like Drancy.

Ironically, Callil points out, it was Charles de Gaulle – whom the Vichy government had sentenced to death  – who helped create the myth of widespread French participation in resistance to the German occupiers. The reality, portrayed beginning with Ophuls’ film and other works, is that many more French collaborated than resisted. Collaborators included the families behind the Coty and L’Oreal cosmetics firms, Coco Chanel, and the Taittinger champagne family, as well as many French authors including Celine, Callil points out. Many French actors and authors, including Jean-Paul Sartre, born in 1905, continued to work during the German occupation. This couldn’t have occurred without some form of collaboration.

Anne Darquier was born in London in 1930, from the union of two phonies, Louis Darquier, from the southwestern French city of Cahors, and Myrtle Marian Jones, a native of the Australian state of Tasmania, who had married the ne’er do-well Frenchman a few years before. Myrtle Jones had been married before to an actor and was a minor actress and singer herself. Only after her death in the 1970s did Louis Darquier learn that she was four years older than Darquier. Like Darquier, who appropriated the aristocratic name de Pellepoix without any claim to it, Myrtle was a poseur and a snob.

The couple placed their young daughter in the care of an English nanny, who raised Anne more or less as her own child. Basically, they abandoned the young girl. Thanks to her persistence and moral support from her extended English “family,” Anne Darquier went on to graduate from Oxford University and qualify as a physician at London’s famed St. Bartholomew’s Hospital. She was a popular and successful therapist who attracted a worshipful following among her patients – including author Carmen Callil.

“Bad Faith,” which owes its title to a passage from “The Drowned and the Saved” by Italian holocaust survivor Primo Levi (“To keep good and bad faith distinct costs a lot; it requires a decent sincerity and truthfulness with oneself, it demands a continuous intellectual and moral effort. How can such an effort be expected from men like Darquier?”) is a multi-layered biography of the entire Darquier family, including the conflicted and tormented Anne. Callil had been seeing Anne for several years when, in 1970, she learned of the death of a woman she credits with saving her life and giving it focus. The death of the 40-year-old physician was ruled accidental, but it was probably a “slow suicide” for the tormented woman, Callil surmises.

Louis Darquier served in the French army in both World Wars and was briefly a POW in 1940, after the French signed an armistice with the Germans. (France was the only nation defeated by Germany in WWII that signed an armistice – mirroring the Nov. 11, 1918 one with the Germans). He was released, largely because the Germans saw him a useful player in their extermination of the Jews of Europe. He had been in the pay of the Germans before the war and was active in the many anti-Jewish organizations of the Third Republic – many of them – like Action Francaise and Croix-de-feu – funded and favored by the Catholic Church of France.

In her description of the looting of French Jewish art collections and other institutions by both Vichy and Nazi Germany, Callil relies heavily on “The Rape of Europa” by Lynn H. Nicholas, a seminal 1995 work. Earlier this year I reviewed a moving book by Lynn Nicholas called “Cruel World” (Knopf, 2006) dealing with the fate of children “caught in the Nazi web.” Callil’s description of French Jewish families torn apart by the Germans and their French collaborators is moving in the extreme. More and more, I think that if there is a God, he has turned the planet Earth into his own private insane asylum. Reading books like Callil’s and the two Nicholas works and Jan Gross’s “Fear” (Knopf, 2006) – also reviewed on this site this past summer – certainly reinforces that feeling in me.

Darquier was everything he falsely accused Jews of being: Corrupt, greedy, sexually promiscuous and exploitive, grasping for power and money. He owed his survival in 1944 to his resemblance with another monocle-wearing Frenchman, who was assassinated during the brief French civil war following Liberation in the summer of 1944, after D-Day. Thousands of Frenchmen and Frenchwomen were killed after Liberation and many – like Darquier – managed to escape to Franco’s Spain. Louis and Myrtle Darquier lived in Madrid, where he survived by working as a translator, helping promote tourism in Spain. He had limited contact with Anne Darquier after the war and Anne refused to meet with her half sister Teresa, born of a liaison between the womanizing Darquier and a much younger Frenchwoman.

Carmen Callil’s “Bad Faith,” published last year in England by Jonathan Cape, an imprint of Random House, is a magnificent, moving, well-documented book that deserves wide readership. I’ve recommended it to all my friends. It would form the basis for a wonderful follow-up documentary to “The Sorrow and the Pity.” If this book is optioned for a movie, Australian actress Nicole Kidman could be a wonderful Anne Darquier, who after all, was half-Australian.

Publisher’s web site: http://www.aaknopf.com

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