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France: Council of State Acknowledges Responsibility of French State in WWII Deportation of Jews

(Mar. 2, 2009) On February 16, 2009, the French Council of State, France's highest administrative court, issued an advisory opinion on the responsibility of the French State in the deportation of Jews resulting from anti-semitic persecution during World War II. The Paris Administrative Court had sought the Council's opinion to rule on a reparation claim filed by the daughter of a deportee who died at Auschwitz.

The Council found that the state bore responsibility because its actions, which did not result from direct coercion from the occupying force, permitted or facilitated the deportation from France of victims of anti-semitic persecution. The Council specifically addressed the arrests, internments, and convoying to transit camps that were the first steps towards deportation to the camps where the victims were later exterminated. The Council stated:

In an absolute break with the values and principles, notably of dignity of the human person consecrated by the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen and by the republican tradition, these anti-Semitic persecutions resulted in exceptional damage of extreme gravity … . 76,000 persons, including 11,000 children, were deported from France on the sole ground that they were regarded as Jewish by the legislation of the de facto authority calling itself the “government of the French State,” and fewer than 3,000 came back from the camps.

The Council, however, further noted that “the State has already taken a series of measures, such as pensions, allowances, aid or remedies” to compensate the victims. It found that these measures have compensated, insofar as it is possible, for the damage caused. (Avis du Conseil d'Etat, Assemblée du contentieux sur le rapport de la section du contentieux Séance du 6 février 2009 Lecture du 16 février 2009, No. 315499, (last visited Feb. 23, 2009).)