Nazi collaborator Maurice Papon dies

Associated Press
Published February 18, 2007

PARIS - Maurice Papon, a former Cabinet minister who was convicted of complicity in crimes against humanity for his role in deporting Jews during World War II, died Saturday. He was 96.

Papon, who underwent surgery on his pacemaker last week, died in his sleep Saturday, said his lawyer, Francis Vuillemin.

Papon was the highest-ranking Frenchman to be convicted for a role in the pro-Nazi Vichy regime.

The April 2, 1998, guilty verdict was the culmination of a trial that offered a look at a dark periods in modern French history.

Papon lived out his final years a free man, released from Paris' La Sante prison on Sept. 18, 2002, because of failing health.

Papon served only three years of a 10-year sentence for ordering the arrest and deportation of 1,690 Jews, including 223 children, from the Bordeaux area to Nazi death camps.

During the war, Papon held the No. 2 post in Bordeaux's Gironde region from 1942-44.

After the war, Papon enjoyed a brilliant political career. He rose to become Paris police chief in 1958. He was named budget minister in 1978 and kept the post until 1981.

It took 16 more years to bring the case against Papon to court in France.

While found guilty of complicity, Papon was absolved of guilt in the deaths of the Jewish deportees, most of whom perished at Auschwitz. The jury accepted the defense argument that Papon was not aware of the Nazi plan to exterminate Jews.