November 9th, 2009 Headsman
On this date in 1944, the restored French Republic shot the editor of the collaborationist newspaper Aujourd’hui (Today).
Suarez‘s (linked page in French) writings (French again) had endorsed the German occupation and called for steps even beyond what the Germans were prepared to take: the wholesale taking of Anglo hostages as proof against Allied bombing raids, for instance.
His trial and execution were the first of many suffered by pro-Vichy writers and journalists condemned by the vengeful free French courts for their part in the Nazi occupation, especially in the first months after liberation. The public intellectuals of the wartime government were, as a matter of fact, in the dock faster than the government itself.
Writers were easy to try. Their files, crumbling now, are rather thin: clippings of their articles from the collaborationist press, underlined in red and blue ink with an occasional commentary; a report by the prefecture of police outlining their political affiliations and behavior during the Occupation; a list of witnesses called by the defense and the prosecution; interviews of the accused, before the trial, going over the charges against him; letters from friends — and enemies — sent to the judge before the trial. It was easier to organize a case against a journalist than a case against a common-law criminal or a financial collaborator. The bulk of the evidence was in newspaper clippings, quickly compiled.
“Treason is a matter of dates,” Suarez’ lawyer averred, channeling Talleyrand. But at this early date of freedom, not six months after Omaha Beach had been wrenched from German hands, there was much less sympathy for the philosophic vagaries of history than some subsequent writers would enjoy — and there was a good deal of indictable behavior:
Whether they faced the charge of treason or of national indignity, the writers were accused of having espoused numerous elements of Nazi ideology: anti-communism; anti-Semitism; support for the releve (the system designed to send French workers to Germany in exchange for French POWs); support for the Milice (Vichy’s police force); support for the German and French troops fighting the Soviets on the Eastern front; attacks against de Gaulle and the Resistance; participation in collaborationist organizations; trips to Germany during the Occupation, in particular to the International Writers’ Congress at Weimar in 1941.
In addition to its noteworthy history in the postwar purge of journalists, Kaplan reports that Suarez’s trial may also have been the first in French history for which women were eligible to serve as jurors — although none of the women in the jury pool were ultimately seated, and the milestone seems not to have been widely noticed even at the time.
The execution itself was badly botched: Suarez is said to have survived both the initial fusillade and a second barrage from the firing squad before a third round finished him off.
On this day..
- 1940: Julian Zugazagoitia, Minister of the Interior to republican Spain - 2016
- 1945: Charles Ford Silliman, suicide pact? - 2015
- 2011: Luo Yaping, "land granny" - 2014
- 1942: Eddie Leonski, the Brownout Strangler - 2013
- 1848: Robert Blum, German democrat - 2012
- 1842: Stephen Brennan, desperate bushranger - 2011
- Themed Set: Bushrangers - 2011
- 1610: Blessed George Napier - 2010
- 2008: The Bali Bombers - 2008
- 1911: Charles Justice - 2007
Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Activists,Botched Executions,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,France,History,Intellectuals,Milestones,Notable Jurisprudence,Occupation and Colonialism,Popular Culture,Shot,Treason,Wartime Executions