On November 4, 1978, with the best intentions in the world, the weekly L’Express published an interview with Darquier de Pellepoix, former Commissioner General for Jewish Affairs in the Petain government.
Readers may remember that Darquier was appointed to this post as successor to another professional anti-Semite, Xavier Vallat, whom the Occupation authorities had found insufficiently effective. Subsequently, Darquier was sentenced to death, in absentia; he tranquilly whiled away some 20 years in Madrid, where he was protected by the Franco regime and, according to his own statement, enjoyed amicable relations with the French Embassy. Although a commentary accompanied his remarks in L’Express, many people questioned the usefulness of their being published at all. One distinguished contributor to the magazine, Raymond Aron, had been away when the interview appeared, and upon his return stated that he would not have favored its publication.
Darquier’s anti-Semitic remarks contained a degree of violence that over the years had almost been forgotten. Their impact has been considerable, in that they have reinforced the anti-Semitic current that is manifest in French society; also, because of their violence, they came as something of a surprise.
No one should entertain any illusions: French anti-Semitism has never died, any more than have other forms of racism directed against blacks or Arabs, for example. However, in the postwar years it was difficult
for anti-Semites to vent their feelings freely. Any excesses were looked on with disfavor even by anti-Semites, who did not want to be associated with memories of the atrocious racial crimes committed during the war. But years have passed, indignation has had time to subside, and today one has the impression that somehow anti-Semites have been waiting for a sign to resume their activities—overtly, that is. So, as soon as they observed that they could speak openly—though at the price of some protest—and even could congratulate themselves on what had been done to Jews during the Occupation and that it was possible with impunity to comment that in Auschwitz “they killed nothing but lice,” they realized that a page had been turned, that the time had come—or, rather, returned—when they could again speak out.