Historian's Nazi expose rejected

October 25, 1996

A review published under the auspices of the ministry of the economy and finance has rejected a scholarly article on links between French firms and the Nazi war machine.

The rejection came last year, but Toulouse University historian Anne Lacroix-Riz did not make the issue public then because of a "sense of university propriety" and because she had been advised that her career could suffer if she "caused a stir". She changed her mind after a left-wing Catholic journal brought her article to light, which prompted several negationists (who deny that the Holocaust ever took place) to write anonymously to Ms Lacroix-Rix.

In the most sensitive passage of the article for Etudes et Documents, Ms Lacroix-Riz queries the involvement of the French chemicals group Ugine in the war and suggests the 15-fold increase in the capital of one of its subsidiaries between 1941 and 1943 was for the production of Zyklon B, used in the gas chambers.

Officially the firm, a partner of a German company whose group produced Zyklon B, was supplying insecticide. Ms Lacroix-Riz argues that the arrival of German technicians and the "disproportionate escalation" of production could not be accounted for by demand for an insecticide.

Ms Lacroix-Riz, a Communist party member, has had trouble publishing her work before. A book on the Vatican's pro-German policy, Vatican, l'Europe et le Reich, is finally being released this month after ten years' delay.

Ms Lacroix-Riz's analysis of the attitude of French industry during the occupation differs from that of most French historians, who tend to believe that there is a large grey area between the extremes of collaboration and resistance. Her view is that the French economic elite foresaw long-term economic domination of Europe by the Reich and acted in that perspective.

The argument over French attitudes and wartime complicity is complicated, however, by restricted access to the relevant archives.

Ms Lacroix-Riz's research is based mainly on German, British and American archives. Six members of the journal's review committee rejected her article. In a response to the journal, published by the Communist party paper l'Humanite, review committee historian Maurice Levy-Leboyer advised against publication because of the "risk" implied for other researchers wanting to use national archives.

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