Bursting The Taittinger's Bubble

By New York Sun | by Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld
Wednesday, December 31st, 2003 @ 8:12PM

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It took 50 years after the war ended for President Chirac to issue an apology for France’s actions against the Jews during the Vichy government and the German occupation. As we are witnessing today, anti-Jewish sentiments have not disappeared.

The current role of the French press in France’s growing anti-Semitism is similar to the part that the French press played before and during World War II, especially newspapers that were controlled by Pierre Taittinger.

In 1943, in Le Journal de Saintes, the well-known champagne maker and hotelier called for “the creation of a new European order upon which France.must work in close collaboration with Germany.” At the same year, his papers celebrated both the 10th anniversary of Adolf Hitler’s rise to power and Hitler’s 54th birthday. His papers also carried advertisements proclaiming “Germany will prevail, France will, and Europe will unite through work,” as well as “For a clean France rid of Jews and Freemasons.” Clearly, French anti-Semitism is nothing new, but now it is coupled with strong anti-American sentiments.

This latest wave of French anti-Semitism, which began after the September 11 terrorist attacks, has risen to at least 30 physical anti-Semitic attacks a week against Jews and Jewish institutions. This, according to French officials, is happening mostly because of Israel’s and America’s foreign policies regarding the Palestinians, the war in Iraq, and the war on terrorism.

On November 18, 2003, after a series of arson attacks on Jewish establishments, including schools, President Chirac summoned a special Cabinet meeting and issued a statement saying that “the French Republic can tolerate no anti-Semitic acts, and schools more than any other place, must be a place of tolerance and respect.” What about other institutions? What about individual Jews? The perpetrators of the violence against the Jews have been identified by the French government as mostly Muslim immigrants. However, government officials excuse these attacks, claiming that Israel’s policies with regard to the Palestinians are the cause. Clearly, these attacks could have not escalated over the last two years without the tacit complicity of the French authorities.

Although, in 1791, France was the first country in Europe to extend citizenship to Jews, it is also the country that falsely convicted Captain Alfred Dreyfus for treason, and which used forced labor to produce champagne for the German occupation forces during the Second World War. The Vichy government was behind the October 1940 laws, prohibiting Jews from holding public offices and almost all professions; it was behind the laws permitting the “Aryanization” of Jewish property; and was behind the decision to eliminate 30,000 to 60,000 Jewish soldiers from its military ranks, imprisoning them or sending them to labor camps where they were kept until most were deported by the Germans to Auschwitz in August 1942. It was also the Vichy government that turned over tens of thousands of foreign Jews to the Germans and sent tens of thousands more as forced laborers to Germany.

Altogether, 90,000 out of 350,000 French Jews were exterminated. According to documents in French archives, Taittinger, who was well off before the war, become a titan through his involvement in the despoilment of Jews and the Aryanization of Jewish property. Correspondence between Taittinger and the German Occupation authorities reveal that throughout the war, until February 1944, he used his political connections with the commissioner of the General Commissions for Jewish Affairs not only to enrich himself, but also to recommend that his friends and family be given Jewish property.

Taittinger wrote letters to the general commissioner suggesting that his brother-in-law, Louis Burnouf, who “was looking for a managing position in Jewish businesses, [would be] able to obtain something interesting in the near future.” The general commissioner complied by handing over 27 Jewish companies to Taittinger’s brother-in-law. Taittinger also obtained the Aryanized 1930s famous Art Deco beach-front Hotel Martinez in Cannes, which is still controlled by the holding company he established, Soci←t← du Louvre.

Through this holding company, Taittinger interests include luxury and economy hotels, restaurants, banking and crystal (Baccarat), and 83% of Domaine Carneros, which owns 175 acres in California’s Napa and Sonoma valleys, controlling 57% of the voting stock.

Since drinking champagne was extremely important for the German occupation forces,Taittinger was able to obtain forced French labor to facilitate the production of this beverage throughout the war. According to his son, Claude, “My father, Pierre Taittinger, was more than just a universally admired politician. Over the years he became a confirmed follower of a certain lifestyle in keeping with his well-recognized cordiality.”

Is there anything we can do to change the French deep-seated resentments? Probably not much. Banning Jewish students from wearing yarmulkes in class will not reduce anti-Semitism. The best signal and the only proof that France no longer tolerates anti-Semitism, would be when, instead of merely making statements, Mr. Chirac enforces a policy of harsh penalties for those who commit anti-Semitic acts.

Ms. Ehrenfeld is the author of “Funding Evil: How Terrorism is Financed – and How to Stop It” (2003), and is the director of the New York-based American Center for Democracy( retrived from http://www.public-integrity.org/articles/publications47.htm )

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