Robert O. Paxton on Bad Faith: A Forgotten History of Family, Fatherland and Vichy France by Carmen Callil and The Unfree French: Life Under the Occupation by Richard Vinen, in the New York Review of Books:
In August 1978, an enterprising French journalist, Philippe Ganier-Raymond, tracked down a nearly forgotten eighty-one-year-old French exile in Madrid named Louis Darquier de Pellepoix and cajoled him into conversation. Ganier-Raymond had brought along a tape recorder concealed in a fan.
The resulting interview was published in the French newsweekly L’Express on October 28, 1978, under a sensational title: “At Auschwitz They Gassed Only Lice.” Louis Darquier (the “de Pellepoix” was fake, like a great deal else in his life) had been the Vichy French government’s second commissioner for Jewish affairs between May 1942 and February 1944.
Darquier’s unrepentant diatribe was, in the words of historian Henry Rousso, a “trigger” that set off one of those periodic national shouting matches that have, since the early 1970s, driven forward an enduring French fascination with the Vichy regime. Darquier’s outrageous words had multiple ef-fects. They helped place French anti-Semitism at the center of debates about Vichy, a position which that subject has never lost, at some cost to historiographical balance. They gave a decisive boost to the efforts of French lawyer and Nazi-hunter Serge Klarsfeld to bring some responsible Vichy French officials to justice, in formal recognition of Vichy’s complicity in the deportation of Jews from France.