Friday, January 13, 2012

How music appeared as a defence witness


Chance uncovers a unique example of music being used in the defence of a war criminal. Many visitors arrived On An Overgrown Path yesterday following the airing of Nazi Hunters - Paul Touvier on History Television in the States. Search engines had directed them to my January 2010 article which uncovered links between French war criminal Touvier and the singer Jacques Brel, who is seen above. By coincidence as History Television was bringing Touvier to the attention of many in the States a book on the same subject arrived here in Norfolk from Seattle.

It is a volume I had tracked down online following a recommendation from a reader who had read my recent article about the continuing activities of the Society of Saint Pius X, the traditionalist Catholic group that had harboured Touvier for sixteen years before his arrest in 1989. Memory, the Holocaust, and French Justice edited by Richard J. Golsan is a valuable academic study of the flawed prosecution by the French judiciary of Touvier and of Vichy police chief and friend of President Mitterand René Bousquet. The book confirms what I had already uncovered about links between Touvier and Brel and adds some fresh information.

My 2010 article explained how a song titled Voir appeared on an album compiled by Touvier and released on Philips in 1967 to benefit a Catholic charity. At his trial in 1994 Touvier was defended by Jacques Trémolet de Villers. As well being a lawyer Trémolet de Villers is president of the Catholic fundamentalist group La Cité Catholique and is a monarchist and far-right activist. Memory, the Holocaust, and French Justice recounts how at the trial Trémolet de Villers claimed that Brel had written Voir, with its lyrics "To see a ruffian and try to love him...See the eternal enemy and try to forget" as a tribute to Touvier. Fortunately the jury was not moved and Touvier was convicted of crimes against humanity for his part in the 1944 murder of seven Jews and a human rights activist. It also appears that in his attempt to love a war criminal Trémolet de Villers had tried to forget the facts. Radio France dates the composition of Voir at 1958, while Brel was closely associated with Touvier from 1968 to 1971.

* Video of Jacques Brel singing Voir here.

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