Thursday, December 7, 2006

Letter to Robert Fisk

Mr. Robert Fisk
The Independent

Dear Mr. Fisk:

In reading your December 2 review in The Independent of Irène Némirovsky’s Suite Française, I was struck by your suggestion that the French government was at work in Vienna recently censoring the fact that over 11,000 Jewish children were handed over to the Nazis for extermination under Pétain’s administration.

You don’t provide your sources, but I managed to locate both what I take to be the Vienna Jewish Film Festival’s blurb on the film La Mémoire des Enfants and the French Embassy’s shorter version with the reference to the number of children removed.

“But imagine Mr Draschen's rage,” you write,

"…when he discovered that the French embassy in Vienna, which hosted the film's premiere, deleted the following sentence from its programme: "11,400 Jewish children from France were handed over to the Nazis by the French authorities and murdered at Auschwitz."

"Why, in God's name, was this act of censorship permitted? President Jacques Chirac recognised in 1995 that the French state was responsible for the deportation of the Jews, but somehow the Quai d'Orsay seems to have missed out on this. Certainly the staff of the French Institute in Vienna didn't get the message. Should they be sent a complimentary copy of Némirovsky's agonisingly tragic novel? Or just an invitation to the next mass for the late Marshal Philippe Pétain of France?"

I won’t quibble that there are many in France, and no doubt in the French government, who are slow to fess up to the shameful behavior of many in France under the Vichy regime, and no doubt anti-semitism is alive and well in France.

But it seems to me if you’re going to document those claims, you need to be careful to do it accurately. And get Draschan’s name right, as well.

Where is your evidence here that the editing in the embassy piece was anything more than limiting publicity to information about the film event itself? Or that this is a decision by a single member of the clerical staff and not the Quai d’Orsay? After all, if the embassy is pointing people toward the film and the film festival, does this suggest they are in the business of covering up French history?

If my sources below are not in fact the sources to which you refer, I stand corrected. If they are, you’re not giving the French an even break. You’re too good at what you do to make irresponsible potshots like this.

With best wishes from a devoted reader,

Alan McCornick
Berkeley, California, USA

Französische Botschaft
Währingerstraße 32
A-1090 Wien


No comments: