The trial of Maurice Papon in the assize court of Bordeaux over the winter of
1997-1998 was noteworthy for several reasons. In the first place, the crimes
for which he was charged had been committed more than half a century before
the trial began. Papon was widely portrayed as an arch-example of a
bureaucratic criminal: one who from the remoteness of an administrative
office had contributed to immoral or inhuman policies out of indifference or
personal advancement. The puzzle surrounding Papon's motives is
illustrated by examining briefly his early life in order to see what values
prevailed up to the time of Vichy. The trial ended on 1 April 1998, and on 2
April the jury found Papon guilty on 430 of the 768 counts. For this he was
sentenced to ten years' imprisonment suspended pending appeal.
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