(East wing of building 14, on the third floor)
“French Law and Crimes against Humanity: The Crooked Path of Memory and Justice” For more than three decades the French have attempted to come to terms with the crimes and criminal moments in the nation’s recent past through highly visible trials on charges of crimes against humanity of the Nazi Klaus Barbie and two Vichy officials Paul Touvier and Maurice Papon in the late 1980s and 1990s, and through the passage of the so-called “memorial laws,” beginning with the Gayssot Law in 1990. What began as an often problematic legal effort to do justice to unpunished perpetrators and accomplices of the Nazi Final Solution has expanded to become an indictment of events and practices on a global scale that according critics, criminalize French and also European history and endanger the historian seeking to establish historical truth. This talk will examine the evolution of and interconnections between the trials and “memorial laws,” and conclude with a discussion of the problematic interaction between history and the law in France when crimes against humanity are at issue.
Richard J. Golsan is University Distinguished Professor and Distinguished Professor of French. His research interests include the history and memory of World War II in France and Europe and the political involvements of French and European writers and intellectuals with anti-democratic and extremist politics in the 20th and 21st centuries. His most recent book is French Writers and the Politics of Complicity (Johns Hopkins, 2006). Golsan served as a Visiting Professor at the University of Paris III-Sorbonne Nouvelle in 2001. He has been recognized by the Italian government in being named to the Ordina Della Stella Della Solidarieta Italiana and by the French government by being awarded the Palmes Academiques. He has served as Editor of the South Central Review (SCMLA) since 1994, and is also Director of the France/TAMU a Centre Pluridisciplinaire,funded by the French government.
Golsan is currently at work on a book-length study entitled Corruptions of Memory: Crises of Post-Holocaust Remembrance in Contemporary France. In summer 2012, he will co-direct with Henry Rousso an NEH Summer Seminar for College and University Teachers on the problem of memory in contemporary France. The Seminar will take place in June and July at the Institute for Contemporary History (IHTP) in Paris.