Symbol of France's Nazi collaboration dies





PARIS -- Maurice Papon, a former Cabinet minister who was convicted of complicity in crimes against humanity for his role in deporting Jews during World War II and became a symbol of France's collaboration with the Nazis, died Saturday. He was 96.

Papon, who underwent surgery on his pacemaker at a clinic east of Paris last week, died in his sleep on Saturday, said his lawyer, Francis Vuillemin.

Papon was the highest-ranking Frenchman to be convicted for a role in the pro-Nazi Vichy regime.

The April 2, 1998, guilty verdict was the culmination of a trial that offered a painful look at one of the darkest periods in modern French history.

However, Papon -- who at one point fled France to avoid prison -- lived out his final years a free man, released from Paris' dour La Sante prison on Sept. 18, 2002, because of failing health.

In a February 2001 letter to the justice minister, Papon said he had neither "regrets nor remorse for a crime I did not commit and for which I am in no way an accomplice."


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