From French resistance to Holocaust denial - Roger Garaudy dies at 98
Roger Garaudy, the philosopher and Communist resistant who became a holocaust denier and Muslim convert, has died near Paris at the age of 98. From being a classic French left-wing intellectual and Communist MP, he became a political outcast after publishing a book which claimed that Nazi war crimes were invented to justify the existence of Israel.
Born into a Protestant family, Garaudy went to university to study philosophy, became a Marxist and joined the French Communist Party (PCF) in the 1930s.
Called up when Germany invaded France in 1939, he fought in the Somme then returned to the Tarn region of the
south of France, where he was arrested and sent to a prison camp in Algeria after the French rout by the German army.
In Algeria he joined the resistance to Marshal Philippe Pétain’s collaborationist regime and became a member of the PCF’s leading body, the central committee, after liberation in 1945.
After the war he served as a Communist deputy in the National Assembly and later the Senate, while becoming one of the party’s most prominent intellectuals.
He also taught philosophy at the University of Clermont-Ferrand, where he fell out with another activist-philosopher, Michel Foucault, leading him to ask for a transfer to Poitiers.
His breach with the party came after the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, which he criticised as did a number of other party members, leading to his association with groups to the left of the party and his expulsion in 1970.
He first converted to Catholicism, only to become a Muslim in 1982.
Even then he fell out with his principal mentor, the Saudi sheikh Bin Baz, who declared him a “hypocrite” and an “unbeliever”.
But the most notorious event of his life was yet to come.
Already in 1982 his miltant anti-Zionisim led him to compare Zionism to Nazism.
In the 1990s he published The Founding myths of Israeli politics, which argued, among a number of other controversial claims, that Hitler had ordered the deportation and not the extermination of the Jews and that typhus, not gas chambers, was responsible for the deaths of Jews in Nazi concentration camps.
After an outcry in the press, Garaudy was prosecuted under France’s tough laws against
inciting racial hatred and denying crimes against humanity, to be found guilty in 1998.
He appealed against the judgement at every possible level but lost each time, with the final verdict from the European Court of Human Rights declaring that he had received a fair trial.
Garaudy died in Chennevières, in the Marne valley east of Paris, at the age of 98.