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June 27, 1969 - Image 9

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1969-06-27

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MedieV- allim Strikes Frerial Community

(1Cotninued from Page 1)
It seemed clear that the basic
Idea was supplied by a French
sex-and-crime magazine, Noir et
Blanc, which a few weeks ago
printed a similar story claiming ,
• that abduction had occurred in the
French provincial city of Grenoble.
Someone, or several people in Or-
leans must have read it and de-'
to spread it. The first point
atwhich it started was undoubtedly
the local girls high school. Within
the first day, several hundred young
school girls "knew" the story which
had "happened" to the mother of
One of their friends." By evening
of the first day, the story had
spread to several hundred Orleans'
homes, and frightened mothers for-
bade their daughters to visit the
"incriminated" shops.
From the private homes, the
story spread to the school teachers.
A number of nuns called their pu-
pils into the quiet "sessions" and
asked them "to be careful" where
they went shopping "lest some-
thing dreadful befall them." The
atom having come from such a
source, now gathered "authenti-
city." By the end of the week be-
fore last, half of Orleans' 150.000
inhabitants were prepared to swear
that "it had all happened indeed,"
and the other half "that there can
ben) smoke without fire." A small,
peaceful city with no racist or ex-
tremist past was caught up in the
mass hysteria and suspicion of a
full-fledged witch hunt.
The Jewish merchants "incrim •
leafed" were among the last to
hear about what had befallen
them. By the time they heard.
the entire city was aware of the
Mary and talking about it.
The man "incriminated" by all
the stories circulating around
Orleans was the owner of a mod-
ern dress-shop "d'Orphee," 37•
Tear-old Henri Licht. "I found
out about it through a Christian
friend whose daughter studies at
the local lycee Jean Zay. He
tame to see me the Friday before

police, not the Germans. I saw
them with my own eyes but now I
thought that all this had long since
ended. Eleven years ago, I left
Paris and came to Orleans, I set
up my business here, sent my chil.
dren to the local school. I have
friends, non-Jews as well as Jews,
in Orleans, and yet this has hap-
pened to me!"
Licht is bitter not so much
at the slander campaign itself as of
the nearly complete isolation in
which he found himself once it
started. "The local chamber of
commerce could not make up its
mind on whether to act and how. It
took several days before it released
a communique. We never even
managed to see the mayor, and up
till this very day he has not re-
leased an official denial or an ap-
peal to the population. Our best
friends left us in a lurch. No one,
you hear, no one but the other
Jews. were prepared to come to
our help."
A little further away from the
center is another fashion shop
"La Boutique de Sheila," a
modern shop with glass and col-
ored wallpaper, where miniskirts
and Cacharel blouses hang on
multi-colored hangers. The owner
is a good-looking woman in her
late 30s, a Madame Boukhi.
"I heard about the whole story
from my own daughter. She
heard it at school. Her friends
had told her, you hear me—her-
to beware of where she shops, as
women, and especially young
girls disappear and are actually
sold as slaves in Lebanon and
Latin America."
Mrs. Boukhi was close to tears.
"I have given up fighting. It is
not worth it. I could not stay an-
other year in Orleans. I want to
sell my shop at all costs and will
emigrate to Israel. The first few
days after I heard all that was
said about me were so terrible
that I shall never feel the same
way about Orleans and its in-
La Boutique de Sheila was no
last and told me that he had
heard something terrible about longer completely empty. It still is
most fashionable and up-to-
sae, too terrible to repeat. Half
stalling I asked, 'what is said— date women's dress shop in Orleans,
a couple of customers had
that I have a mistress?' He just
sat and half dumb said, 'much, come in. They stood in groups of
much worse.' I tried several more three or four and looked around
/Pleases till I convinced him to with scared eyes as if expecting to
tell me all. When I heard what I be kidnaped and drugged at any
was accused of, I burst out laugh- moment. An atmosphere of fear
ing. I simply could not take it and even panic hovered over Or-
seriously. That same Friday, I leans.
The basements of the Boukhi and
left for a long weekend at the
Cote d'Azur where my wife and I Licht establishments are the work-
were looking for a house for the shops. There are no corridors, no
secret exits. The police have
children for the summer."
checked and found nothing.
Henri Licht is of medium height
A few days after the Jewish
and has fair hair and a most un- storekeepers found out about the
Jewish air. He appears to be of a rumors which concerned them,
naturally gay disposition. Even they went to the police and lodged
while he was telling me this story. a complaint of slander against
he could not help smiling and ••unknown persons." The head of
cracking an occasional joke.
the local Jewish community,
"Suddenly, his mood changed. Georges Levy, went to see the dis-
"I returned on Tuesday to Or- trict governor and the police. He
leans still laughing over the also appealed to central Jewish or-
story. Within minutes I realized ganizations in Paris.
the gravity of the accusation.
The investigation was soon under
The shop was deserted, not a way with the Jewish organizations
atingle client had been in for sev- a little more active, the local auth-
eral days. The shop assistants orities a little slow. The district
were practically terrorized and governor, the "prefect," who under
nay private home phone was ring- French legislation is the local rep-
log non-stop. Strange voices were resentative of the central governor
pouring on me a torrent of abuse and enjoys near dictatorial powers,
and insults. 'Dirty Jew, stop in- was slow to move. Whether it was
terfering with our women,' said a natural prudence or a desire not
toe. Another pleaded, "Return to move too many stones under
the women you have stolen.' It which hidden abject creatures
was too terrible to be believed." might be hidden, is not known.
In any case, it took Levy sev-
Licht still feels that he is
Jtvitig a page out of another age. eral days of pleadings and explana•
"Ixt the Middle Ages, they accused lions to obtain an official declare-
ns of stealing Christian children to ; tion from the prefect calling for
bake matzo. In 1932, they started i calm and denying the allegations.
In the same way in Germany and ; The local mayor, Roger Secretan,
ended it with the extermination was even more reluctant to involve
Camps and the crematoria. I himself in what seemed at first a
thought, however, that all this has ; strange story with possible local
political i m p l ieation s. These
been ended."
At the age of 11, Licht had stemmed basically from the police
been wearing a yellow Star of suspicions that the story had orig-
David on his arm. Thirty members i inally been spread by the extreme
of his family had been deported I leftist groups which have been a
and never returned. "I saw them common phenomenon of France's
being arrested. The men who car- political life since last May's revo-
ried out the arrests were French lution.

The leftist groups, mainly stu-
dent organizations consisting of no
more than a dozen members each,
reacted violently, however. In turn
they accused the local Gaullist
party, the UDR, of having been the
source of the reports. It seemed
obvious that both suspicions and
theories had been wrong and, by
what seemed mutual accord, they
both dropped their mutual accusa-
The high school parents asso :
ciation and the teachers trade
union, probably suffering from a
guilt complex over their first re-
actions which tended to encour-
age the spread of the rumors,
entered the picture. Their de-
mands were formal. They wanted
a thorough police investigation to
discover the culprits and bring
them to justice.
The police were forced to act
with somewhat greater energy. A
senior police officer was put in
charge of the investigation. No
actual proof has as yet been un-
earthed, but it seems clear that the
main culprits were two extreme
right-wing organizations, possibly
"Jeune Nation" and "Occident.
which are known to have a rela-
tively lirge following in Orleans,
especialy within junior and senior
classes at the local high school and
at the nearby university.
Even if this supposition is found
to be right, the question can and
must be asked: Why Orleans?
This type of rumor has been
tried before in Paris, Grenoble,
LeMans and Lille and possibly
other provincial cities. It con-
tains the necessary mixture of
sex and adventure and crime and
xenophobia to excite the imagin-
ation of the frustrated provincial
French inhabitant and yet, why
Semitic tradition. Levy, who has
lived there all his life, says that
"nothing wrong had ever hap-
pened since the Dreyfus affair.
And I should know, my father-
in-law was born here 82 years
ago." Yet it happened in Orleans.
I walked along the city's streets
and wondered. Could the actual
reason lie in the fact that Orleans,
only two hours' drive away from
Paris, has all the capital's tempta-
tions and none of the outlets?
The fact is that in spite of its
proximity to the City of Lights, it
goes to sleep like every French
provincial city at 9 o'clock, has
not a single theater or night club,
only a handful of restaurants and
three dozen dismal cafes on its
street corners.
Did the frustrations of modern
life and modern society break onto
the surface in a burst of pent-up
hatred and envy?
All this sociological speculation
seemed logical especially as one
watched the huge medieval cathe-
dral throw its dark shadow over
half the city and the small, pathetic
And yet, I could not help but re-
member the latent anti-Semitism
which exists throughout Western
Europe and only awaits an oppor-
tunity, as it did during the Nazi
period or the Vichy regime, to
burst onto the surface.
The final question, as I walked
among the tree-lined streets and
smelled the lilacs in bloom was,
"After all, why not Orleans?"'

19-Yr.-Old Arab Girl Gets
Life Term for Planting
Bomb at Hebrew U.

TEL AVIV (JTA)—A 19-year-old
Arab girl from Nablus received a
life sentence Sunday for planting a
bomb that exploded in the Hebrew
University cafeteria last March.
Miriam Shachshir pleaded guilty
to the charge but appealed for
clemency on grounds that she
thought the bomb would only
"make a big noise" and would not
injure anyone. Twenty-nine persons
were injured in the blast.
The military tribunal at Lydda
rejected her appeal. The court said
Miss Shachshir was an educated,
highly intelligent girl and was fully
aware of her crime, which was

Friday, June 27, 1969-9


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