Sunday, May 30, 1999

In Lyon, the Plantin Affair

Jean Plantin, thirty-four years of age, unemployed and residing near Lyon, publishes the review Akribeia (a Greek word meaning "exactitude"). This review bears the subheading Histoire, rumeurs, légendes ("History, Rumours, Legends"), and appears twice yearly. It is not revisionist but it has the merit of examining with equal impartiality both exterminationist and revisionist publications, as well as quite diverse studies dealing with subjects of no relevance to the ongoing controversy between exterminationists and revisionists.

It so happens that, in the first issues of Akribeia, J. Plantin simply mentioned three revisionist publications whose sale, display, and advertisement are forbidden by the interior ministry. He made precisely no advertisement for them.

On 13 January 1999, he was arrested at his home and taken to a Lyon police station where, for 24 hours, he was subjected to an ignominious treatment. Then, back at his house, he saw his two computers and the diskettes containing his archives seized by the arresting officers, who also turned his collection of books and documents upside down.

Some journalists then set about launching "the Plantin affair", mainly in Le Journal du dimanche ("The Sunday Journal"), the local press, and the Communist Party's L'Humanité of 21 April (p. 1, 6, 7) under the headline "Filière noire pour revue brune" ("A Brown Review's Black Path"; it should be noted in passing that Akribeia's cover is of a vivid red hue).

These newspapers revealed that J. Plantin had in 1990 obtained a master's degree in history for his paper entitled Paul Rassinier (1906-1967), socialiste, pacifiste et révisionniste. In the following year he earned the "diplôme d'études approfondies" ("diploma of advanced studies", known as the "DEA") with his Les Epidémies de typhus dans les camps de concentration nazis ("The Typhus epidemics in the Nazi concentration camps"). Neither of the two works exhibited a revisionist character. But suddenly, now in 1999, certain organisations, particularly Jewish ones, have made it known that they consider that fact to be immaterial and that the two professors (the first at Lyon-III, the second at Lyon-II) who oversaw J. Plantin's work were guilty of revisionism (of "negationism", as they call it).

Universities in commotion

At first, the professors involved, Régis Ladous and Yves Lequin, protested their good faith. Fallen prey to panic, both dodged their responsibilities. R. Ladous, for his part, went so far as to say that, if he had accorded the mention "Très bien" ("very good") to the master's paper, it was only to show his scorn for a job which, in his eyes, was, it seems, "grotesque"! Then, the professors spontaneously tendered their resignations from their posts as "DEA" directors. These resignations were immediately accepted by the presidents of their respective universities.

R. Ladous had distinguished himself on 29 April 1993 by publicly endorsing the judicial ordeal imposed on his revisionist colleague Bernard Notin (who, from that moment onwards, has never been able to resume his lecture programme in economics at the University of Lyon-III). As for Y. Lequin, he presides over the committee of historians at Lyon's Centre d'histoire de la Résistance et de la Déportation; he is also a member of a commission recently established by the Lyon council to investigate the wartime "despoilment of Jewish property".

The local press has come out with a multitude of pieces on J. Plantin's trial, held in Lyon on 22 April, and on the two professors' resignations. It has also revealed that some groups, notably Jewish ones, are now demanding the revocation of the two degrees obtained in 1990 and 1991 by J. Plantin (master's and "DEA" in history). A committee of historians and academics are to attempt to ascertain why Lyon has become, in their view, "the French capital of negationism" (with, from 1978 to 1999, the chain of the Faurisson, Zind, Allard, Notin, and François Robert affairs, and now, finally, that of J. Plantin [1]); they are making preparations for a one-day seminar in October 1999 to look into that question. An international symposium on the problem of what they call "negationism" is to be held next year. As of now, consideration is being given to the setting up of a system for vetting prospective students at French universities, in order to prevent any person suspected of revisionism from getting any degree whatever. The University of Lyon-II has put Bernard Comte, a religious history specialist, in charge of drafting a "detailed and exhaustive chronology of all the events, since the Faurisson affair, which have, in one manner or another, put the university into contact with negationism, whether by a showing of support or of condemnation".

Invective against the young historian

It was in this media-charged atmosphere that the Lyon judges were to deliberate for five weeks before handing down their verdict of guilty on 27 May: they sentenced J. Plantin to six months' imprisonment (suspended) and a fine of 10,000 francs (approximately $1,800) and ordered him to pay 39,000 francs (approximately $7,100) in damages and costs to three Jewish associations. The professional equipment seized at his house (computers and archives on diskettes) has been confiscated.

J. Plantin has ten days to lodge an appeal.

According to the journalists, it seems that another case against the young historian is in the offing, this time for the contents of the latest issue (no. 4) of Akribeia. For its part, the Lyon-II board of governors has decided to start the procedure for the revocation of J. Plantin's "DEA". Yet, since his "DEA" paper is no longer to be found in the university's library, and since no-one, consequently, can say anything about its substance, it is… on the basis of administrative technicalities of the degree's attribution that the revocation is to be sought! Such is the board's decision, reached by a vote of 30 in favour, none against, and eight abstaining.

The behaviour of the daily Le Monde

For the past several years, I have been in the habit of denouncing Le Monde's lies, particularly those regarding the subject of revisionism, to Le Monde itself. "Le Monde, journal oblique (suite)" ("Le Monde, Oblique Daily — continued") is the unvarying title which I give to the pieces in which, beside a reproduction of the article which I call into question, my observations may be read. Copies of the whole are addressed to the journalists whom I criticise and to their superiors.

Experience teaches that when, for example, a revisionist or — as is the case with J. Plantin — an editor suspected of revisionism is either thrown into jail or sentenced to a heavy fine, this newspaper will deliberately pass over the fact in silence or else minimise it.

On the very evening following the verdict, I sent a fax to Le Monde in which I recapitulated all of the sanctions and orders which the court had just inflicted on J. Plantin. I concluded: "Will Le Monde have the honesty, for once, not to minimise any aspect of this judgement?"

Upon reading the four-column article appearing in its May 29 issue (p. 4), I note that the paper has, for once, shown a relative honesty, but has again minimised and distorted. Minimised, first, in diminishing the amount to be paid by the young unemployed man in costs and damages from 39,000 to 30,000 francs, then, in neglecting to mention the confiscation of his professional equipment (the two computers and the archives on diskettes seized at his home) and, finally, in avoiding to recall, in its relation of the background to the affair, the ignominious conditions of J. Plantin's spell in custody, conditions of which Le Monde was the first to be informed, and by my own doing. In the end, it distorted in amputating a word from the title of the "DEA" paper: that word was "nazis", appearing in the expression "camps de concentration nazis". That expression and that adjective, in the given context, were far from any revisionism. For, contrary to journalistic rumour, J. Plantin has not been involved in historical revisionism. He has striven, in Akribeia, to be exact and impartial. There is his crime, his sole crime.

In Lyon, a new anti-revisionist witch hunt has begun, with Le Monde taking part in it. Perhaps with a bit less venom and duplicity than usually. But it is taking part nevertheless.

It must be said that Le Monde seems to have a congenital repugnance to exactitude, to akribeia [2].

J. Plantin's adventure

An intellectual, trained at university in historical research, conscientious, unassuming, unselfish, engrossed in a Benedictine-like routine of labour, bereft of all financial resources, unemployed, decides one day to launch a highly erudite history periodical. He takes note of the fact that in France and in the rest of the world there exists a lively historical controversy pitting the disciples of a certain orthodoxy against those who resist that orthodoxy. He sees that between the two no public debate appears possible. A modest man, he is not one to try to create the conditions for an impossible encounter. He will simply give an account, amidst his other varied studies, of the writings or diverse contributions, here and there, of both the exterminationists and the revisionists. He will proceed with the greatest possible impartiality. He will relate what he finds. In detail. With a sometimes off-putting precision. In a neutral, if not drab language.

But lightning will one day strike this adventurer of archives and libraries.

There suddenly appear groups and splinter-groups which are offended, gagging with indignation. They complain to the university, the police, the courts. The evil foe must be crushed. The jobless young man will lose, to confiscation, what professional equipment he still possesses and the rich will force him to borrow in order to pay them "compensation". The researcher will be forbidden to do research. The scholar, if ever he makes another "slip", will be told to go meditate in prison. His degrees will be taken back.

Soon to be arranged will be the ceremonies of atonement, ritual gatherings, crusades.

J. Plantin has had a rough start. He is not yet through with the affair which bears his name.

May 30, 1999



Helping a person to pay fines and damages which have been ordered by the courts is prohibited by French law. But it remains possible to give financial aid to J. Plantin, who has lost his computers and his archives on diskettes, i.e. his professional equipment, and who, for his legal defence, has incurred heavy costs, and is certain to incur still more.

In order to come to his aid one may send him, by regular post, either a cheque, a money order, or, more simply, a banknote. An acknowledgement of receipt will be addressed to all donors.

Jean Plantin

45/3, route de Vourles




[1] One might also cite the suspicion of revisionism of two Lyon historians: Gérard Chauvy (because of his book Aubrac, Lyon 1943 , in which he uncovered certain disagreeable facts concerning a well known résistant couple) and Michel Bergès (following his testimony at the trial of Maurice Papon).

[2] It is not "since the beginning of the 1980s" that the university of Lyon-II has experienced controversy arising from revisionism but since January 1978; as concerns me personally, I was not a "maître de conférences" there but a full professor (first forbidden from giving classes, then deprived of his chair by an unexplained administrative decision). Still other points in the Le Monde article could, in some degree, be corrected.