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Bad Faith: A Forgotten History of Family, Fatherland and Vichy France    by Carmen Callil order for
Bad Faith
by Carmen Callil
Order:  USA  Can
Vintage, 2007 (2006)
Hardcover, Softcover

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* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

The Boston Globe calls Bad Faith: 'Astonishing, riveting and elegantly written ... A brilliant performance in sweeping history, scrupulous biography and tender psychology.' I agree wholeheartedly. While I had some trouble keeping all the family lines clear through the many years covered, as well as the myriad men and women who were involved in the years between the 1930s and 1940s, I found that did not hinder my enjoyment of the book, or awe at the monumental effort that went into producing such an impressive work.

Frenchman Louis Darquier served, while not valiantly, in World War I. In the years between that war and World War II, he spewed vitriol about Jews whenever and wherever he could find an audience. His publications were filled with the same rage. The middle son of a well-to-do family, he did nothing to advance himself – rather lived on the monies he could beg, borrow or steal from family, friends and business acquaintances. He and his wife Myrtle had a daughter who was farmed out to a nanny in England. They barely provided a subsistence living for nanny and child.

Darquier's older brother Jean was a prosperous wheat merchant, his younger brother Ren้ a noted neurosurgeon. Nurture or nature? What explains how Louis became a drunken figure of hate? Although Jews made up only one per cent of the French population at the time, Darquier blamed them for the turmoil that existed prior to World War I. And for his own shortcomings.

By his open hatred of Jews, Darquier caught the attention of the Nazis. He – Louis Darquier de Pollepoix (the last part a made-up name) – ultimately became Commissioner for Jewish Affairs in the Vichy Government, as well as a Nazi collaborator. As such, he was responsible for the deportation and death of seventy-five thousand French Jews and for confiscating Jewish property for his own use. A more despicable man would have been extremely hard to find. Full of himself, he invented an impressive background for his family. He lied, cheated, stole, gave lavish parties using Jewish confiscated monies, and somehow wheedled his way into the upper echelons of the Vichy Government.

When the war turned and the Allies triumphed, Darquier managed to escape to Spain where he lived until his death. He never showed remorse for his vile acts – rather seemed proud that he had helped to solve the Jewish problem.

This must have been a hard book to write because of its content. Nevertheless, it is well-written, and should be on every bookshelf. Bad Faith is also a very hard book to read because it reminds us of the terrible times of the holocaust. But it's an important to read because it will not let us forget.

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