French magazine censorship row opens up a bag of wartime horrors

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A furious row has broken out at one of France's leading press groups, Prisma Presse, over the alleged censorship of an article detailing the unsavoury wartime collaborationist activities of several French businesses, notably Louis Vuitton, one of France's leading luxury goods firms. Representatives of Prisma's journalists, who claim the pages were censored for advertising reasons, say they will take the matter to the group's German owners, in a move that threatens to reopen yet more wounds from a clouded collaborationist past.Vincent Truffy reports.

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A furious row has broken out at one of France's leading press groups, Prisma Presse, over the alleged censorship of an article detailing the unsavoury wartime collaborationist activities of several French businesses, notably Louis Vuitton, one of France's leading luxury goods firms. Representatives of Prisma's journalists, who claim the pages were censored for advertising reasons, say they will take the matter to the group's German owners, in a move that threatens to reopen yet more wounds from a clouded collaborationist past. Vincent Truffy reports.

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There was some rare good news for the press industry earlier this month. The Prisma Presse group, bucking the trend in a sector blighted by shrinking sales and advertising, posted a 2% increase in its turnover for the first half of 2011.

Prisma's chairman, Rolf Heinz, partly explained the upturn as the result of the expanded offer of the group's titles, including the development of the monthly Geo magazine into three separate, thematic editions; Geo Histoire, Geo Voyage and Geo Savoir. "Each month, Geo sells more than 400,000 copies under its brand," he announced.

Just a few days earlier, the latest issue of Geo Histoire magazine, a monthly publication about historical events, had hit the newsstands, with an edition dedicated to the subject of ‘France under the Occupation'. Its deputy Editor-in-Chief, Sylvie Bommel, wrote an interesting comment in her editorial. "Sometimes the smaller story, that which is centred on anecdotes about daily life, is placed against the big one, that with a capital H. What is fascinating about the occupation is that it is the small [story] that recounts the big one," she commented.

 

The magazine appeared on September 7th with five fewer pages of text than were originally prepared for this comprehensive account of life in France under the 1940-1944 German occupation. The amputated pages were on the subject of economic collaboration between French companies and businessmen and the Nazi occupiers and their puppet government set up in Vichy. The missing text was replaced with pages of an album of photos by Roger Schall of "France under the Nazi boot".

The cut was no ‘small story' for the magazine's journalists who wrote on September 8th to Bommel and Editor-in-Chief Eric Meyer expressing their alarm at an "act of censorship" (see document reproduced below).

"To stop the publication of an article on the ‘economic collaboration' (removed by the editorial management even though it had, in the first instance, validated and congratulated it) on the basis that one of the entrepreneurs cited (Vuitton) is a potential advertiser for the magazine or those of the Prisma Presse group, appears to us to be a serious attack on the conception we have of our profession and its deontology," wrote the journalists in a letter representing all of the Geo magazines' editorial staff.

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