HEADLINES EXPLODED FOR THREE YEARS AROUND THE EXPLOSIVE FIGURE OF JACQUES DE BERNONVILLE, WANTED BY A FRANCE THAT SENTENCED HIM TO DIE AS A TRAITOR, UNWANTED BY A CANADA THAT FOUND HIM TOO SHREWD AND WELL CONNECTED TO GET RID OF. HERE, FOR THE FIRST TIME, MACLEAN’S TELLS WHAT HE DID IN FRANCE AND HOW HE STAYED SO LONG IN CANADA
ON AUGUST 17 last a fifty-four-year-old French nobleman with iron-grey hair, strong bullet-scarred features, erect soldierly bearing and a diplomatic air of composure, fled from Montreal to Rio de Janeiro after telling newsmen at Montreal Airport at Dorval: “I love Canada and I love Canadians.”
The compliment was received coldly by most readers for no other foreigner had ever caused such a bitter legal, political, racial and religious furore in this country as Count Jacques-Charles-MarieNoël Dugé de Bernonville.
In France De Bernonville stands accused of hunting, arresting, torturing and murdering a number of his own countrymen in the Resistance movement that fought, the Germans during the Nazi occupation and the struggle for liberation. He has been sentenced to death in absentia on counts of having had constant intelligence with the Germans from 1940 to 1944.
Yet, while thousands of other Europeans were denied admission to Canada solely on the grounds of ill-health, De Bernonville, who entered the country under a false passport, found shelter here for five years.
For at least four years of his stay De Bernonville had various well-paid jobs, lived comfortably in a small but smart apartment on Montreal’s Côtedes-Neiges Road, and was surrounded by friends who called on him in cars, one of which was a late-model Cadillac. For a part of the time he enjoyed the company of his wife and four daughters who also entered the country on the strength of false passports.
The story of how he won and held these benefices
while national immigration tribunals, Quebec law courts and even the federal parliament itself probed and argued his right to them is one of the most bizarre in Canada’s recent history.
De Bernonville arrived in Montreal in 1946. Until June 1948 when he coolly admitted illegal entry and asked for permanent lawful residence he lived under the name of Jacques Benoit. Although the RCMP refused to confirm this for security reasons there is a strong suspicion that he had obtained and used the passport of a Jacques Benoit who lost his life on a secret Allied mission to France during the war.
From the beginning the Canadian Department of Immigration was satisfied that De Bernonville should be returned to France in accordance with the wishes of the French Government, which promised him a retrial on the charges under which he stood sentenced to die. Officials of the Immigration Department had access to documents which showed that De Bernonville had been a member of the Waffen SS, a German auxiliary formation which worked closely with the Gestapo, and recruited members from occupied countries. De Bernonville, according to these documents, had also been instrumental in raising five separate combat groups of French volunteers to fight the Allies on the German side. These officials had also read sworn affidavits from members of the French Maquis who declared they had been tortured under the supervision of De Bernonville.
Twice the Department of Immigration issued deportation orders against him. Twice these orders were blocked by writs of habeas corpus obtained in the Quebec courts. The complex legal wrangling,
interrupted by long postponements of hearings, lasted three years, cost the Canadian taxpayers thousands of dollars, and left them bewildered as to why so much fuss should have been raised in the first place over a man who was not only sought by the courts of a friendly country but who admitted entering this country by unlawful methods. A legal decision on whether he was entitled to sanctuary here as a political refugee was still pending when he decided to quit Canada for more certain refuge in Brazil.
Throughout his stay in Canada De Bernonville was championed by influential Quebec nationalists led by Montreal’s Mayor Camillien Houde, who dubbed him “an authentic French hero.” He was presented by his supporters as a victim of French Communist vengeance. They said the court which convicted him in France was manned by Communists. It was set up, they said, in times of post-war ferment and exposed to testimonies distorted by hot political passions. Far from helping the Nazis, said Frédéric Dorion, KC, another of De Bernonville’s backers, “he fought them tooth and nail though cloaked in Vichy disguise.”
Dr. H. L. Keenleyside, who was then Deputy Minister of Mines and Resources, the department formerly responsible for immigration, said, however, that De Bernonville was a “notorious collaborator who was responsible for the deaths of members of the Allied forces, probably including Canadians.”
The dispute divided French-speaking Canadians among themselves and did much to corrode relations with English-speaking Canadians. It also gave offense to the government of France.
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DOCUMENTS PROVE THE COUNT’S ASSOCIATION WITH THE NAZIS
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Bernonville suddenly left Canada of his own free will the Federal Government breathed a sigh of relief and many of De Bernonville’s earlier supporters were glad to see him go, too. He had had a succession of lawyers who, according to an official of the Department of Immigration, gave up their briefs when confronted by the mass of evidence accumulated against him.
Of all De Bernonville’s allies Mayor Houde of Montreal seemed most anxious to forget the whole affair. When he heard that this magazine was conducting further enquiries into the De Bernonville case fie was so angry he shouted: “You are hounding a man to his death. Even if he is guilty he has more than paid for his crimes.”
Only with full knowledge of De Bernonville’s story may Canadians judge the validity of this contention. That story, based on documents obtained in France, is told here for the first time. Copies of most of these documents have been in the possession of Maclean’s for more than two years, as long as De Bernonville’s case was before the courts Maclean’s was obliged to withhold them from publication on the good and necessary principle that a man who is under trial in the courts must not be simultaneously under trial in the Press. But now that De Bernonville has removed himself from the jurisdiction of the Canadian courts Maclean’s feels the evidence should be published.
De Bernonville was born into a wealthy family at Auteuil, near Paris, in 1897. His father, Count René Dugé de Bernonville, was a naval engineer officer. His mother, the former Marie Touin, came of aristocratic, prosperous stock. The family was devoutly Roman Catholic. Jacques de Bernonville was tutored by Jesuit priests at Marnasse, Belgium. Throughout his life he never missed morning Mass. When he was eighteen he joined the crack Chasseurs Alpins as a lieutenant and fought brilliantly through the last two years of World War I. He was wounded several times and won the Croix de Guerre with six bars.
After 1918 he fought the rebel Druses in Syria where he won the Légion d’Honneur.
In 1922 he returned to civilian life, became a director of several important companies, and married Isabelle Ronin, daughter of a military and diplomatic family from Brittany. They had four daughters, Chantal, Françoise, Josianne, and Catherine, today between the ages of twenty and twenty-six. The two eldest are married to French naval officers.
His political opinions formed in the middle Twenties. From 1926 on he was deeply involved in the conspiracies of l’Action Française, an extreme rightwing movement with such strong Royalist and Roman Catholic views that both the Comte de Paris, Pretender to the Throne of France, and the Vatican were embarrassed by it and rejected its support.
Later De Bernonville joined La Cagoule (the Hooded Men). This notorious party aimed to assume power by revolution under the pretext of saving France from the Communists. Its plan was to seize Paris in a few hours and set up a state modeled on Mussolini’s Italy. The Cagoulards murdered two enemies of Mussolini, Carlo and Nello Roselli, Italian socialist journalists. They blew up the headquarters of an employers’ association on the Rue Pressbourg in a manner reminiscent of the Reichstag fire in order to put the blame on Communists.
In January 1938 De Bernonville was sent to prison for his association with La Cagoule. But there was no direct evidence to implicate him in violence and he was released after three months.
When World War II broke out De Bernonville was mobilized in the Chasseurs Alpins once more. After the fall of France in 1940 every Frenchman still at liberty was faced with a bitter choice of conscience: to fight on, either abroad or underground, against desperate odds, to accept defeat and get along as well as possible with the conqueror, or to join the Germans in the hope that final Nazi victory would bring them fruits of office under Hitler’s New Order.
De Gaulle took the first course. Pétain took the second. De Bernonville appears to have taken the third, or at best a combination of the second and third. In his dossier at the Sûreté Française in Paris, which corresponds to Scotland Yard, the RCMP and the FBI there is a statement that “De ! Bernonville threw himself into the j struggle on the side of the Germans | with all his strength and aided them in the diverse actions they took against the Patriots of France and the Allies.”
One of his mentors was Abel Bonnard, Minister of Education in the j Vichy Government, and an old Action Française comrade. Under Bonnard’s direction De Bernonville organized La Légion des Combattants, a veterans’ organization designed to protect the Vichy one-party system.
On Oct. 13, 1941, De Bernonville embarked at Marseilles with his wife and four children in the vessel Lamoricière for Algiers where, according to his visa, he was “to take charge of the Vichy Government’s General Commissariat for Jewish Questions.” The visa was signed, Abel Bonnard.
He lived in Casablanca and in addition to administering Jewish matters according to Vichy’s anti-semitic precepts, he raised a force called Le Service de l’Ordre Légionnaire which busied itself in denouncing members of the Resistance in North Africa.
On July 19, 1942, De Bernonville wrote to Dr. Menetrel, personal secretary to Marshal Pétain, that he was “restless” and wanted to get back to France. He said he had his eye on La Légion Tricolore, a corps of French volunteers destined for service in Russia under German command. “La Légion Tricolore,” he wrote, “appeals to me more and more as 1 notice that this and the Service de L’Ordre Légionnaire have so much in common.”
He returned to Paris in September 1942, a month before the Allied invasion of North Africa. He established his own office at 12 Place Malesherbes and this became the headquarters of La Légion Tricolore and La Phalange j Africaine, a new group raised to fight ! the Allies in Tunisia.
In 1943 as prospects of a German defeat grew stronger many Vichy officials began to get uneasy. Among them was De Bernonville. He resigned from La Légion Tricolore and La Phalange Africaine to join still another force called Le Corps de Volontaires Français.
The secret idea behind this corps was to suppress the existing Resistance until the Allies landed, then, when the Second Front was securely established, to become a new Resistance, turn on the Germans, and present all its personnel to the victorious Allies as heroes. Its secondary objective was to reinstate the monarchy in France after the armistice.
Innocent of the plot, the Germans sanctioned its formation. The corps was put under the command of the German Sturmbanführer S. S. Best with De Bernonville as liaison officer.
But the corps lasted only fifteen days. Joseph Darnand, an old World War I brother officer of De Bernonville’s, heard of its double game. Darnand was faithful to the Germans and was executed after the war for this loyalty. In 1943 he was commanding the Vichy Milice, which was instigated by Pierre Laval to fight the Resistance. Darnand regarded Le Corps de Volontaires F rançais not only as treacherous but as superfluous. Sûreté records show that on Darnand’s suggestion the Corps de Volontaires Français was disbanded. They show further that Darnand bitterly reproached De Bernonville for identifying himself with such a defeatist. movement.
Members of the Corps de Volontaires Français were invited to join the German Waffen SS. Apparently to re-establish himself in Darnand’s good graces, De Bernonville set the troopers an example. On Dec. 1, 1943, he enrolled in the 8th Brandebourg Unit of the Waffen SS. His number was 605.
One of several Waffen SS documents proving De Bernonville’s membership deals with his payment of family allowances. De Bernonville’s wife is listed as payee. But this is struck out and a note in pencil says the Countess should not be informed that her husband is a volunteer.
“But Shoot Without Hate”
In January 1944 Darnand forgave De Bernonville for his temporary loss of faith and offered him the post of commandant of the Forces for the Maintenance of Order in the Lyons district of central France. De Bernonville accepted. The troops under his command were Milice, most of whom were French liberated jailbirds.
De Bernonville carried out his duties with vigor. From early 1944 when he took this post to shortly before VE-Day in May 1945 his activities can be traced not only in the files of the French Sûreté but in sworn affidavits, photostatic copies of captured records, official Vichy journals and collaborationist newspapers which were later sent to Canada.
De Bernonville’s first mission in command of the Milice took place in January 1944 against a band of Maquisards who were holding out on the Glières Plateau in the French Alps above Annecy. The Maquisards were supplied with parachuted arms and ammunition by the RAF. De Bernonville had three hundred men. In a copy of Je Suis Partout, the notorious Paris collaborationist weekly, dated April 7, 1944, there is an account of this action. It was writted by Claude Maubourguet, a Milicien serving under De Bernonville. One sentence runs: “Tirelessly he (De Bernonville) conducts patrols, inspects positions, and makes reconnaissances.” Maubourguet was impressed by the count’s firing-line philosophy: “Aim well but shoot without hate for these are your brothers.”
The five hundred Maquisards threw the Milice back and on March 22, 1944, German units took over the operation. The Maquis faced ten thousand Germans for two days and then were routed. One hundred and two of them were found dead on the battlefield. The survivors tried to escape in the surrounding valleys. De Bernonville immediately ordered his Milice into a manhunt. Most of the Maquisards were caught and some of them were shot.
On April 16, 1944, De Bernonville, with a Milice convoy of twenty trucks, arrived at Chapelle-en-Vercors, a small village near Grenoble, where three thousand Maquisards were embattled. These Maquisards later held out until D-Day when they straddled the main
roads leading from Paris to the Mediterranean and paralyzed thirty thousand German troops.
De Bernonville’s April 16 action against them was to arrest forty civilians in Chapelle - en - Vercors as hostages. In the afternoon with two hundred and fifty Milice men he attacked a group of ninety Maquisards in the vicinity. On April 17 a number of Maquisards were taken prisoner and some of them were tortured.
On April 23, at 4 p.m., at nearby Vassieux-en-Vercors, on De Bernonville’s orders, three French patriots were shot. They were André Doucin, a pharmacist, Jean - Paul - Marcel Mially, a farmer, and Casimir Gabriel Ezingeard, a postman. De Bernonville also burned down ten houses.
A record of these atrocities is contained in a sworn testimony prepared by the Amicale des Pionniers et des Combattants Volontaires du Vercors, a veterans’ organization which claims to have in its ranks men of all political philosophies.
Early in May 1944, when the second front was imminent and Maquis activity was approaching its climax, De Bernonville moved to the Saône-etLoire department of Burgundy in central France. He set up his Milice HQ in the Hôtel Moderne, Chalon-surSaône.
Between May 14 and June 25, according to signed statements, fifty persons were arrested by De Bernonville. Seven were handed over to the Gestapo and forty-three, including five women, were locked in the local jail on De Bernonville’s orders. These orders, plus a list of those arrested, are to be found in the jail archives. Among those executed as hostages were René Buisson (June 3), Jean Lassaque (June 18), Maurice Bonnet (June 21) and Charles Bourbon (August 26).
Torture by Electric Wire
Direct evidence of De Bernonville’s part in torture about this time has reached Canada from Marcel Poitoux, a captured Maquisard, who testified: “They hanged me by the hands. I felt I had a load of two hundred pounds on my feet. De Bernonville was in the room and he ordered his men to go on torturing me to make me talk. At one point he lost his temper and hit me across the face.”
Another Maquisard, René Moisson, who was eighteen at the time, says on oath that he was tortured in the presence of De Bernonville, adding: “My sister, aged 16, was beaten by De Bernonville himself and outrageously insulted.”
The fullest statement, however, comes from Maurice Nedey, a garage proprietor in Chalon-sur-Saône. After the war Nedey was presented with the British King’s Medal for Courage in the Cause of Freedom. The citation, written by Sir Alfred Duff Cooper, British Ambassador to France, says:
M. Nedey was head of a leading Resistance group in the Saône-etLoire department of France. He organized several successful engagements against German patrols who tried to capture the material sent. M. Nedey was arrested in June, 1944, and horribly tortured. He was deported to Dachau and was recently repatriated to France.
Describing this torture Nedey says: “De Bernonville seated behind his desk merely gave orders and led the course of the interrogation. De Bernonville demanded the whereabouts of the Maquis; the names of high-ranking officers; the location of arms depots; the passwords for various parachute districts; the whereabouts of hidden
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British parachutists; and the source of our orders.
‘•‘They spat on me, hit me with their fists, kicked me in the stomach. I warded off the blows as much as I could. One of them lashed me across the stomach with a whip and I thought I would vomit. I dropped to the floor time after time but they immediately made me get on my feet again by kicking me in the sides.
“De Bernonville gave such orders as: ‘Make him talk!’ ‘Stop!’ ‘Continue!’ He said: ‘It’s in your interests to talk j and tell us all.’ ‘I’m in a hurry and have no time to waste.’
“He (De Bernonville) commanded my torturers to use electricity on me. They took a wire, which they spliced,
! attaching half to my handcuffs and pricking me with the other half, thus causing burns.
“I curled up like a worm, crying out like a madman. To keep me from moving they passed a chair under my arm, blocking me against the wall.
“De Bernonville was impassive. I begged him to have pity and I recited prayers. These various tortures lasted all day with a three-quarters-of-anhour rest at noon and ended at seven j at night. Then De Bernonville made me sign an admission which I had not even read.”
Nedey adds that he pleaded not to be handed over to the Germans. De Bernonville promised not to do this. A few days later De Bernonville broke his promise and Nedey was sent to Germany after a rubber strapping by the Gestapo. The French Embassy in Canada says Nedey was not and is not a Communist.
A photostatic copy of the Journal Officiel de L’Etat Français, dated July 8 1944, contains a citation to Jacques de Bernonville for showing courage on i numerous occasions in his maintenance of order in the Saône-et-Loire depart; ment. The citation is signed by Pierre Laval.
A Mysterious Atlantic Crossing
What happened to De Bernonville after D-Day is related by his former private secretary, Louis Mace, who wrote a sworn statement on his arrest in Germany in 1945. He says about the end of June 1944, three weeks after the second front had been launched, De Bernonville was moved from Chalon-sur-Saône to Lyons. On August 23, two days before the Allies entered Lyons, De Bernonville fled with Colonel Dernbach, Major Köpf and Captain Evens of the Wehrmacht counterespionage.
Mace says many of the Milice followed the German retreat. The Germans got the idea of using them as intelligence and sabotage agents behind the Allied lines. De Bernonville volunteered. He took a short training course I at Wissembourg, in Alsace-Lorraine, and was parachuted in the vicinity of Chartres on September 20, 1944. He took with him, says Mace, three men, a radio and three million francs (thirty thousand dollars at today’s rate of exchange).
From this moment nothing was heard of De Bernonville until he turned up in Montreal four years later. The Sûreté says: “Investigations have been made to find out how De Bernonville got to Canada but these have all proved unfruitful.”
Whether the De Bernonville family left together is not known, nor is it known how they got across the Atlantic. An unconfirmed report in the Montreal Star says De Bernonville reached Canada with the aid of “religious groups” after hiding in several French monasteries. He has admitted
that lie entered Canada from the United States at Rouses Point on the Quebec-New York border in November 1946.
Although he was not there to defend himself De Bernonville was sentenced to death on Oct. 8, 1947, in the Court of Justice at Toulouse, a large city in the French Midi. He was found guilty of:
... In France and North Africa, notably in Paris, Lyons and Rabat, between 1940 and 1944. in time of war, engaging in intelligence with foreign powers, especially Germany or her agents, with a view to favoring the operations of such powers against France: and of working in agreement with German agents for the organization of Le Corps des Volontaires Français and La Phalange Africaine, and of introducing into North Africa missions for sabotage; and of handing over to the Germans two Frenchmen detained in prison.
Marc Lambert, a reporter on FranceSoir, a Paris evening newspaper, made enquiries on behalf of Maclean’s in Toulouse. He reported: “The court
was composed of three magistrates and seven jurors. It is possible that a certain number of these were Communists. At that time the law decreed that none could be jurors ‘but citizens who have never ceased to prove their national sentiments.’ In virtue of this clause those called upon were invariably members of the old Resistance organizations, among whom were Communists.”
Meanwhile Jacques de Bernonville, living as Jacques Benoit, had established himself in Canada. He had worked as a lumberjack, a mechanic, a chauffeur, an auto-wash hand, and then got a job as salesman for a textile company. Later he became salesman for a surgical instruments company and an insurance company.
About the time he was tried in absentia in France three former members of the French underground who had emigrated to Canada recognized De Bernonville on the streets of Montreal.
One of them was Lieut.-Col. Marcel Pichard, a French Army officer who escaped from North Africa in 1941 and joined General De Gaulle’s Free French Forces in England. He landed in France by parachute and boat several times during the German occupation on intelligence missions. In 1943 he commanded B.O.A. (Air Operations Bureau) which selected and guarded fifteen hundred parachute sites for clandestine landings and the delivery of arms to the Maquis. Many French politicians and soldiers who rallied to De Gaulle were flown out of France by Pichard’s organization. He worked underground with Resistance movements in preparation for the invasion. His code names were Gauss, Pic and Bell. His decorations include the British OBE.
When he recognized De Bernonville Pichard was working for a Montre d finance company. Today he is working for a French perfume company in New York. He hated being on the sime continent as De Bernonville. Pichard owed his own life to the courage of Maurice Nedey during a chase by the Gestapo over the rooftops of Dijon. He could never forget how Nedey had been tortured.
The Maquis veterans in Canada reported De Bernonville’s presence to the RCMP but their information was at this time so sketchy no action could be taken. Pichard wrote to France and began to accumulate documentary evidence against De Bernonville. Some of it was used in this article.
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De Bernonville seems to have sensed danger. In the early summer of 1948, accoi'ding to a newspaper gossip column, his wife got tired of being plain Madame Benoit and told a number of people at a fashionable cocktail party that she was in fact the Countess de Bernonville.
In June 1948 he went to the Department of Immigration’s Montreal bureau, admitted illegal entry and applied for permanent residence. He was then identified for certain by the ex-Maquis men who at the time asked that their names be kept secret because they “feared reprisals” in Montreal.
The news was flashed to France where the Press made a splash of De Bernonville’s whereabouts. The case rose to diplomatic levels. M. Francisque Gay, then French Ambassador to Ottawa, suggested unofficially that Canada could remain clear of an embarrassing entanglement in a purely French affair by placing De Bernonville on a French ship in Montreal. When the ship cleared Canadian waters the count would be arrested. At no time did the French Government officially ask for the extradition of De Bernonville. The French left it to Canada to take what action she thought fit. Solely on the basis of their illegal j entry a deportation order was issued ! against the De Bernonville family. In accordance with the law they were given sixty days to leave the country. The expiry date was Sept. 1, 1948.
By Sept. 2 the De Bernonville daughters, Françoise and Chantal, had returned to France. But De Bernonville himself, with his wife and daughters Catherine and Josianne, were still in Montreal. The four were escorted to the Immigration Bureau cells in Montreal and detained.
De Bernonville was now hitting headlines daily and Montreal’s Mayor Camillien Houde jumped into the picture. Houde went to the Montreal offices of the British United Press and dictated a blast against the Federal Government in which he termed the deportation order “a crying injustice.” All over Quebec voices were suddenly raised on De Bernonville’s behalf. Dr. Philippe Hamel, a former member of the Quebec Provincial Legislature, formed a committee to “protect” De Bernonville. In a Press release he said:
The bureaucrats at Ottawa have decided to deliver up the count knowing it would be his death warrant. We Canadians and Catholics do not wish our Government to become an accomplice to such an assassination. We are determined to take all legitimate means available to prevent such an iniquity.
Almost immediately the Countess de Bernonville was released on bail of one thousand dollars while her husband and two daughters remained in jail.
The Countess Went Home
A group of Quebec King’s Counsel, Bernard Bourdon, Emery Beaulieu, Frédéric Dorion and Noël Dorion, banded together to defend De Bernonville. “In the recent war,” said Bourdon, “the Count fought honorably for France and her Allies. He was wounded thirty-two times and twenty times cited for valor.”
In the Montreal Superior Court they obtained a writ of habeas corpus from Mr. Justice Alfred Savard. This laid the onus on the Department of Immigration to show cause wThy it should deprive the count of his liberty.
On Sept. 22, twenty days after their detention, De Bernonville and his daughters were released. They rei sumed their normal life in Montreal. Legal proceedings continued for six
months and on Feb. 1, 1949, Mr. Justice Cousineau of the Quebec Superior Court upheld the writ of habeas corpus. He also decided that the board which had ordered De Bernonville deported was illegally constituted since it did not have the required three members.
The Department of Mines and Resources was, at that time, responsible for immigration questions and the Minister, the Hon. James A. McKinnon, promised Parliament that a new board would be set up strictly in accordance with required formalities.
More than two years elapsed.
Legal proceedings stagnated. But outside the courts there were vociferous arguments for and against De Bernonville.
One reason for the delay may have been two changes in Ministers at the Department of Mines and Resources. Some apologists for the government have maintained it was probably the transfer of Immigration to a new department that really held up proceedings.
Finally, on Feb. 16 this year, another immigration board ordered De Bernonville deported for the second time. A provision in the law enables a person under such an order to appeal to the responsible minister. De Bernonville took immediate advantage of this. After consideration Hon. Walter F. Harris, the new Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, and the fourth to be involved in this cause célèbre, upheld the board’s action.
Some Smelled a Plot
De Bernonville, his wife and two daughters were once again given sixty days to quit Canadian soil. But on March 27, before the time expired, De Bernonville’s lawyers asked for another writ of habeas corpus. This was granted by Mr. Justice Roger Brossard in the Montreal Superior Court. The writ ordered J. M. Langlais, superintendent of Immigration in Montreal, to bring De Bernonville to the court next day to justify the “deprivation of the liberty of the individual which, the latter alleges, is illegal.”
On March 28 the case came before Mr. Justice Maurice Lalonde of the Montreal Superior Court. Justice Lalonde postponed the hearing of a writ of habeas corpus until June 5, a period of almost three months. De Bernonville and his family were released on five hundred dollars bail. Soon afterward the Countess, with Catherine and Josianne, returned to France. But De Bernonville remained.
When the case was resumed in June Cuy Favreau, representing the Department of Immigration, and Jacques Perrault, De Bernonville’s latest lawyer, were given until Aug. 15 to file their written arguments with a judge of the Superior Court. Whether this was done is uncertain. But it hardly mattered. De Bernonville left Canada on Aug. 17 and there was no longer any need for final judgment.
The long intervals between the protracted legal proceedings were filled with angry arguments outside the courts. Jean Bonnel, a wealthy Montreal businessman, told the Press that evidence against De Bernonville “comprised a tissue of lies built up by the Communists against a great Roman Catholic, a great Frenchman and a great hero.”
Frederic Dorion, KC, then Federal MP for Charlevoix-Saguenay, said: “1 do not hesitate to state that if the French citizen referred to were a Communist Jew instead of a French Roman Catholic we would not have heard of him in this house.”
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The Quebec newspapers entered the fray. Le Petit-Journal, which often favors Premier Maurice Duplessis’ Union Nationale Government, discovered from an anonymous source that “a Judaeo-Masonic-Communist plot’’ was in operation.
But not all Canadiens favored De Bernonville. Le Canard, a humorous weekly with liberal tendencies, printed a cartoon by Robert La Palme. This showed De Bernonville riding in a swanky car with Mayor Houde, Jean Bonnel, and Robert Rumilly, a Montreal historian who has occasionally played the part of local apologist for Vichy. They are turning round to look at a one-legged Canadian soldier standing on crutches beside a garbage can. And De Bernonville is saying: “ ’Lo
Sucker!” Gustave Jobidon, a QuebecCity notary, referring to the deportation order, cabled former Premier Schuman of France: “French Canada is scandalized. Vive Pétain! Vive De Bernonville!”
De Bernonville himself told a press conference: “I cannot bring all the
facts to bear. 1 wish I could. But it would be like ordering friends before the firing squad.” He added: “The
Communists want my head.”
The Press of France was stunned by this defense of a man who was commonly accepted as a traitor. The anti-Communist paper L’Aurore said: “It seems impossible that Canadian justice does not honor the legitimate wishes of France, a friendly nation, for the expulsion of a man who contributed to her four years of martyrdom.”
The socialist Le Populaire thundered: “M. Camillien Houde seems
to ignore the fact that it is not for political acts De Bernonville is wanted but for acts of collaboration with the Nazis who were also Canada’s enemies.”
The right-wing La Presse tried to pour oil on troubled waters by reminding its readers: “The Anglo-Saxon
countries have great respect for those who in these troubled times do not forget the old English tradition of right of sanctuary.”
At home some English - speaking Canadians opposed the expulsion of De Bernonville. Julian Ferguson, Progressive Conservative MP for Simcoe North, said De Bernonville had been tried in France by a court “greatly tinged with the ideals of Communism.” He added: “A man would have to
stretch his imagination to believe that France is in a position to give a man an absolutely fair trial.”
He Saved A Canadian
There is no doubt that many postwar trials handled by special courts set up in emergency were used to work off old scores in the dark and secret chronicles of the French underground. Many recent histories show the French underground fought well on the Allied side in the war but while doing so Maquisards were often divided among themselves as to what sort of political regime should follow once victory was won. Owing to their conspiratorial training the Communists were among the most efficient in the Resistance movement. And after the war they were so vociferous about it that they gave the impression outside of being the most numerous. Actually they comprised about twenty percent.
There was some evidence in favor of De Bernonville. Major Antoine A. Masson, MC, a Canadian Army Officer who was taken prisoner at Dieppe, stepped forward to say that De Bernonville had saved his life together with that of Lieut-Cdr. Michael Redvers
Prior, RN. After escaping from the Germans, said Masson, they reached unoccupied France where they were interned. Soon afterward they were permitted to escape in a simulated break under orders from De Bernonville.
Unfortunately for De Bernonville this was the only incident outlined in specific terms to support the theory that he was in fact secretly devoting himself to the Allied cause while serving Vichy.
De Bernonville was seen off at Montreal Airport for Brazil on Aug. 17 by his lawyer Jean Perrault and two friends, M. and Mme. Jacques Fichet of Montreal. He was carrying a safe-conduct issued to him by J. S; de Fonseca Hermes Jr. who is described as “Minister Plenipotentiary in Charge of the Brazilian Consulate in Montreal.” This recommended that De Bernonville be allowed to become a permanent resident of Brazil.
When he reached Brazil on Aug. 22 De Bernonville immediately asked for “police protection against the Nazis.” He told reporters that he was going to stay with the Braganza family, descendants of Brazil’s former royal household. Immediately Dorn Pedro Orleans E. Braganza was quoted as saying he had never met De Bernonville and accused him of “abusing the family name.” The latest report says De Bernonville is a guest at St. Anthony’s Monastery in Rio de Janeiro.
“Now Hiding In A Convent”
Why did so many people in Quebec want de Bernonville to stay in Canada? I asked many of hisdefenders,including Mayor Houde. Houde waved his arms, emphasizing he had nothing to say about De Bernonville. During his
arguments, however, he made the following statements. They are not necessarily in exact context because he waved away my notebook. But they were written down immediately after the interview at which there was a witness.
“I would advise you not to stir up trouble in this case as it is bigger than you think . . . You are hounding a man to his death . . . You are being sensational . . . You are judging him here, making my office a courtroom . . . He was defended on the principle of sanctuary for political refugees . . . He is now hiding in a convent in Brazil to keep away from the Press . . . His family is in France and the French Government will not let them leave to join him in Brazil . . . Even if he is guilty he has more than paid for his crime . . .”
■ I asked Mayor Houde whether he would care to see documents from which we have quoted in this article. “I have seen all you have to show,” he said, “and more. The case is closed.”
In Ottawa a French diplomat said: “The supporters of De Bernonville probably took up his defense without knowing his true background. Then they became prisoners of their previous position. Very humiliating.”
A month before he left Canada for Brazil De Bernonville wrote to Le Monde, France’s most precise, reliable conservative and scholarly daily: “I
never fought in the ranks of the Germans. I never directed the Milice in Lyons. I have never worn a German uniform. I have never directed operations supervised by the SS . . .”
. An editorial commented: “There
J>n be no doubt that if De Bernonville jphose to redress his absence he would find in France today judges who would recognize the truth and pronounce what is right. Why, if he is so innocent, does he not come here and justify himself.’” ★