The Bernard Notin affair
Bernard Notin, forty years old, married with five children, senior lecturer at the University of Lyon-III (Université Jean Moulin) was denounced in the newspaper Le Monde January 28-29, 1990, p. 9) by Edwy Plenel for an article published in the review Economies et Sociétés (no. 32 of a review published by Presses Universitaires de Grenoble with financial support from the CNRS [Centre Nationale de la Recherche Scientifique], August 1989 [printed December 1989], pp. 117-133). Notin’s article was condemned as racist, anti-semitic, and revisionist by the journalist. In particular the article contained the following passage on the gas chambers:
The real passes in judgement before the unreal. The historical theme of the homicidal gas chambers is quite revealing of this process. The proofs offered to demonstrate their existence evolved according to circumstances of time and place, but issued forth from a Pandora’s box having three drawers: at the bottom, the visit to the site (slightly credible); in the middle, the assertion of the victors (= the gas chambers existed); on top, rumor (story of the man who saw the man who saw the man who…). The existence [of the gas chambers] has been postulated in toto, no matter the reality of this reality.
Here one will recognize the origin of every tyranny.
The review’s editor-in-chief, Gérard Destanne de Bernis, also denounced the article, declaring, “In my opinion some kind of ban is necessary”; the administration of the ISMEA (Institut des Sciences Mathématiques et Economiques Apliquées) similarly denounced Notin’s piece. On the other hand, Frédéric Poulon, professor at the University of Bordeaux-I, responsible for editing the issue in question, declared:
I regret this affair profoundly. But there is a serious question of freedom of expression. I am not dissociating myself from Bernard Notin.
A petition against Bernard Notin, originating from readers employed at the Bank of France, is circulating at all the universities. Antoine d’Antume, professor of economics at the University of Paris-I, deplored that a scientific journal gave echo to theses that are completely unscientific. Oliver Favereau, professor of economics at the University of Paris X-Nanterre, declared:
… the Faurissonians are looking for academic recognition. They want to legitimize We notion that these are issues which scholars debate. That this article was published in a university context is a grave matter.
Frédéric Poulon has been “put on the shelf” and his seminar suspended. The MRAP (Movement against Racism and for Friendship among Nations) made a criminal complaint, specifying that “this decision was taken at the request of Gérard Destanne de Bernis, editor-in-chief of the review and member of the Movement.” Destanne de Bernis has asked libraries cease lending the offending issue of Economies et Sociétés to readers and to tear out Bernard Notin’s article. The University Press of Grenoble is working on a new printing of the issue which omits the article under attack; it will be replaced by a page explaining the scandal.
Notin’s class was disrupted by young Jews. They were accompanied by two former concentration camp inmates and Jewish notables from Lyon, including Dr. Marc Aron, who had organized demonstrations against Professor Faurisson in 1978-79. Cameras filmed the incident. Notin was held against his will and insulted. He remained silent.
Michel Noir, mayor of Lyon, condemned the senior lecturer and declared that, for his part, he could not remain indifferent to the idea of falsification of history as a “Lyon specialty,” alluding to the Faurisson affair in 1978-79, the Roques affair of 1985 (two members of the jury which graded his thesis, Father Pierre Zind and Jean-Paul Allard, were from Lyon) and to certain student newspapers and pamphlets on the Barbie trial in 1987.
It was discovered that Bernard Notin was a member of the scientific advisory council of the National Front.
François Kourilsky, director general of the CNRS, decided to discontinue CNRS’s support for Economies et Sociétés.
In a letter to Le Monde, Madeleine Rebérioux, professor of history at the University of Paris-VIII and vice-president of the League for the Rights of Man, condemned the increasing support for the Front National in the universities.
Bernard Notin has maintained his calm. He protested the disruption of his class. Notin makes clear that, for him:
It has never been a question of denying the sufferings of the Jews and many others during the Second World War. Neither the events of the past nor the occurrences of the present, however, can be safe from debate and criticism in the reviews provided for that.
The Union of French Jewish Students demanded that Notin be “expunged from the faculty.”
The administration, then the administrative council, of the University of Lyon-III condemned Notin’s revisionist stance. the council of the faculty of law (under which Notin’s course comes), declared that:
… respecting completely liberty of expression inherent in the University, [the council] is all the more comfortable in condemning his deviations, which are conducive to racism and to Revisionism and, in the case in point, the content of an article which was inspired by this miserable ideology.
Notin’s courses were cancelled by Laurent Boyer, dean of the faculty of law: the financial penalty thus approaches 30,000 francs a year [over $5,500 U.S. as this issue went to press].
Pierre Vialle, president of the University of Lyon-III, informed Bernard Notin that he did not intend to lodge a complaint against the Jewish demonstrators. In a communique he expressed the university administration’s consternation and his “condemnation of the revisionist theses and of racism.”
Bernard Notin has decided not to compete for his agrégation [the highest teaching diploma in France] in economics. He has been forced to submit his resignation to the scientific council of his university, on which he represented the IAE (Institut d’Administration des Enterprises). His resignation was necessary so that the city of Lyon could resume seating one of its representatives on the administrative council of the IAE. The municipal council has appointed attorney Alain Jakubowicz, assistant delegate for the rights of man and one of the lawyers for the civil parties to the Barbie trial in 1987.
The rabbi of Lyon gave a discreet promise that, if Notin withdrew his complaint against the Jewish agitators who briefly took him prisoner, they would refrain from further demonstrations. The rector allowed this group to rent the large amphitheater shared by the Universities of Lyon-II and Lyon-III for an exhibit devoted to the Shoah.
Bernard Notin has received support from colleagues across France. As for his financial situation, he is up against the MRAP by himself and must bear the considerable expense of a litigation which requires two lawyers, one in Lyon and one in Paris.
The above text, a translation of the French original (Revue d’Histoire Révisionniste, no. 1, May-June-July 1990), was published in The Journal of Historical Review, vol. 10, no. 3, p. 367-370.