One of the most disturbing bits of information to surface so far during the investigation of the bombing of a Jewish synagogue here Oct. 3 is the news that a number of French police officers belong to neo-Nazi organizations.
Jose Deltorn, secretary-general of the union that represents most of France's plainclothes police detectives, maintains that a list of members of a neo-Nazi group calling itself FANE (Federation d'Action Nationale Europeen) was sent before the synagogue bombing to Minister of Interior Christian Bonnet, who is responsible for the police in France.
About 30 policemen were named in the list, yet no action was taken against them. FANE was officially dissolved by government order on Sept. 3, but was immediately replaced by a new neo-Nazi group calling itself the European National Fascist (Fasceaux Nationalistes Europeens). The membership in the new group is nearly identical to FANE.
Although the Ministry of the Interior has made no effort to deny the charges, Mr. Bonnet has dodged the issue by making vague declarations that he has no intention to engage in a "witch hunt."
Mr. Deltorn refuses to publicly release the names of police members of FANE, but other policemen are willing to discuss the charges, if not the names. Some of the accusations are fairly serious. One police inspector, charged with training young recruits, was reportedly promoted and transferred to Nice after he was discovered in the act of teaching recruits fascist songs. Another inspector who forced an immigrant laborer to get down on his hands and knees and eat from a bowl on the floor like an animal was promoted and transferred to a suburb predominantly populated by immigrant workers just outside Paris, after a scandal erupted.
More important than these incidents, however, is that the presence of extreme rightists in the police force has meant that the police have almost no information at all now on potentially dangerous fascist organizations.
French police intelligence, known as the "renseignements generaux," appears to have been most hit by right-wing penetration. As a result, its files on right-wing extremist groups are often filled with false information or are simply missing.
The situation is so serious that when Italian and French anti-terrorist police began looking into the Aug. 2 fascist bombing of the railroad station in Bologna, Italy, the French police had to be told by their Italian counterparts that a potential suspect, Paul-Louis Durand, had spent a year on active duty as a French police recruit before being dropped from the service. Durand had been openly signing editorials in Notre Europe, the monthly magazine published by FANE, while he was on police duty. Yet there was no record in any police dossiers of his involvement with fascists.
French police units trying to track down right-wing terrorists have now been forced to compile their own dossiers outside the renseignements generaux. It is a painstaking process that has deprived them of information coming from foreign police departments that usually maintain liaison with the renseignements generaux.
Fascist penetration of the renseignements generaux apparently began in earnest after the student upheavals of May 1978, when the when the police force was enlarged in order to keep track of radical student leftists. The people most willing to spy on leftists were, naturally, rightists. They shared a common goal with the police at the time, and they soon became a natural part of the hierarchy.
It seems likely that the Ministry of Interior did want to get rid of policemen who were known members of fascist groups, but delayed too long, and then found itself unable to take action without causing a major scandal.
For the moment, Interior Minister Christian Bonnet appears to be stonewalling. Police have released all of the neo-Nazis investigated in the synagogue bombing, and new information uncovered from tracing the serial number on the motorcycle believed to have held the bomb indicates that it belonged to a foreigner traveling on a Cypriot passport who may have been working for a Middle- Eastern anti-Israeli group that had nothing to do with fascism at all.
If that turns out to be the case, it may take the government off the hook. In that event, the French police will probably try to clean its own house as quietly as possible.