Maurice Bardèche (1 October 1907 – 30 July 1998) was a French essayist, literary and art critic, journalist, and one of the leading exponents of neo-fascism in post–World War II Europe. Bardèche also became a leading Holocaust denier and wrote extensively on the subject in his later life. Bardèche was also the brother-in-law of the collaborationist Robert Brasillach, executed after the liberation.
Bardèche was born in a modest family of Dun-sur-Auron in the Cher department on 1 October 1907. A product of the educational opportunities of the Third Republic, Bardèche had received a scholarship, and completed hypokhâgne at the prestigious Lycée Louis-le-Grand in Paris. There, he met Thierry Maulnier and his future brother-in-law Robert Brasillach, establishing lifelong connections. In 1928, he entered the École normale supérieure (ENS), where he met with the philosopher Simone Weil (whom he nicknamed the "Red Virgin", after Louise Michel), Claude Jamet, Jacques Soustelle, Roger Vailland and Georges Pompidou, future President of France. He was received at the Agrégation (literary section) in 1932, and started teaching at the Sorbonne University. A year later, he described himself as "a snail withdrawn into its shell".
Bardèche initially came to prominence as an associate of Brasillach and Maulnier, writing in their journals (1933, 1934, 1935), essentially as a literary chroniquer. During the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939), he traveled several times to the country and wrote with Brasillach a History of the Spanish War, in which he called for the violent defense of "order" and of Francoism in front of "paralysing democracy, one like malaria". Seduced by José Antonio Primo de Rivera's Falange, his support of Fascism may be dated to this period. Bardèche also co-authored with Brasillach a History of Cinema (1935), a work that influenced cinema history for years.
Bardèche completed his thesis on Balzac in 1940, titled La formation de l’art du roman chez Balzac jusqu’à la publication du Père Goriot, from which he would publish a biography, Balzac romancier. He continued to teach at the Sorbonne, moving to the Université des Sciences et Technologies de Lille from 1942-4. He then became recognized for his critical works.
Bardèche began to write for the fascist journal Je suis partout in 1938. During the German occupation, he didn't take a position. After the execution of Brasillach, he claimed that the Resistance's "excesses", the bombing of Dresden and post-liberation atrocities were war crimes.
After World War II
After the liberation, he was briefly arrested for collaborationism but quickly released, while his brother-in-law, Robert Brasillach, was executed. He denounced Brasillach's death as "criminal". Bardèche was expelled from the National Education, proscribed from giving courses in the public education system. He then founded his own literary publishing house, Les Sept Couleurs (The Seven Colours), and also founded a right-wing journal titled Défense de l'Occident in 1952, dedicating himself to rehabilitating Brasillach's works and ideology.
He wrote a Lettre à François Mauriac in 1947, in which he attacked the épuration légale (legal purge) of Vichy supporters, defended collaborationism and criticized Resistance members whom he called "rebels against legality". His 1948 follow-up, Nuremberg ou la Terre Promise, which was an attack on the Nuremberg Trials and one of the earliest expression of Holocaust denial, saw him sentenced to a year's imprisonment for apology of war crimes, while the book was censored. This feat saw him become recognized as one of the leading thinkers of neo-fascism. However, Bardèche never served his prison term, as his sentence was commuted by President René Coty, and he was only imprisoned for a few weeks in Fresnes.
He was a founder of the European Social Movement (MSE) in 1951 and became its vice-president, which brought him together with leaders such as Oswald Mosley, Karl-Heinz Priester and Per Engdahl. He continued publishing his journal Défense de l'Occident from 1952 to 1982, in which ideas of a European nationalism were espoused.
Unlike some of his contemporaries, Bardèche made no secret of his fascism and famously wrote in the introduction to his 1961 work Qu'est-ce que le fascisme? "I am a fascist writer." He was particularly attracted to the Italian Social Republic and sought to use that model as the basis for a more contemporary ideology that he termed fascisme amélioré ("improved fascism"). Bardèche also became a leading Holocaust denier and wrote extensively on the subject in his later life.
He died in Paris in 1998. He was described as "a prophet of a European renaissance for which he had long hoped" by Jean-Marie Le Pen , leader of the National Front party. His wife Suzanne died in 2005.
In 2012, the eldest of his five sons, Jacques Bardèche, made a tribute to his father on a self-proclaimed "unconformists" podcast website.
- Histoire du cinéma (avec Robert Brasillach), Denoël et Steele, 1935, éd. complétée en 1943 ;
- Histoire de la guerre d’Espagne (avec Robert Brasillach), Plon, 1939 ;
- Balzac romancier : la formation de l'art du roman chez Balzac jusqu'à la publication du père Goriot (1820-1835), Plon, 1940 ; éd. refondue en 1943 ;
- Lettre à François Mauriac, La Pensée libre, 1947 ;
- Stendhal romancier, La Table ronde, 1947 ;
- Nuremberg ou la Terre promise, Les Sept Couleurs, 1948 ;
- Nuremberg II ou les Faux-Monnayeurs, Les Sept Couleurs, 1950 ;
- L'Europe entre Washington et Moscou, R. Troubleyn, 1951 ;
- L'Œuf de Christophe Colomb. Lettre à un sénateur d'Amérique, Les Sept Couleurs, 1952 ;
- Les Temps modernes, Les Sept Couleurs, 1956 ;
- Suzanne et le taudis, Plon, 1957 ;
- Qu’est-ce que le fascisme ?, Les Sept Couleurs, 1961 ;
- Histoire des femmes (2 vol.), Stock, 1968 ;
- Sparte et les Sudistes, Les Sept Couleurs, 1969 ;
- Marcel Proust, romancier, Les Sept Couleurs, 1971 ;
- L'Œuvre de Flaubert, Les Sept Couleurs, 1974 ;
- Balzac, Juillard, 1980 ;
- Louis-Ferdinand Céline, La Table Ronde, 1986 ;
- Léon Bloy, La Table Ronde, 1989 ;
- Souvenirs, Buchet-Chastel, 1993.
- Chantons sous l'Occupation - a documentary film
- "French with tears", Obituary: Maurice Bardeche in The Guardian, 6 August 1998
- "C'est la guerre?" in The Australian, 9 August 2000.
- "Action man; Known to thousands as 'Le Maitre', Charles Maurras was an intellectual giant of the French canon". Carmen Callil, New Statesman, 9 April 2001.
- "Killed for His Words; A bold new study exhumes the case of fascist writer Robert Brasillach, executed by the French in 1945", Time, 15 May 2000.; David Bordwell, On the history of film style, Harvard University Press, 1997, pp. 40, 42
- Le Figaro, 31 July 1998. (French)
- See Nuremberg ou la Terre Promise, 1948, p.133, concerning denial of the real role of gas chambers.
- "Early forms of Holocaust denial took shape in the late 1940s in the writings of Maurice Bardeche, a French fascist." Holocaust Denial: From East to West, Anti-Defamation League, 2001. Retrieved 1 June 2007.
- "In Bardèche's second book he laid out his objectives, which remain, almost verbatim, the credo of contemporary deniers... Bardèche, Rassinier, Barnes, App, and others among the first generation of deniers differ from those who followed them...." Deborah Lipstadt. Denying the Holocaust – The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory, Penguin, 1993, ISBN 0-452-27274-2, p.p. 59,60.
- "The denier movement gained some of its first supporters in France. One of these, Maurice Bardèche, presented one of the deniers’ fundamental arguments, namely that the Holocaust was caused by the Jews themselves. The Jews were the enemies of Germany and were treated accordingly. Bardèche was also one of the first to question the authenticity of the source material. For instance, he strongly doubted that the gas chambers at Auschwitz had been used to kill people. Instead, he advanced the proposition that they had been used for disinfecting clothes – since then one of the deniers’ most persistent allegations." Holocaust denial: Historical view, The Danish Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, 2002. Retrieved 1 June 2007.
- EMISSION n°124 "UN HOMME, UN DESTIN : MAURICE BARDECHE" on Méridien Zéro with Jacques Bardèche and Patrick Canet. Animateurs: Gérard Vaudan et Eugène Krampon.
- Bardeche, Maurice & Robert Brasillach (Iris Bar, trans.) (1938). History of the Film. London: George Allen & Unwin. p. 412 pp.