Roger Garaudy, a communist and darling of French intellectual
society until he denied that the Nazis used gas chambers to kill
Jews during World War II, has died aged 98, officials said
Garaudy was fined 120,000 francs (18,000 dollars) by a Paris
court in 1998 for his anti-Zionist work "The Founding Myths of
The court found that his account had distorted the wartime deaths
of an estimated six million Jews.
He died on Wednesday in the Paris suburb of Chennevieres, local
Garaudy, who converted to Protestantism, Catholicism and finally
Islam, joined the French resistance and was held in Algeria as a
prisoner of war of France's collaborationist Vichy regime.
He joined the French Communist Party after the war, was elected
to the French parliament and became a member of the Senate.
But he was expelled from the Communist Party in 1970 after he
criticised the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, although
he had defended the Soviet intervention in Hungary 12 years
A big man with glasses as thick as his southern French accent,
Garaudy was for years seen as someone who symbolised the
"dialogue of civilisations."
"My greatest pride is to have remained faithful to my dream as a
20 year old, the unity of the three religions, Christianity,
Judaism and Islam," he said.
The author of around 70 books, Garaudy described himself as a Don
Quixote fighting the windmills of capitalism.
Within the Communist Party hierarchy he was known as "the
Cardinal" both for his sense of authority and his attraction
towards the Church.
He was for years the darling of the French media and intellectual
milieu for his philosophical work and his political courage.
But that ended with his conversion to Islam in 1982 and
subsequent criticism of Zionism, which turned him into a pariah.
The head of Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah,
in 2006 cited his treatment as an example of the West's
"hypocrisy and duplicity".
In 2002, he won the then Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi's human
"He ended up pitifully on an intellectual level, with the lowest
kind of revisionism," said the head of the Representative Council
of French Jewish Institutions, Richard Prasquier.
"Historians will one day look at his ideological drifting that
turned him one of the best-known revisionists," Prasquier said.