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Posted November 29, 2009

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AFP File Photo: A drawing showing Napoleon Bonaparte. A French author has taken a rare shot at one...
Napoleon was model for Hitler, French historian charges

PARIS, Nov. 29, 2005 (AFP) - A French author has taken a rare shot at one of the country's biggest heroes by casting Napoleon Bonaparte as a genocidal dictator and inspiration for Adolf Hitler in an incendiary new book.

"One hundred and forty years before the Holocaust, a dictator, hoping to rule the world, did not hesitate to crush part of humanity under his boot," Claude Ribbe wrote in "The Crime of Napoleon", which goes on sale Thursday.

As France prepares on Friday to mark the bicentenary of the Battle of Austerlitz -- considered the emperor's military masterpiece -- Ribbe's book lists a string of atrocities allegedly carried out under his rule.

A black academic who sits on a government panel on human rights, Ribbe accuses the emperor of "exterminating" part of the black population of France's colonial islands and of introducing a system of racial segregation.

"Napoleon has exterminated part of the black population of France's colonial islands and introduced a system of racial segragation."

On the French island colony of Haiti, then known as Saint Domingue, Ribbe claims that Napoleon's troops launched a "vast operation of ethnic cleansing" in 1802, to stamp out a slave revolt.

Relying on written accounts from some officers in the Napoleonic armies, Ribbe writes that French troops used sulphur dioxide to suffocate slaves held in ships' holds and conducted wide-scale killings.

The troops were under orders to kill all blacks aged over 12, he writes.

"It is no surprise that he (Napoleon) served as a model for Mussolini, who wrote a play in his glory, or to Hitler, who saluted him with a 'Heil Napoleon' at the Invalides (in Paris) on June 28, 1940," writes the historian.

"All the facts contained (in the book) are known to historians, but are willfully overlooked," Ribbe charges in his introduction.

Joined by a number of associations from France's overseas territories, Ribbe has been campaigning to bring such episodes to public attention, as France prepares to pay tribute to its legendary emperor.

The groups have called for a march on Saturday in protest at the emperor's "glorification" and the "historical revisionism" surrounding his rule.

"We cannot allow, in a supposedly law-abiding country, for history to be steered as it was done under the Soviet Union," they said in a joint statement.

Copyright © 2005 Agence France Presse, the scholarly journal of democracy and human rights
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