Jacques de Bernonville

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Jacques Charles Noel Dugé de Bernonville (December 20, 1897 – April 26, 1972) was a French collaborationist and senior police officer in the Milice of the Vichy regime in France. He was known to hunt down and execute resistance fighters during World War II, as well as for his participation in anti-semitic programs, including the deportation of French Jews to Drancy and extermination camps. After his escape from France, he was convicted of war crimes and condemned to death.

He was aided in entering Quebec, Canada in 1946 by leading Catholics of the province. In 1948 his true identity was discovered by immigration officials, who instituted deportation proceedings. De Bernonville fled to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where he lived the rest of his life. In 1957 the Supreme Court of Brazil refused to approve an extradition order. He was murdered by asphyxiation in 1972 by his servant's son.

Early life and education

Count Jacques Dugé de Bernonville was born in Paris to an aristocratic family and educated in Jesuit schools. He became aligned with conservative political groups.


In 1938, he was imprisoned for several months, charged with having taken part in the conspiracy of La Cagoule, a far right terrorist group. He was released because of lack of proof.

Following the 1940 defeat of France against Nazi Germany, Jacques de Bernonville joined the Vichy government. In 1943 he was appointed as a commander of the collaborationist Milice, the Vichy police. Working in conjunction with the head of the Milice Joseph Darnand, de Bernonville hunted down members of the French Resistance. They were almost always summarily executed.

As a right-hand man to Klaus Barbie (later convicted for crimes against humanity), de Bernonville participated in the establishment and enforcement of the Vichy regime's program of anti-Semitic policies. They carried out the deportation of thousands of French Jews, refugee Jews and other "undesirables" to the Drancy deportation camp en route to Auschwitz and other German extermination camps.

Post-war escape to Canada

After the liberation of France by the Allied Forces, de Bernonville was charged with war crimes but fled the country. He was tried in absentia by a French War Crimes tribunal in Toulouse. There he was found guilty and condemned to death.

Escaping French authorities in 1946, de Bernonville sailed to New York City. According to historians such as Kevin Henley, professor of history at Collège de Maisonneuve in Montreal, the politically powerful Roman Catholic priest Lionel Groulx helped de Bernonville get into Quebec. He was welcomed by a significant number of the Quebec nationalist elite, but in 1948 Canadian immigration authorities discovered his identity and instituted deportation proceedings. In an attempt to keep de Bernonville in Canada, 143 Quebec notables signed a 1950 petition defending him and stating that he should be allowed to stay. Signers included the secretary general of the Université de Montréal; Camillien Houde, mayor of the city of Montreal; plus Camille Laurin and Denis Lazure, two future cabinet ministers in the Parti Québécois government.

Faced with a deportation order, de Bernonville fled again, going to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In 1954 the French government was advised of his location but, since Brazil had no extradition treaty with France, he escaped punishment. The Supreme Court of Brazil refused to extradite him in October 1957. Bernonville remained in Brazil. He died in 1972, murdered by the son of his servant.

Additional reading

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