David Rousset

1912 (Roanne, France) - 1997 (Paris)

Economic Journalist und Politician

"Ordinary people do not know that everything is possible. Even when the evidence forces their reason to admit it, their muscles still refuse. But the former inmates of the concentration camps know."

David Rousset was born in Roanne in the Loire department of central France on 18 January 1912, the son of a Protestant industrial worker. He studied philosophy and literature at the Sorbonne in Paris. In 1933 he aligned himself with the Trotskyists; in 1936, together with Fred Zeller, he founded the Revolutionary Socialist Youth and the Internationalist Workers’ Party, and took part in protests against French colonial policy in North Africa.

On 12 October 1943 Rousset was arrested because of his underground resistance activities and in late January 1944 was transferred from Fresnes prison to Buchenwald Concentration Camp; on 10 March he was transferred to Neuengamme Concentration Camp, where he was liberated by the Americans in April 1945.

After his return to France, Rousset dedicated himself to the unsparing exposure of the hierarchical and bureaucratic organizational structure of the Nazi concentration camps: his literary analysis of it, L’Univers concentrationnaire, was published in 1946 and its title became a set phrase. Two further publications followed. In 1948, together with Jean Paul Sartre, Albert Camus and André Breton, he founded the Rassemblement démocratique révolutionnaire ("Democratic Revolutionary Grouping"), which advocated a radical socialist solution distinct from the programme of the French Communist Party.

On 12 November 1949 Rousset appealed in Le Figaro Littéraire for former concentration camp inmates to set up a commission to investigate the Soviet camps. Up to 1958 he was vice-president of the International Commission against the Concentration Camp Regime and contributed to its reports on labour camps in the Soviet Union and China and also prisons in Spain. After May 1968 he was a Gaullist deputy in the French parliament until 1973. He earned his living as a political and economic journalist working for major magazines and daily newspapers and for radio and television.

David Rousset died in Paris on 13 December 1997.