Henri Zollinger

French High Court Judge and Leading Member French Republican Party, 1884 - 1954

Henri Zollinger was the oldest son of Jakob Herman Zollinger, who was born on the Schachen Farm in Oetwil, Switzerland, and had emigrated to the Beaune region of France. There he became a wine merchant, and must have been a very respected citizen of Beaune, France, in spite of being an immigrant.. Henri's father put much emphasis on the education of his son, and encouraged him to become a lawyer. Henri was born in Beaune on the 1st of February 1884. He became a Doctor of Law in about 1904, and then served in the French military from 1904 to 1908. He then started to work as an attorney at law, and in 1910 he was appointed judge in Chatillon sur Seine. By 1913 he was a judge in Charolles, and "Instruction Judge" at the same time. In 1920 he moved back to Chatillon sur Seine, where he became a District Attorney, and in 1926 he was promoted to "Prosecutor of the Republic" in Lyon. In 1931 he was appointed Attorney General in Angers, then in 1936 he moved to Bethune, and a little later he returned to Angers in the same capacity. By 1938 he held the position of "Prosecutor of the Republic" in Nantes.

Around 1931 Henri started to become involved in politics, and became a leading member of the French "Radical Party". The leaders of this party were Edouard Herriot and Maurice Gabolde. Henri also met Jean Berthiau, another judge, and Henri's daughter Anne-Marie ended up marrying Paul, the son of Jean Berthiau. While living in Nantes Henri also became friends with Abel Durand, who was not only a lawyer and president of the city council (mayor) of Nantes, but also president of the "Association of Mayors of the Republic". Henri was furthermore associated with Andre Marie, another leading member of the Radical Party, who was destined to become the future "President of the Cabinet" of the French Fourth Republic. In 1942, at the time that Henri Zollinger became "Prosecutor General", his friend Maurice Gabolde became "Prosecutor of the Republic" for the Seine region. Before the war Maurice Gabolde, who was a war invalid of the World War I, had been a frequent visitor to the household of the Zollinger-Fournerets. Later in 1942 Gabolde was appointed Minister of Justice in the government of Marshal Petain, and he held that position until August 1944. This was the war-time French Government which collaborated with the occupying German Nazi Government, often referred to as the "Vichy Government". In January 1946 the former Justice Minister Maurice Gabolde was condemned to death in absentia for his acts of collaboration with the enemy.

Not long after the end of the Second World War, his close friend and fellow Radical Party leader Andre Marie was nominated as "Garde des Sceaux" (Keeper of the Seal), i.e. Justice Minister. In July 1948 Andre Marie then was asked to form the new French Government with Leon Blum, who became Vice President of the Cabinet, while Paul Reynaud was nominated as Finance Minister and Robert Lecourt as Justice Minister. Only a month later the government of Andre Marie was again disposed of, and a new government was formed in September of 1948, where Andre Marie was appointed Justice Minister. He was dismissed again in February 1949 because of accusations that he had ordered the files of Nazi collaborators Sainrapt and Brice closed.

After the fall of the Vichy Government Henri Zollinger was suspended of all his political functions, and he returned to a law practice in Nancy where he was active between 1948 and 1954. In 1946 the position of "Prosecutor General" in Nancy was awarded to a M. Bornet, and then in 1954 to a M. Reboul. It was the Minister of Justice who made these appointments, and he clearly bypassed Henri Zollinger both times. Henri Zollinger died in Nancy around 1956, and his name was never mentioned again in the context of the French legal profession, and is not found in either the 1947 nor the 1955 Legal Yearbooks.

From this biography provided by Michel Bussiere, one of his descendants, it is clear that Henri Zollinger had moved in the highest circles of the French judiciary, and was a prominent figure in the Radical Party. The high point of his career was his appointment in 1942 to one of the highest positions within the Justice Ministry. But his prominence came to an abrupt end with the liberation of France by the Allies towards the end of the Second World War, and the fall of the Vichy Government. While Henri Zollinger was never accused of war crimes, or of collaboration with the enemy, it is evident that he was ostracized after the war. It is possible that his political leanings were in favor of Germany, or at least were perceived as such, but more likely he became an outcast simply because he had a "German" name, and because his father was Swiss, and German speaking. Henri must have grown up hearing the German language, and possibly spoke fluent German himself. He paid a heavy price for his background, and literally disappeared from the legal scene after the end of the Second World War.

While Henri's direct superior, the Minister of Justice Maurice Gabolde, was condemned to death, many of the other prominent members of the Radical Party were soon after the war leading figures of the French political scene again. Henri Zollinger's good friend and Radical Party leader Andre Marie was prominent in several governments, as President of the Cabinet and as Justice Minister. But it seems that all these "friends" had abandoned Henri Zollinger, and likely blocked any new position of prominence for him in the legal system. As Michel Bussiere mentioned, it is even today very difficult for the offspring of Henri to talk about the life and the tragic end of their ancestor.

Despite this unfortunate situation, the poor treatment of Henri Zollinger did not seem to deter his son Louis from a career in law, nor his two daughters Paule and Anne-Marie Zollinger. His daughter Paule never married, but she was to become only the second woman in France to become a magistrate. And Marie Jeanne’s husband, as well as her son Paul Berthiau both joined the judiciary. This was also the case with the families of Henri’s two aunts Marie and Marie Jeanne, where several members of their families became prominent in the French judicial system. This includes Michel Bussiere, who is now a widely recognized judge, and who is the person who provided the information on this branch of the Zollinger family. And Henri's only son Louis Eugene Zollinger in turn had a son Michel and a daughter, Arlette. Michel’s wife Monique Blanot is professor at the University of Tours, and she was recently knighted with the “Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Merite” . Michel and Monique have two sons, Guillaume and Alexandre, and these two are now the only male offspring of the original immigrant Jakob Hermann Zollinger. Who knows if these two “Stammhalters” will follow the deep legal roots of the family into the French judiciary. Or they may find their own way, but with such a rich heritage and widely recognized parents, they will no doubt make a name for themselves, and do honour to this branch of the Zollingers.

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