The Affair of the Finaly Children:
France Debates a Drama of Faith and the Family
BETWEEN seven and eight o’clock on the morning of February 3, 1953, Robert Finaly, aged eleven, and his brother Gerald, aged ten, were carried out by unknown persons from the College of Saint Louis de Gonzague at Bayonne in southern France. Forty-eight hours earlier, the district attorney of Bayonne had been informed of their secret presence at the college, and Father Silhouette, the director, had been told to hold the children for the authorities. But when Mr. M. Keller, who represented Mrs. Rosner, aunt and legal guardian of the two boys, presented himself at the college at 8 A.M. on February 3, Robert and Gerald had disappeared.
The next day, the news reaching the French public, the “Finaly Case” was born. The kidnapping of the two children, as a common law crime, was a matter for the Court of Assizes, but the unusual implications of this particular case of kidnapping rapidly began to overshadow the crime itself. The French term, “affaire“-one not employed indiscriminately in common newspaper usage-in a few days replaced the specific term “kidnapping” in the newspapers, in private conversations, and in public debate.
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