The Papon Affair. Crimes against humanity in Vichy France - The trail of prominent functionary Maurice Papon, that played out in Bordeaux between October 1997 and April 1998, gave rise to a wide-ranging political, legal and historical debate that this article intends to examine. They were the first criminal proceedings where a French citizen was accused of complicity in crimes against humanity and were an occasion for public reflection on the guilt of the Vichy government. It was actually only in the Eighties and Nineties after decades in which the phenomenon of collaborationism had been removed from official debate that France started to investigate the responsibilities prefectures and the police had had in the deportation of the Jews. Through a re-examination of the events in the Papon affair, it is therefore possible to reconstruct the steps in a complex path along which the past was revised albeit with the reticence and silence of the Fourth and Fifth Republics often slowing down the procedure. At the same time, the process represents a stimulating starting point for us to meditate once again on the intricate question of the relationships existing between memory, history and law.