Servan-Schreiber, Jean-Jacques 1924-2006

views updated

Servan-Schreiber, Jean-Jacques 1924-2006

OBITUARY NOTICE— See index for CA sketch: Born February 13, 1924, in Paris, France; died of complications from bronchitis, November 7, 2006, in Fécamp, France. Publisher, editor, politician, journalist, and author. The cofounding editor of the periodical L’Express, Servan-Schreiber was a leftist intellectual and former politician best known for his views on American-European economic relations as expressed in his The American Challenge. Coming from an interesting family background, Servan-Schreiber was the grandson of Prussian chancellor Otto von Bismarck’s Jewish political secretary, Joseph Schreiber. Schreiber fled to Paris when Bismarck decided to declare war on France, and the family would come to raise their children as Catholics. Servan-Schreiber and his family were nevertheless in danger when the Nazis invaded France, and so they moved to Spain. The young Servan-Schreiber immigrated to the United States and trained to be a fighter pilot with the Free French during World War II. He never had a chance to fly in combat, however, before the war ended. He returned to France and graduated with a degree in engineering from the Ecole Polytechnique in 1947. Servan-Schreiber was a reporter for Le Monde from 1947 to 1953, while also serving occasionally as a correspondent for Reporter and as a foreign affairs writer for ParisPress. Together with Françoise Giroud, he founded L’Express in 1953; later, in 1964, he also founded L’Expansion. Initially a strongly leftist publication, the paper eventually evolved to appeal to general audiences. At one point, it was said to so closely resemble the New York Times that the American newspaper tried to sue L’Express. Servan-Schreiber unexpectedly returned to active military duty from 1956 to 1957 during the war in Algeria, and here he earned a military cross of valor for his service. The year he returned home he published the controversial Lieutenant en Algerie, which was translated as Lieutenant in Algeria (1957). The work criticized the behavior of the French military in Algeria, including acts of torture that Servan-Schreiber said he witnessed. The author was subsequently charged with subverting troop morale, but he was cleared of any criminal wrongdoing. His next book, Le Défi americain (1967; translated as The American Challenge in 1968) was a best seller that warned Europe of American economic dominance. In it, he also came out in support of open markets and free trade, telling Europeans they needed to be more aggressive in the market. Long before the formation of the European Economic Union, Servan-Schreiber, who actually greatly admired the United States, declared that the best defense against American dominance was for European nations to combine their financial muscle. Continuing his left-leaning views, Servan-Schreiber was active in the Radical Socialist Party as a security general and then president. After Charles de Gaulle left office in 1969, he successfully ran for office in France’s National Assembly in 1970. Under pressure from the public, Servan-Schreiber stepped down as editor of L’Express because it was felt his strong political views were influencing the newspaper too much. He still owned a stake in the newspaper until 1977, however, when he sold it to financier Jimmy Goldsmith. Remaining politically active, he helped Valery-Giscard d’Estaing win the presidency in 1974, and he briefly served as minister of reforms that year. In 1976 he was elected president of the regional council of Lorraine. Continuing his involvement in politics, he served as advisor to Home Secretary Gaston Defferre in 1981, as well as to President Francois Mitterrand in 1983. By the early 1980s Servan-Schreiber was developing a new interest in technology. Fascinated by the potential of computer technology, he ran the World Center for Informatics and Human Resources in Paris until 1985. His second best seller, Le Défi mondial (1981) expressed his ideas about Japan’s economic dominance through its focus on the electronics industry. He then moved to Pittsburgh to chair the international committee at Carnegie-Mellon University, returning to France in the late 1980s. Servan-Schreiber spent several years on his memoirs, publishing Passions (1991) and Les Fossoyeurs (1993) before becoming incapacitated by a degenerative brain disease. Among his other publications available in English translation are The Spirit of May (1969) and The Radical Alternative (1970).



Servan-Schreiber, Jean-Jacques, Passions, Fixot (Paris, France), 1991.

Servan-Schreiber, Jean-Jacques, Les Fossoyeurs, Fixot (Paris, France), 1993.


Los Angeles Times, November 9, 2006, p. B11.

New York Times, November 8, 2006, p. A23.

Times (London, England), November 8, 2006, p. 69.

Washington Post, November 8, 2006, p. B5.