Macron lashed for praising Vichy’s Petain
PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron has angered Jewish groups by praising Philippe Petain, the First World War commander who later led the Vichy government that collaborated with the Nazis.
Recent presidents have avoided paying tribute to Petain but in Paris tomorrow Mr Macron will honour him and seven others at the Invalides monument, the site of Napoleon’s tomb, who were given the title of marshal for their service in the Great War.
Yesterday Mr Macron said: “I consider it entirely legitimate that we pay homage to the marshals who led our army to victory. He was a great soldier in the First World War. That’s a reality.
“I pardon nothing, but I erase nothing of our history
“Political life, like human nature, is sometimes more complicated than we’d like to think … You can be a great soldier during the First World War and go on to make disastrous choices during the Second World War.”
Mr Macron made the comments while touring battlefields ahead of a formal commemoration of the November 11, 1918, armistice that ended the war
The French presidency later said that only the five top military chiefs who are interred in the Invalides will be individually honoured and have their names cited in the ceremony — not including Petain. Mr Macron will not attend the military ceremony.
The Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions said that Mr Macron’s words were shocking. “Petain was the person who allowed the deportation of 76,000 French Jews to death camps,” it said.
Petain oversaw the victory at Verdun in 1916 and is regarded as having saved the army from collapse months later. From 1940 to 1944 he led the government in Vichy and signed anti-Semitic laws that facilitated the murder of tens of thousands of Jews.
In 1945 he was convicted of treason and sentenced to death but this was commuted to life imprisonment by president Charles de Gaulle, who served under Petain and admired his First World War record. Petain died in 1951 aged 95.
The 40-year-old French President, sliding in the polls, is gaining a reputation for making awkward or shocking statements. In September, he told a young outof-work gardener that he need only “cross the street” to find a job.
Emmanuel Macron meets veterans yesterday
Petain in WWI