Macron lashed for prais­ing Vichy’s Pe­tain

The Australian - - WORLD -

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

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