July 1, 2022

Emmanuel Macron in Vichy, coming from the Klarsfeld spouses: a visit for history and memory

France does not have a short memory. She doesn’t intend to let Vichy fend for herself with hers. This is what Emmanuel Macron could say, in essence, in a few hours, during his visit to Vichy. It is in any case on this ground that the elected officials and inhabitants wait for him.

However, on the official program, sent Monday by the Elysee, nothing like it. “Simply” heritage considerations, obviously essential for the city, and exchanges with local associative actors. But nothing on memory.

Follow Emmanuel Macron’s visit to Moulins and Vichy

But in the last hours everything has accelerated. As long as it did not take the dimension at the start, the entourage of the president, and Emmanuel Macron himself, quickly realized that a visit to Vichy is not neutral. Far from there.

Speaking and contemplation

Because only General de Gaulle, so far, has addressed the historical question there, during a trip to 1959. Another president, Valery Giscard d’Estaing, had also gone there, but to talk about regional planning .

Strong stake and rich in symbols, therefore, today, for Emmanuel Macron, of whom no one knows if he will speak on this historical shutter, or if he will be satisfied with moments of meditation on Vichy stelae.

In Vichy, a stele to remember Michel Crespin, baby deported and gassed in Auschwitz (2018)

The first, erected by the Israelite Cultural Association of Vichy, stands opposite the Hôtel du Parc, the building where the French state government was located in

1939-1945.
It commemorates the roundup of August 26, 1942.

The stele of the 80 parliamentarians

The second, throne on the facade of the Opera, whose square bears the name of Simone-Veil, since September 11, 2019, a moment celebrated by the presence of his son Pierre-François. This plaque commemorates the 80 parliamentarians who refused to cede full constituent powers to Pétain on July 10, 1940. The 80 who said no.

On July 10, 1940, when eighty parliamentarians defended the Republic

That same day, the high promenade in Kennedy Park was named “Alley of the Righteous Among the Nations”.

Another sign, if need be, of the historical significance of this presidential visit, the Klarsfelds should be in the party. Both, known and recognized for their relentless struggle against Nazis and anti-Semitism, had already come on October 10, 2018, for the inauguration of a stele in memory of Michel Crespin, a 5-month-old baby, deported and gassed at Auschwitz.

At the time, Serge Klarsfeld told La Montagne about Vichy:

For me, Vichy, from the Liberation, should have been a center of living history, with an annual conference on the subject. Afterwards, a sort of lead screed arose. The whole of France did not want to study this period. Time had to pass. Stelae like the one dedicated to Michel Crespin are the last memory of a time when children were killed. And the trauma comes from the fact that these crimes were committed with the help of glorious men before the war, and which came to an ignominious end. In Vichy, memory must be alive, without any shame.

Matthieu Perrinaud

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