Night fell on Wednesday, December 8. Christmas garlands and a few lampposts light up Emmanuel Macron’s path under the gallery in the Parc des Sources de Vichy (Allier). The Head of State goes up the aisle in the cold, the coat collar raised, alongside Serge and Beate Klarsfeld. He wears a cap. Her, a beanie. The lawyer and his wife, 86 and 82, made the hunt for former Nazi dignitaries and the defense of the memory of Jewish deportees in World War II the fight of a lifetime. On August 26, 1992, they came to the Hôtel du Parc, seat of the collaborationist government of Marshal Pétain, to lay a stele, fifty years to the day after the decision taken by the French state to round up 6,500 Jews in the free zone. foreigners. The monument now sits on the edge of the park.
The delegation collects silence. It is the first time since General de Gaulle, in 1959, that a current President of the Republic has come to Vichy to touch on this troubled past, which, in the collective memory, mixes the spa town in Pétain. Emmanuel Macron himself had mentioned, in 2019, the “Dark hours of Vichy”, which had the gift of annoying the mayor (Les Républicains, LR) of the city, Frédéric Aguilera. He would rather hear about “ government of Pétain ” rather than seeing his city cited.
The troupe continues on its way to the opera, a few dozen meters away. A plaque was affixed to the facade to pay tribute to the 80 parliamentarians who stood up on July 10, 1940 against the transfer of full powers to the marshal. Serge Klarsfeld lingered a bit to talk to the press. “It is a moment of emotion and relief to see the President of the Republic come to Vichy, not for the thermal baths or the casino, but for the symbol that it represents, he breathes. This is important in the presidential election period: we need a president who is opposed to the far right, a Republican president. ”
History “is written by historians”
Eric Zemmour’s name is not pronounced but his shadow hovers. The far-right polemicist, candidate for the April 2022 election, has saturated the public debate in recent weeks by arguing that “Vichy saved the French Jews”. The journalist on leave from Figaro In fact sometimes attacks Serge Klarsfeld in his essays.
Emmanuel Macron, he does not say a word. The head of state prefers to head for the selfie-hungry crowd on the other side of the park. The tenant of the Elysée has already turned up the volume, a few hours earlier, at the microphone of France Bleu Pays d’Auvergne. History, he argued, “Is written by historians, it’s a good thing to stick to it”. “Let us be careful not to manipulate it, to agitate it, to see it again”, added Mr. Macron, without citing the name of Eric Zemmour.
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