Paris, 9 November 2018
The Wiesenthal Centre, through its partner, the French National Bureau for Vigilance Against Antisemitism (BNVCA), expressed “its alarm at President Macron’s apparent inclusion, among the World War I Marshals of France, of Philippe Pétain, the Nazi collaborator and antisemite, responsible for the deportation of the Jews under Vichy in World War II.”
The Centre’s Director for International Relations, Dr. Shimon Samuels, recalled that “President François Mitterrand expressed his intent to lay a wreath with American and British leaders in 1994 at the German cemetery of La Cambe in Normandy on the 50th anniversary of D-Day. The Wiesenthal Centre exposed the fact that among the graves were the SS responsible for the atrocity massacre of 642 men, women and children in Oradour-sur-Glane, as Nazi retaliation against the French Resistance. Mitterrand cancelled the event.”
Samuels continued, “At the UNESCO World Heritage Committee in Bahrain last July, France and Belgium presented as candidate sites over 130 World War I cemeteries. We had identified at least two as having graveyards expanded for World War II combatants, one apparently including war criminals, the other a contemporary international shrine for visiting neo-Nazis...”
The French Ambassador to UNESCO requested the Wiesenthal Centre to assist in further identifying such cases before re-submitting the sites for consideration. The French argument was for “reconciliating between enemies in World War I, but not in World War II.”
“This ‘Pétain crisis’ is just such a factor: his role as a military Marshall in WWI, but his war crimes in WWII, for which he was sentenced, disgraced and jailed,” claimed the Centre.
Samuels argued that, “Pétain should have been stripped of all his WWI honours. He should be reviled as a traitor to France... The Elysée has now untied the Gordian Knot - ‘only the Marshals buried at the Invalides will be honoured. Pétain is not buried at the Invalides’.”
A Jewish officer, Dreyfus, was famously stripped of all his medals and honours at the Military School in Paris - Pétain deserved much more. His WWII record obliterates his WWI “glories”... “To act otherwise is a gift to both extreme right and extreme left. The Elysée seems to have got the point,” concluded Samuels.