The old station of Pithiviers, in the Loiret, is one of those places of shame that the French Republic has the duty to face. This Sunday, July 17, on the occasion of the commemoration of the 80th anniversary of the Vel d’Hiv roundup, the President of the Republic, accompanied by survivors, went to where eight convoys left for Auschwitz. After inaugurating a new place of remembrance, he gave an offensive speech against “odious and persistent” anti-Semitism.
Emmanuel Macron first recalled the course of the roundup, the arrests, on July 17 and 18, 1942, of more than 13,000 Jews, 8,000 of whom were parked in the former winter velodrome in the 15th arrondissement of Paris. The cries of the children, the tears of the parents, this “France disfigured by the French police”. In line with Jacques Chirac, the first to recognize France’s responsibility in 1995, and whose name Emmanuel Macron made a point of quoting, it was the policy of the French State that the President then denounced, recalling that no Nazi soldier had taken part in the roundup.
After recalling several laws adopted by the State in order to limit the freedom of Jews, but also of Gypsies or homosexuals, Emmanuel Macron made a point of stressing that “the spirit of the Republic” was not then completely dead, but that he lived through the women and men of courage. Quoting the action of Lucie Aubrac or the writings of Joseph Kessel, he made a point of showing that if France had lost itself, it was because “the Republic was in exile”.
Far from being solely linked to the circumstances of the collaboration, the president recalled that anti-Semitism was deeply rooted in France, and “still burning today”. “We must make a lucid observation of this. This anti-Semitism is even more burning, rampant, than it was in 1995, in our country, in Europe, and in so many places in the world”, affirmed the president. Because now he “can take on other faces, wrap himself in other words, other caricatures”, evoking in turn “terrorist barbarism”, “assassinations and crimes”, resurgences on “social networks” or “tomb desecrations”.
The forces determined to overthrow the Republic still exist, and in the tradition of Charles Maurras, who called the fall of the Third Republic a “divine surprise”, many of them want to “turn off the lights of our nation”, in the words Of the president. The Jews therefore still do not live in peace, and if France was guilty during the Second World War, it now has a responsibility: to ensure that “this eclipse of humanity” never happens again.
Recalling History to ward it off also means evoking certain subjects that have become societal debates, such as that of Marshal Pétain’s responsibility in the deportation of the Jews. Openly targeting, but without naming him, Eric Zemmour – anti-Semitism “interferes in debates on television sets” – the President of the Republic repeated, to applause, that the hero of 1916 had indeed been the executioner of 1940. “Neither Pétain, nor Laval, nor Bousquet, wanted to save Jews”, he hammered, before declaring that those who indulged in these lies wanted to “destroy the nation”.
Because “France is not greater when it forgets its mistakes”, explained Emmanuel Macron, who refutes the idea that looking the truth in the face is equivalent to weakening oneself. “Eight decades ago, France betrayed its children,” he said. And in the face of this shame, as the Prime Minister recognized a little earlier in the day, the Head of State promised to fight “every early morning” so that the Republic never wavers again.