The French president travels to the city that housed the capital of the collaborationist regime to counter Petain’s revisionism by the extreme right
“We must avoid manipulating history, shake it and revise it,” is the message that the president, Emmanuel Macron. launched yesterday before visiting Vichy, a city famous for its thermal waters and also for having been the capital of collaborative France with Nazi Germany. Four months before the elections, Macron was responding, without naming him, to the far-right candidate, Éric Zemmour. The tenant of the Elysee considers that it should be “scholars on the basis of records and documents” who build “a historiographical truth.”
Zemmour, who is a Jew of Algerian origin, has created controversy by claiming that General Philippe Pétain and the Vichy regime “saved” the French Hebrews during World War II. «Vichy protected our people and gave up the foreigners. It is easy to say, 50 years later, that France is guilty. France is not guilty. It is Germany that is guilty, “he said at the end of September in a statement that sparked outrage.
Secretary of State for European Affairs, Clément Beaune, criticized Zemmour’s pro-Vichy “revisionism” in October. “The myth of Pétain protector of the Jews does not withstand historical analysis for a second,” said Beaune. According to the Paris Shoah Memorial, of 330,000 Jews living in France in 1939 some 76,000 were handed over to the Nazis with the help of the Vichy regime. Only 2,500 returned from the concentration camps.
Vichy, declared a Unesco world heritage site, is not a place that Gallic presidents usually visit, since in the collective memory it continues to be a town stigmatized by its historical past. The last was Valéry Giscard-d’Estaing in 1979 on a furtive trip. Before that, in 1959, General Charles de Gaulle.
The mayor of this spa town, Fréderic Aguilera, asks to stop talking about the Vichy regime to name the regime of Marshal Pétain who ruled France, from that town, between 1940 and 1944. The councilor considers that its inhabitants are not to blame de Pétain and his government will settle there.
Macron also took advantage of his trip to Vichy to visit the parents of Secondary teacher Samuel Paty, who live near the city. This educational professional was assassinated and beheaded in October 2020 by a jihadist after teaching the controversial cartoons of Muhammad to his students in a class on freedom of expression.