Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Pétain's Last Stand

After World War I, virtually every town in France had its Rue or Avenue Pétain
recounts John Tagliabue. Among the French towns was tiny Tremblois, a village on the edge of the Ardennes Forest across the border from Belgium which
has only three streets, and they are named for three French heroes of World War I: Marshals Ferdinand Foch, Joseph Joffre and Philippe Pétain.

The problem is that Marshal Pétain had a second act as head of state during World War II, when his administration in the unoccupied part of the country that was known as Vichy France collaborated with Nazi Germany in eliminating its enemies, notably the Jews.

So under pressure from the national government, veterans and Jewish groups, the council voted unanimously to drop the name Pétain from a little street about 600 feet long, renaming it Rue de la Belle-Croix, for a chapel that stands in a wood at its foot.

…But when the signs here change this month, the last street in France bearing his name will have disappeared. Not everyone is happy with the decision. [Said a journalist, Guillaume Lévy:] “it got all polemical.”…