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Passing from recognition to denial of the darkest pages of the French history.

Translated Saturday 26 May 2007, by Hervé Fuyet

In the name of the refusal of “repentance”, Nicolas Sarkozy breaks with the model of lucidity established by Chirac concerning the darkest hours of the French history.
If there is a field in which the “rupture” between Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy is undeniable, it is that of the memory of the dark pages of the French history.

On July 16, 1995, during the commemoration of the Rafle du Vel d’ Hiv (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rafle_du_Vel%27d%27Hiv ), the president of the Republic recognized, for the first time, the role of the French State in the deportation of the Jews during the nazi Occupation of France . “Yes, the criminal madness of the occupant was supported by some French people, and by the French State”, stated president Chirac. Did Nicolas Sarkozy perceive there, already, the effect of this “execrable new fashionable repentance” and the “denigration of French history” which he denounces concerning the work of memory?

The UMP (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UMP ) candidate, in any case, maintained throughout his electoral campaign an extremely ambiguous position on the subject. “It is true, there are in our history errors, faults, crimes, as in all the histories of all countries. But we do not have to be ashamed of the French history", he declared on May 3 in Montpellier, at his last electoral meeting. France did not commit a genocide; it did not invent the Final Solution. ” But France has contributed to it , and Chirac admitted it in his speech at the Vél’ d’ Hiv. This is what Sarkozy overlooks…
There is another page of the history of France which constitutes a major point of divergence between the two men: colonization. Convinced he would thus gain thus part of the Front National (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Front_(France) electorate , Nicolas Sarkozy endorsed a speech of legitimation of the “colonial period”, worthy of those circles nostalgic for French Algeria. He never misses an occasion to enumerate a list of the roads, schools, bridges and hospitals, just like the advocates of a “positive assessment” of the French presence in North Africa. Sarkozy shares without complex the ideology of revenge that inspired the drafting and the adoption of the law of February 23, 2005 still in force (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_law_on_colonialism).
He breaks the consensus which has prevailed in the political spheres since 1962, on the necessity for decolonization. And he plays, definitely, in this battle for historical truth, a destructive partition adressed to contemporary France. For this “past which does not pass” is one source of the difficulties that France has today in assuming its diversity , and it is directly related to the colonial history. “We can tell to our children that in the colonies, the colonists were not all exploiters, that many of them never exploited anybody (...). To all those among you who returned from the colonies having given up everything (...), I want to say that if France has a moral debt, it is in the first place towards you”, he added in Montpellier.

These remarks are at the antipodes of the “work of memory which recalls facts and appeases hearts”, invoked by Jacques Chirac on July 21, 2005 in Madagascar, where he paid homage to the victims of the colonial massacre of 1947.

Rosa Moussaoui

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