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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: https://www.humanite.fr/cedric-vill...

by Maud Vergnol

Cédric Villani: “The State will no longer seek to impose its own version.”

Translated Monday 9 April 2018, by Jane Swingler

Maurice Audin. The French “authorities” have never acknowledged the assassination of the young Communist mathematician, Maurice Audin, by the army in June 1957. Cédric Villani demands recognition of this crime of State from the president of the Republic.

Will Emmanuel Macron acknowledge the assassination of Maurice Audin by the French army as a true crime of the State? Because the Communist militant did not simply vanish into thin air after escaping in June 1957, as the “official version”, held for too long, would have us believe. Instead, he was executed with the “complete and utter cover-up of political power”, according to the confession of the murderous General Aussaresses, before his death in 2013. Over the years, successive enquiries have re-examined the puzzle, concluding that Maurice Audin was indeed killed by French soldiers after being tortured. It was an assassination carried out “as an example” in the midst of the battle of Algiers, with the aim of “dissuading” the Communists from taking part in the struggle for independence. Between January and September 1957, 3,027 people arrested by paratroopers “disappeared”. With cases dismissed under amnesty law, everything conspired to bury the truth about the crimes of State perpetrated by the French army during the Algerian War. If Emmanuel Macron is clear that “the State will no longer seek to impose its own version”, he must now officially acknowledge this crime.

In May 2017, you co-signed a letter to the President, demanding that the State shed light on the assassination of Maurice Audin. Why have you engaged in this dispute?

Cédric Villani: First of all, I would like to say that, before becoming aware of Maurice Audin’s story, I knew his children, Michèle Audin, a mathematician and science historian and Pierre Audin, who has quietly made a wonderful career in the popularisation of mathematics in the Palais de la Découverte. Pierre and I became friends and I have him to thank for several clever tips for outreach programmes, as well as fruitful contacts in the Algerian mathematical community. However, it is through other sources, including the memoirs of Laurent Schwartz and accounts by senior mathematicians like Pierre Cartier, that I became aware of the tragic “Audin affair”. To be associated with a call for the truth about Maurice Audin was a protest against an arbitrary injustice and an affirmation of the independence of universities as well as quite simply paying homage to Maurice Audin, this amazingly strong, idealistic and courageous figure. This is why when, some years ago, my colleague Gérard Tronel, the creator of the relaunched Maurice Audin prize for mathematics, asked me to preside over the jury in conjunction with the Henri-Poincaré Institute, I immediately agreed and it was easily endorsed by the management board. It was in this capacity that on more than one occasion, I had the opportunity to publicly honour the memory of Maurice Audin, in both France and Algeria.

Have you spoken about this directly with Emmanuel Macron? Is he prepared to acknowledge the assassination of Maurice Audin by the French army?

Cédric Villani: Yes, I have had the opportunity to speak directly about this with President Macron. He told me that the wide-ranging task of opening the Archives, initiated by François Hollande, was going to continue. He also said that, so far, the archives had shed no definitive light on Maurice Audin’s fate and that it remained for historians to reconstruct the events; the state would no longer seek to impose its own version. In the end and most importantly, he shared his private conviction that Maurice Audin had indeed been assassinated by the French army.

The President of the Republic had committed himself “to act decisively on this period of our history”. Is he going to officially acknowledge the assassination of Maurice Audin as a crime of the State?

Cédric Villani: I know that the president is working on this matter and I am convinced that an announcement will be made in due course. He has also spoken directly to Josette Audin, Maurice’s widow, who has been fighting for sixty years for the recognition of the truth. Quite apart from the tragic fate of Maurice Audin and the specific circumstances of his execution, what is important for myself and others is that the State recognise and officially condemn the attitude and strategy of the French army at the time, which used “illegal means”, to quote the euphemism that I read in an archive that was shown to me, to make citizens disappear by the hundreds. It is not a question of blaming someone in particular but of working towards the healing of wounds which remain open in our collective memory of the Algerian war, in which the massacre of the Harkis, for example, is another tragic incident. The president has acted in respect of this, too, as he has for some time been meeting with Harki groups and has set in motion unprecedented actions to give them justice. I had the assurance that decisive measures will be taken concerning all parties that participated in this war. To conclude, I concentrate on the fact that these measures from our history will make much more sense if they are accompanied by measures aimed at the future, concerning co-operation, for example. And, to return to the Maurice Audin prize, its mission is to promote a voluntary policy of Franco-Algerian scientific co-operation.

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