93 rue Lauriston, 75016, Paris, is an address known to most of France (at least those vaguely aware of her history) as the headquarters of the French Gestapo from 1941 – 1944. It is not, it would seem (however expensive the real estate in this particular part of Paris) an address that is desirable to its potential tenant, former Foreign Minister to Chirac, Monsieur Herve de Charette. The MP recently asked Claude Goasguen, the good mayor of the sixteenth arrondissement (by far the Nazi’s favourite quartier), to ask his council members if they could possibly change the address…From No. 93 to No. 91a, rue Lauriston!
“The past associated with the address was embarrassing to me,” the former minister has since explained, by way of justification. “Particularly since I’m responsible for a Franco-Arab* organisation. My request was well-intentioned: to get rid of the address of shame. I didn’t know I was going to trigger all this controversy.”
Obligingly, Mayor Goasguen (a fellow member of Sarkozy’s UMP party) put it to the vote. Significantly, 8 out of his 12 councillors abstained but no one dared to vote against his motion, which was quite simply absurd. Not revisionist, as some have claimed, not fascist, but plain mad.
The mayor, who has rather clumsily described his position on the subject as “neither for nor against”, has since dropped the matter. (The matter, though, has not dropped him.)
It all reminds me of the suggestion, made a few years ago, by the MP Gérard Charasse, that a law be passed to prohibit any assimilation of the Vichy regime with the town of Vichy (one of the key towns in his constituency). Article 4 of his law (which thankfully has never seen the light of day) states that “Shall be considered an imputation causing prejudice to the honour and reputation (of Vichy)…any designation tending to assimilate the name of the town or its inhabitants with treasonous behaviour, capitulation, or offense to republican values.”
When will this country ever recover enough from the trauma of the Occupation to stop wanting to forget it?