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?
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Oh dear, please excuse me. I have another flying fit of sneezing. I thought it might be hay fever earlier today, but as I am on sequence no. 7 and feeling worse with every one, I think it might be a bad cold.
Hopefully I can respond to your earlier comment tomorrow, Lucy.
For now, I am off to bed and some reading (if capable of the latter).
Is it springtime for colds?
Not sure how a simple change of address would work in France, but here, I think it would lead to nothing. No one would forget such significant detail and it would feature in the travel guides.
This is sadness on top of sadness and on top of more sadness for me. I have just finished a Swedish author’s crime fiction story and the story evoked Treblinka. After or during the last years of uni, I read D. M. Thomas’s The White Room which was fiction but acknowledged a drawing from the story of a victim of WWII in Anatoli Kuznetsov’s Babi Yar, also related to Treblinka, if I remember correctly.
I read The White Hotel, but having started Babi Yar in my first year, I never finished it. The book mark remains on the relevant page to this day. Man’s capability of inhumanity to man stunned me then. Perhaps over 20+ years and all I have read in fiction and in the MSM news, I might be able to complete reading that book now. And perhaps, one day I will attempt to do so.
But all I read all those years ago left me with strong thoughts. Let us learn from WWII and more specifically, the causes of it. Let’s not forget and let’s learn from it; even if we fail time and time again because a replica is not on our doorstep, let’s learn from our historians and not forget. And if the Holocaust doubters grab your attention, I recommend a visit to Washington’s Holocaust Museum. There you can feel the oppression of a restricted and marked zone; there you can walk through a train’s basic working stock carriage, feel its emptiness of facilities and feel its unbearable crush of human beings; there, you can smell your next encounter of a pile of abandoned shoes from Auschwitz, before you turn the corner. Smelly feet when you were younger? There will be no jokes now. That smell may be the only reminder of those particular innocent people who lost their lives in WWII. And there were others.
What’s sad is that even in my lifetime – and Lucy, yours too, I imagine – we have seen history repeat itself on smaller things like lending too much on a house. Hence another recession. But we’ve also seen bigger, like Rwanda. Why can we not learn, even in our own lifetimes?
As for changing the address, I am in the “no” group. I don’t think it would make a difference if it happened. And we need a slap in the face for memory, much like a whole partially-frozen trout on a cold day; and definitely never a hyped-up candy floss routine.