December 3, 2006


My Reservations About The French (Robert Fisk, 03 December 2006, The Independent)

I'm reticent about the French for three reasons. Firstly, because some years ago, driven by a sense of outrage and dark curiosity, I attended a mass for the dead in central Paris. It was celebrated by an American priest and was held for - well, yes, Marshal Philippe Pétain. With a dear friend and colleague, I sat in the nave and watched more than 100 mostly elderly middle-class ladies and gentlemen - faces set and grave, sinister and secretive amid the darkness of the church - come to remember the leader of Vichy France who replaced Liberty, Equality and Fraternity with Work, Family and Homeland, and sent his country's Jews, along with thousands of foreign Jewish refugees, to Auschwitz with an enthusiasm that surprised even the Nazis.

Secondly, because I have just finished reading Irène Némirovsky's brilliant - no, let me speak frankly - transformative account of the Fall of France, Suite Française, a novel which was intended by its young Jewish author to be her modern-day version of Tolstoy's War and Peace. Suite Française is one of those rare books that you can put down at night and wake up dreaming about... [...]

In all, 100,000 Jews were sent from France to the death camps, 20,000 through the transit camp at Drancy outside Paris, almost 2,000 of them children. Four hundred of these children were handed over by the French authorities. All this was recalled at the 14th Jewish Film Festival in Vienna this week when Thomas Draschen introduced his film Children's Memories. But imagine Mr Draschen's rage - and here is my third reason for reticence about the French - when he discovered that the French embassy in Vienna, which hosted the film's premiere, deleted the following sentence from its programme: "11,400 Jewish children from France were handed over to the Nazis by the French authorities and murdered at Auschwitz."

On the other hand, as any Realist could explain, the French did secure stability by giving up a bit of chaotic freedom.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 3, 2006 10:05 AM

There's some good old-fashioned French-bashing in the movie Flushed Away, which I took the kids to on Friday, and which I highly recommend.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at December 3, 2006 10:36 AM

Recall that Petain died as a convicted traitor.

One wonders whether the CESM's have some sort of Yakasuni shrine to honor their war ctiminals.

Posted by: Lou Gots at December 3, 2006 12:12 PM

Words fail and eyes tear after all these decades, yet American Jews blithely run over to spend summers in the south of France, teach their kids to speak the language and generally behave like fools in the presence of a superior culture. Can anyone explain it?

Posted by: erp at December 3, 2006 9:09 PM

erp - One reason is that if you are going to condemn France, they will not make that judgement for you and even sell you the arguments. They do not air their dirty laundry (real or imagined) for the whole world to watch. French writers, artists, professors, diplomats, even ex-presidents do not go abroad to badmouth their country or apologize for its policies. Politics ends at the border.

Short time ago I read an interview with James Ellroy in a German newspaper and he vehemently refused to comment on current affairs. He said basically that America is getting a lot of crap from the rest of the world, much of it unfairly, and that they would not get him to say anything against his country. To my knowledge, that may be the only time that ever happened.

Franky, I think that America with its self-flagellating attitude wouldn´t do well in a job interview. Good thing she doesn´t have to.

Posted by: wf at December 4, 2006 5:05 AM