For nominated students.

Professor Philip Nord will discuss the following topics.

After World War Two, Charles de Gaulle undertook to memorialize the French Resistance. He settled on a site, Mont-Valérien, in the western suburbs of Paris, and every year, from 1945 onward, made a pilgrimage there to remember wartime comrades-in arms. He had hopes of building a monument, which were set aside once he left public office in 1946. They were revived, however, when he returned to power twelve years later, with speedy results. The so-called Mémorial de la France Combattante was inaugurated in 1960 in a two-day ceremony, and ever since, the site has hosted a memorial event each June 18, the anniversary of de Gaulle’s celebrated June 18, 1940 appeal to the French people to keep up the fight against the German enemy. 

The Memorial and the ceremonials associated with it testified to France’s unbroken will to fight, highlighting above all the contributions of the nation’s armed forces to the struggle. In doing so, it scanted the role played by the Resistance in the hexagon and its most dynamic element, the Communist Party. But the monument was also a paean to the empire and all that France’s imperial armies had done to liberate the metropole and this at the very moment de Gaulle was negotiating the independence of France’s African colonies. And not least of all, it was a monument full of religious, i.e. Christian allusions. In all these respects, it reflected de Gaulle’s own vision of France’s place in the world, a vision that was not just patriotic and anti-communist but also martial, imperial, and Catholic.

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