France is glossing over the collective shame of collaboration in celebrations to mark the 70th anniversary of Charles de Gaulle's appeal to resist Nazism, a leading historian has claimed.
According to Jean-Pierre Azéma, the fervor around the anniversary risks talking up the achievements of Charles de Gaulle, pictured, when the real man of the hour was Winston Churchill. Photo: AP
Jean-Pierre Azéma, a respected author of more than a dozen works, said he was concerned that inconvenient truths about France's wartime past were being played down amid a surge of patriotism around de Gaulle's June 18, 1940 appeal from London.
He said the fervour around the anniversary risked talking up de Gaulle's achievements when the real man of the hour was Winston Churchill.
Dozens of events are being held across France this week to remember the appeal, in which de Gaulle declared:
In London, he will visit the BBC's studio B2, where de Gaulle made the appeal, and his wartime offices, before meeting the Prince of Wales and David Cameron, the Prime Minister.
But Mr Azéma said the French public must be reminded that de Gaulle's revered appeal went almost unnoticed at the time and that he was not seen as a saviour by the vast majority of the population.
Pétain on June 17, 1940, announced the French surrender in his broadcast, saying:
His decision was welcomed with relief by a majority of the French.
The same day that Pétain announced surrender, de Gaulle was in London to meet with Churchill, who was, according to Mr Azéma, the true decision-maker and "man of destiny".