Francois Hollande honours Resistance heroes

Two women among the four whose remains are to be transferred to the Pantheon

France’s president Francois Hollande visits the Museum of Resistance at Mont Valérien in Suresnes, west of Paris, on Friday, where he announced the future “pantheonisation” of four Resistance heroes. Photograph: Remy de la Mauviniere/EPA

France’s president Francois Hollande visits the Museum of Resistance at Mont Valérien in Suresnes, west of Paris, on Friday, where he announced the future “pantheonisation” of four Resistance heroes. Photograph: Remy de la Mauviniere/EPA

Fri, Feb 21, 2014, 17:57

France’s president Francois Hollande has announced the future “pantheonisation” of four Resistance heroes. Mr Hollande spoke on Friday at Mont-Valérien, the fort west of Paris where the Wehrmacht killed 1,007 French hostages and members of the underground between 1941 and 1944.

Mr Hollande is reportedly fascinated by the starkness of the decision that confronted his compatriots. Scarcely a French person has not wondered if he or she would have sided with the collaborationist Vichy regime or the Resistance during the Nazi occupation.

Mr Hollande made the announcement 70 years to the day after 22 members of the Manouchian Resistance group were shot dead by the Nazis at Mont-Valérien. Graffitti left by prisoners awaiting execution is still legible on the walls of the chapel.

The president of France has sole power to transfer remains of great men or women to the Pantheon. Explaining why he chose Pierre Brossolette, Geneviève de Gaulle-Anthonioz, Germaine Tillion and Jean Zay, Mr Hollande said they “embodied the values of France when she was down” and “through their courage or genius enabled France to be France.” The transfer to the Pantheon will take place on May 27th, 2015, national resistance day, Mr Hollande said.

Brossolette travelled between France and London to co-ordinate the interior and exterior Resistance. He took his own life by throwing himself from a fifth floor window rather than talk under torture by the Gestapo.

De Gaulle-Anthonioz, a niece of Charles de Gaulle, joined the Resistance as a student, was deported to Ravensbruck and later campaigned for the rights of the poor through the ATD Quart Monde organisation.

Tillion was an ethnologist and a founder of the Musée de l’homme Resistance network, to which Brossolette and de Gaulle-Anthonioz also belonged. While a prisoner at Ravensbruck, where her mother died, Tillion wrote a comic operetta. “What is left when there is nothing else with which to fight barbarity? Laughter,” she said. Tillion later mediated between Paris and the Algerian FLN, and denounced torture by the French in Algeria.

Jean Zay, the minister of education in the 1936 Popular Front government, remains a reference for French teachers, the majority of whom vote socialist. Zay made school mandatory until age 14, forbade the wearing of religious symbols and founded the national scientific research centre CNRS. He was assassinated by the Vichy government militia in 1944.

Commentary on Mr Hollande’s announcement focused on the inclusion of two women. Only two of the 71 people previously honoured were women. A report commissioned by Mr Hollande last year recommended that he “pantheonise” only women.

“The Pantheon is breaking out of apartheid and becoming universal,” said Danielle Bousquet, president of the higher council for equality between men and women. “School manuals still give a virile vision of history, in which men are the actors.”