France remembers the victims of 11/13 in solemn ceremony

President Francois Hollande spoke of ‘the fallen’ as if they were soldiers

President of France Francois Hollande attends The National Tribute to The Victims of The Paris Terrorist Attacks at Les Invalides in Paris. Photograph: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

President of France Francois Hollande attends The National Tribute to The Victims of The Paris Terrorist Attacks at Les Invalides in Paris. Photograph: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images


France paid a national homage to the 130 people killed in the jihadist attacks of November 13th in a solemn, almost military ceremony in the courtyard of honour at Les Invalides on Friday.

The 2,000-strong audience included the families of victims, people wounded in the attacks and those who survived them.

It is extremely rare for Les Invalides, which belongs to the French armed forces, to be used to honour civilians. President Francois Hollande gave the only speech, and referred at least three times to “the fallen”, as if the victims were soldiers on a field of battle. The Republican Guard band played La Marseillaise at the beginning and end of the hour-long service.

Mr Hollande had asked the French to hang the blue, white and red tricolour from their balconies to mark the tribute. French flagmakers have reported an exponential rise in sales since the attacks.

In his speech, Mr Hollande played the role of war president and commander-in-chief to whom the French have rallied. His approval rating has shot up to 41 per cent since the attacks. “France has been struck in a cowardly way, through an act of war that was organised far away and coldly executed,” he began. “A horde of assassins killed 130 of our own . . . in the name of a mad cause and a god they betrayed.”

Mr Hollande promised that “France will use every means to destroy the army of fanatics who commited these crimes . . . I promise you too that France will remain herself, as the disappeared had loved her, as they would have wanted her to remain.”

On Friday, France informed the Council of Europe that its state of emergency will contravene provisions of the European Convention of Human Rights.

Twenty-four militant environmentalists have been placed under house arrest in the run-up to the COP21 climate conference, accused of belonging to “radical protest movements”.

Muslim groups have complained of arbitrary treatment.

At Les Invalides, several of the country’s best known pop and classical musicians performed music by Jacques Brel, Barbara and Bach while photographs of the victims were shown on a large screen. The names and ages of all 130 dead were called out.

“These men and women embodied the joy of living,” Mr Hollande said. They came from 50 French towns, cities and villages, and from 17 countries. “These men and women were the youth of France, the youth of a free people, which cherishes culture,” he added.

The average age of those killed was 35, and they’ve been referred to as “the Bataclan generation”, after the concert hall where the greatest number perished. Today’s youth will remember the attacks “as a terrible initiation to the hardness of the world”, Mr Hollande said.

Two families stated publicly that they would not attend the ceremony because they felt that government incompetence was partly to blame for the deaths. “How can a country that has been on maximum alert since [the Charlie Hebdo massacre of] January 7 have failed to have noticed preparations for the November 13 tragedy?” wrote Delphyne de Peretti, the sister of Aurélie de Peretti, who was killed at the Bataclan.

Also on Friday, Mgr Philippe Barbarin, the cardinal archbishop of Lyon, removed Father Hervé Benoit from his duties. The priest had published an opinion piece objecting to “Eagles of Death Metal,” the California band who were in concert at the Bataclan, and their song Kiss the Devil.

The priest described pre-attack images of concert-goers as “in an ecstatic transe . . . They are the living dead. Their murderers, these hash-smoking zombies, are their Siamese twins. The same unrootedness, amnesia, childishness, absence of culture.”