The Portrait of Esther The Black Notebook

France faces up to its past

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Episode V - page 17

In the 1970s and 1980s, France witnessed a growing collective awareness of the realities of World War II, particularly in relation to the country’s role in the persecution, deportation and annihilation of Jews.

The unpleasant reality of the Vichy Regime was finally revealed through old films and books. The public learned of the complicity of the ‘French State’ in the genocide of European Jews. This awareness was a painful one.

A few years later, Jacques Chirac, then president of the Republic, solemnly recognized the responsibility of the Vichy Government in the genocide and atrocities committed against the Jews. He made a historic declaration on 16 July 1995, during the commemoration of the round-up of the Vel d’Hiv, where the French authorities arrested 10,000 Jewish men, women and children.

As Léa says, this speech would be the beginning of change.