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The Memory of the Holocaust in France

October 15, 2017 7:30 pm
October 15, 2017 9:00 pm
Mandelbaum House
(02) 9692 5240
Google Map
385 Abercrombie Street, Darlington, Sydney, NSW, Australia, 2008

Two weeks before the first round of the French presidential elections, far-right candidate Marine le Pen denied France’s culpability in a roundup of Jews in Paris during World War II. By rejecting France’s responsibility for the Vél d’Hiv roundup, Le Pen hoped to boost her support. But her action stood in contrast to her strategy of ridding the right-wing party from its antisemitic image. Whether the National Front’s poor showing relative to initial predictions in the election was linked to her change of strategy is not clear. But as France’s role in the Holocaust remains a highly sensitive topic, her comments earned widespread condemnation from her political opponents, historians and Jewish groups.
The ambivalence at the heart of French memory with regard to the Second World War reflects the complexities of the French experience. Defeat and liberation, collaboration and resistance, the suffering of victims and the pride of heroes all mix together to form a web of ideas and emotions regarding the war and its legacy. This lecture will focus on monuments as prototypes of these cultural memories. The debate preceding the erection of a monument provides significant insight into the political and mental transformations of a society and its vision of the past. It will show how the transformation of memory from 1944 until the present is reflected in the monuments’ construction and analyse the debates that accompanied their development.

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