Friday, November 14, 2014

A Painful Episode from the Parisian Past

This week we studied the October 1961 massacre by the Parisian police of Algerians and French citizens of Algerian descent who were peacefully demonstrating during the Franco-Algerian war.  The massacre was only officially commemorated by the Parisian government in 2001, the product of a process of reclaiming historical memory after decades of "organized forgetting" that involved censorship and silence, including concerning the role of Police Prefect Maurice Papon.  Papon, who was convicted in 1998 of complicity with Nazi crimes against humanity for his role as a Vichy official in the Holocaust, authorized the attacks on demonstrators in 1961 that led to the deaths of hundreds.  On the fortieth anniversary of the massacre, Parisian Mayor Betrand Delanoë installed a plaque on the Pont Saint-Michel, one of the major sites of the deadly assaults, just a block from the Notre Dame cathedral and across the bridge from the Fontaine Saint-Michel.  After the ceremony, Delanoë explained, "There are parts of Paris’s history which are painful, but which have to be talked about and which have to be accompanied by acts."  Visiting the plaque was our site excursion this week.

In 2010, Radio France Internationale produced this piece in English about the massacres:

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