French President Emmanuel Macron has caused outrage by announcing he would honour General Philippe Petain alongside seven other generals at a ceremony commemorating the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I this Saturday.
Petain, who, at the time was considered a national hero for defeating the Germans at Verdun in 1917, was later sentenced to death as a traitor for the role he played during WWII.
“I consider it entirely legitimate that we pay homage to the marshals who led our army to victory. Marshal Petain was a great soldier in World War I,” said Macron, speaking in Charleville-Mezieres on Wednesday.
Though Macron admitted Petain had made “fatal choices during World War II,” he added: “My role isn’t to understand that it’s shocking, or to comment about people. My role is to try to explain, to be firm in my convictions, face our history.”
Critics were quick to criticize Macron, pointing to the role that Petain played in history later in life.
Francis Kalifat, the president of the Jewish group CRIF, said he was “shocked by this statement by Macron. Petain was the person who allowed the deportation of 76,000 French Jews to death camps. Petain signed the [law on] the status of Jews that meant that Jews were excluded from public function, education and forced to wear the Jewish star.”