The Duty of Remembrance | The Journal of Montreal

I visited a terrible museum last week. An exciting museum. An edifying museum.

During my stay in France, I visited the Museum of the Liberation of Paris, which opened three years ago and documents the Nazi occupation during World War II.

When I see a Quebec defense attorney “refusing to admit that the Jews were exterminated during World War II because of Nazi ideology,” I tell myself that many uninformed people would do well to spend more time to spend in museums.


As Roxane Trudel reported in Le Journal on Friday: “Under the jaded looks of her client, who is accused of incitement to hatred, the lawyer for an influential neo-Nazi tried to convince the court that it was not the Nazis who killed the Jews in the… destroyed in World War II.

How ironic: the day before I had spent three hours at the Liberation Museum in Paris and experienced in chronological order the rise of Nazism, the Nazi occupation of France, the resistance, the collaboration and then the liberation with the help of the Allies.

I was stunned to see a photo outside one of the windows showing the Paris apartment I lived in as a teenager, but showing large flags with the Nazi swastika in 1940.

On July 8th we highlighted the fact that 79 years ago Jean Moulin, one of the outstanding figures of the French Resistance, died after being tortured by the Nazis. More precisely, in the Museum of the Liberation we find in a window a terribly poignant letter that Moulin wrote to his sister and mother. We read this incredible sentence: “I didn’t know it was so easy to do your duty when you were in danger”.

And this postscript: “If the Germans – they can do anything – got me to say things that are contrary to honor, you already know that’s not true.”

Soon (July 16th and 17th) we will celebrate the eightieth “anniversary” of the raid on the Vel d’Hiv, one of the darkest episodes in the history of France. During those two days of 1942, at the request of the Nazis, the French authorities organized a roundup of 13,000 Jewish men, women and children who were piled up in the Vélodrome d’Hiver without food or water before being sent off to the death camps.

The Shoah Memorial in Paris is currently exhibiting the works produced by cartoonist Cabu in 1967, when a shocking book exposed the French to the horrors of the raid.

Affected by this “terrible book” that “gave him nightmares”, Cabu made sixteen drawings, which are also published in a collection available in French bookshops.

Here, I think I’ll buy a copy of this book and send it to this attorney who doesn’t seem to have learned much from her history books.


History is omnipresent in France. In front of the schools you will see plaques reminding children that they were arrested and then deported “because they were Jews”. This is known as a “duty to remember”. It’s a shame that in 2022 some won’t have this decency.

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