Rights, Justice, Opposition to Tyranny

musee leclerc & resistance
The museum, as seen from the Jardin Atlantique above the station.
eMail from Professor Gordon B. Greb, via the Internet
Dear Ric -

Chico:- Monday, 6. April 1998:- By noting that France deported men, women and children in the l940's on account of their being Jewish - ignoring their citizenship - raises fundamental questions of law as well as morality.

Why didn't anyone at the time ask, "Weren't they citizens?" Yes, didn't they have rights? What was the French Revolution all about except to establish the rights of citizens?

However, the dilemma for good men and women who faced Hitler's tyranny in the l930's and 40's was that open opposition to anti-Semitism subjected you to arrest, imprisonment and death, and consequently, few dared to do it.

One of the bravest of the open resisters was Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Christian cleric who went to America to teach at a theological school and could have stayed there, but his conscience made him board a ship back to Germany to confront the Nazis and work against the totalitarian regime - until Hitler ordered his execution a few days before the war ended.

It was not possible for all good people to cross the channel like Charles de Gaulle. And the idea of serving in the Vichy government and helping the resistance like Bernard de Chalvron was risky and rare. Papon was like most. He thought of his own neck first. It was safer to join the crowd and not make waves. As the Japanese say, the nail that stands up gets hammered down.

Emile Zola's last work was on "Justice." He was writing on that when he breathed his last in 1902, asphyxiated by faulty stove fumes in his Paris apartment. Now 100 years later, the French have debated anti-Semitic injustices in the Papon trial.

If the purpose is to correct wrongs of the past, it cannot be done, because the past is the past. But using experience as our guide to the future, then history can serve a good purpose and with the blessings of intelligence, perhaps we can make whatever changes are necessary in how we behave today to avoid repeating old crimes and mistakes. Perhaps today we should hunt down suspects and meet out punishment for sins and crimes of the past..

But we should not go too far. The framers of the U.S. Constitution outlawed punishment of children for sins of their fathers. The guilt must not go from generation to generation as it has in Northern Ireland, the Middle East or the Balkans.

Zen Buddhists tell us suffering comes from clinging. Some Catholics in monasteries wonder why God allows such terrible suffering by those who are forced to cling and cannot escape. Living is a dilemma for most people because they cannot, like Zen Buddhists, sit cross-legged and hum "ooohmmm" to escape The Now!

I have read [in my encyclopedia] that the Alfred Dreyfus case raised such a conflict in France that it almost led to civil war. 'Dreyfus' resulted in a staunchly Republican government and the decline of the French monarchist and nationalist movements. In addition, opposition to the anti-Semitic attitude of the French church occasioned the passage of the Separation Law of l905, which disestablished the Roman Catholic Church as the state church of France.

The anti-Semitic outbreaks occurring after the first Dreyfus trial had the effect of giving strong initial impulse to modern Zionism. Theodor Herzl became convinced of the necessity for a 'Jewish national homeland.' But it did not stop the crimes of the 1940s.

To be or not to be, that is the question. Those who can't learn from the past are condemned to repeat it.

Best regards, Gordon

P.S. April 6th is important in American history, too. On this day in l917, Congress declared war on Germany and President Wilson sent the doughboys under the command of General Pershing to fight in the trenches of France to "make the world safe for democracy."


Resistance On All Sides
Bonjour Professor Greb -

Paris:- Friday, 10. April 1998:- I do not think the Mémorial du Maréchal Leclerc de Hauteclocque et de la Libération de Paris - Musée Jean Moulin, is particularly well-known.

It is located above the tracks at the Gare Montparnasse, in a space known as the Jardin Atlantique. In the station, if you go in the direction of quai One, and climb stairs, you should be able to find it if you are determined.

The first section is about WWII and Maréchal Leclerc's part in it. In a circular space upstairs, there is a audio-visual show. Today it is the 'liberation of Paris' and I am the only viewer; of a moving show of these events in 1944, played over multi-screens arranged in a 220-degree curve.

The cinema clips were made at a time when there was a death penalty for doing these, and at a time when there were a lot of real bullets flying around. You see a Nazi soldier fall and two members of the resistance run out to strip the body of weapons. You look through window frames pock-marked by bullet impacts, at passing panzers.

It is very strong. Later the arrival of Général Leclerc's 2nd Armored Division is shown, but this is halfway through. Charles de Gaulle makes a speech, "Paris Libére!" "Libére par son peuple avec le concours des armées de la France..."

Parisians began their liberation five days before the arrival of Général Leclerc'sjean moulin Sherman tanks; the museum displays show the route of the accompanying US armored division.

Two years ago this museum in Paris had an exhibition named, 'Germans Against the Nazis, 1933-1945.' These were not many, but they were real. The catalogue is still available.

The final part of the museum is dedicated to Jean Moulin. He entered government service in 1922 and in 1939 was Prefect of Chartres. Under the name of 'Romanin,' Moulin was also a published cartoonist. Judged to be of dubious loyalty, he was relieved of his functions on 22. November 1940.

Photo of Jean Moulin outside museum, taken in 1939 at Montpellier.

Before leaving for Britain, he surveyed the Resistance in the 'Zone-Sud.' After consultations with De Gaulle, he returned to France, 'not to create the Resistance, but to make it into an army,' and to act as the transmission between interior and exterior forces.

Moulin created the Resistance Council in May of 1943, which united all groups in a common front. Captured by Klaus Barbie with eight other resistants on 21. June 1943, Moulin is thought to have died on 8. July. Anti-Vichy, ex-Prefect of France.

Mémorial du Maréchal Leclerc de Hauteclocque et de la Libération de Paris - Musée Jean Moulin

Jardin Atlantique, above the quais of the Gare Montparnasse. Open daily from 10:00 to 17:40, except Mondays and public holidays. Entry fee:17.50 francs. There is also a documentation centre at the museum, which requires an appointment. Info. Tel.: 01 40 64 39 44.

Regards, Ric

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