PARIS (Nov. 11)
The decision by French President Francois Mitterrand to send a wreath for the grave of the leader of Vichy France has outraged French Nazi-hunter Serge Klarsfeld.
Klarsfeld, president of the Sons and Daughters of Jews Deported from France, said angrily, “We cannot understand how the president, who came this summer to pay his respects to the memory of those who were arrested and deported, can also lay a wreath on the tomb of their persecutor.
“It is scandalous,” said Klarsfeld, who was on the tiny Atlantic island of Yeu, a few miles off the French coast, where Petain is buried.
Klarsfeld and about 40 members of the Union of French Jewish Students made the trip to protest against the French president’s gesture on the 74th anniversary of the armistice of World War I.
Petain was one of the commanders of the French army during that war and participated in the Battle of Verdun. A spokesman for the French president said Mitterrand had requested that the graves of all the marshals who took part in that war be flowered, including Petain’s.
Not everyone held the opinion of Klarsfeld and his group. At the same time, a group supporting the commemoration of Petain gathered around his grave and sang “Marechal, Nous Voila” (Marshal, here we are), a hymn to Petain.
French extreme right-wing leader Jean-Marie Le Pen also sent a wreath for Petain’s grave.