This year’s edition of National Commemorations, a French publication which pays tribute to notable figures and noteworthy events, mentioned the 150th anniversary of the birth of Charles Maurras (1868-1952), a notorious antisemite.
To no one’s surprise, his inclusion in the newsletter caused indignation and consternation. As Frederic Potier, the head of a French government panel examining antisemitism and racism in France, wrote in a Twitter post, “To commemorate is to pay homage. Maurras … has no place in the National Commemorations.”
Potier’s condemnation had the desired effect.
Culture Minister Francoise Nyssen, who had predicted in the foreword that the latest edition would bring “great pleasure and beautiful emotions” to readers, quickly ordered the removal of Maurras’ name, saying his presence was “likely to divide French society.”
One wonders why Maurras, a fascist scoundrel, was included in the first place. By way of explanation, Nyssen said that “dark hours” are also a part of French history. One cannot deny that. But why should National Commemorations, which tends to accentuate the positive, go out of its way to commemorate the birth of a such a wretched person?
Maurras was a reactionary who railed against the noble ideas of the French Revolution, who languished in prison for having plotted against Jewish politicians and who caused untold grief to countless French citizens.
In short, Maurras is a persona non-grata who deserves not a shred of recognition from the government of France.
A writer and a politician, he sided with the anti-Dreyfusards during the Dreyfus affair. An advocate of state antisemitism, he was an associate of Maurice Barres, one of France’s most vocal antisemites.
Maurras was an influential voice in the chauvinistic Action Francaise movement and he edited its house organ. His articles were published in La Libre Parole, an antisemitic rag edited by Edouard Drumont.
In 1925 and 1936, Maurras was convicted of respectively inciting death threats against Abraham Schrumeck, the Jewish minister of interior, and Leon Blum, the first Jewish prime minister of France.
Calling the German invasion and occupation of France in 1940 a “divine surprise,” he supported the collaborationist Vichy regime of Henri Philippe Petain. He maintained that the 1940 anti-Jewish edicts, which stripped Jews of their rights and rendered them second-class citizens, were too moderate.
Arrested in 1944 after the liberation of France, Maurras was sentenced to life imprisonment for collaboration. He was released in 1952, shortly before his death.
Maurras was a malevolent and destructive force whose poisonous beliefs were a source of anguish, trauma and division. Let his narrow-minded followers honor him. France should not be in the business of honoring rogues and traitors of his ilk.