Genug mit dem Antisemitismus in Frankreich
Jacques Chirac, Präsident der Französischen Republik,
am 08-07-2004 in Chambon sur Lignon
translation, with emphases added)
We are here—as
the mayor has just recalled, and it is true—in
a place steeped in history and emotion. Here, in adversity, the soul of
the nation manifested itself. Here was the embodiment of our country's
Le Chambon-sur-Lignon is a place of memory. A place of
resistance. A place symbolizing a France true to her principles, faithful
to her heritage, true to her genius.
On this high plateau, with its harsh
winters, in solitude, sometimes in poverty, often in adversity, women and men
have long upheld the values, have upheld values, that unite us.
In what was one of the most deprived areas
of our country, standing up to all dangers, they chose courage, generosity
They chose tolerance, solidarity and
They chose the humanist principles that
unite our national community and are the basis for our community of destiny.
The principles that make France what she is.
The history of the villages of the
"Plateau" mirrors the history of the struggle for freedom of conscience and for
At the border of the Haute-Loire and the
Ardèche, this old Protestant land suffered, from the moment of the revocation of
the Edict of Nantes, the ordeal of religious intolerance. In response,
Protestantism had to engage in a painful struggle, a struggle for the nation, a
struggle that led to the inclusion of religious freedom in our Declaration of
the Rights of Man.
Because this countryside kept alive the
memory of this drama, it became a place of welcome, of sharing and of refuge.
Here, the persecuted, the disenfranchised, the refugees found an asylum.
Here, Jews threatened with death found protection. Here, Resistance
fighters of the
maquis and the fighters in the shadows found shelter.
This land of asylum is one of those places that breathes the
spirit of resistance. This area, that paid a high price for freedom of
conscience, very early on saw women and men arise to say no.
Led by admirable
pastors and teachers, villagers and peasants of the "Plateau"—residents of Le
Chambon and of the neighboring communities who shared the same ideal—will
refuse, to cite the title of a book that was published here in Le Chambon, "the
brown mornings." They will refuse the infamy of the Vichy regime.
They will make their banner from the beautiful verb "to resist." They will
turn each of their farms into a refuge. When others, backed by the French
State, committed the irreparable, here, thousands of Jews, including many
children hounded by the Nazis' threat of extermination, found hospitality and
refuge. Here, they found salvation.
Anonymously, unobstrusively, in the simple
thrust of the outstretched hand, of shared fraternity and humanity, rejecting
the law of hatred, "the Plateau," Righteous Among the Nations, added to France.
They were everywhere numerous, in the countryside as in the
cities, these French women and men from all levels of society, of all beliefs,
of all religions, whose courage and commitment will have allowed the rescue,
sometimes at the risk of their lives, of two thirds of their Jewish compatriots.
Such is the France in which I believe. A France capable of the best, true
to her history, to her roots, to her culture. A France of daring and
solidarity, that surmounts her fears and extends herself to greet whose who need
her, who need her help, her protection, her support. A generous France
that rejects selfishness or turning inward, that rejects exclusion and
discrimination. An open and welcoming France, united in her diversity, who
bears with pride her ideal of justice and peace in Europe and in the world.
We must be proud of this fraternal France. We must sustain and
defend her. For all of us, every day, this must be the France we choose.
This choice, to live together respecting every difference, is
never made once and for all. Victory in the struggle for tolerance and for honor
is fragile, with the battle always having to be fought anew.
Still today, odious and despicable acts of hatred are sullying our country.
Discrimination, antisemitism, racism—all kinds of racism—are again spreading
insidiously. They are hitting our Jewish compatriots who have been in our
country since time immemorial. They are hitting our Muslim compatriots who have
chosen to work and live in our country. They are, in reality, hitting all our
They are affecting our schools. They are threatening our children. They are
desecrating our places of worship, our burial places, our strongest symbols.
All these acts which wound the body and shock the soul denote obscurantism,
ignorance and stupidity. They express fanaticism and the desire to humiliate and
abase. They reveal the rejection of difference and of the other.
All these acts reflect the darkest side of the human soul. They are unworthy of
France. I will do everything possible to stop them.
The perpetrators of these acts, these assaults, these acts of hatred, which
have, alas, increased in recent years and months, will be prosecuted
relentlessly. They will be tried. They will be subject to the full rigor of our
laws. I want the victims of these acts to know that the whole nation stands with
All our compatriots, whatever their history or beliefs, are entitled to respect.
Thanks to the principle of secularity [laïcité], everyone can live and
practice his or her religion in complete security, in complete safety. It
enables state schools, the place where the values bequeathed to us all are
acquired and passed on, to be open to all, regardless of persuasion. This is why
it must be defended. State schools must be free from outside influences and
passions. This is the purpose of the recently adopted law banning pupils from
wearing conspicuous religious signs. The Republic is the common good of every
citizen, with equal rights and duties. Equal opportunity is a requirement that
we must realize to the full. It must be central to public action. To ensure
this, an independent authority assigned the task of fighting discrimination will
be established by the end of this year.
I am asking all our country’s public officials, the government first, and all
civil servants—especially the police, administrative and judicial authorities,
but also mayors and leaders of the regional and general councils—to show
unwavering resolve in fighting these intolerable abuses. National cohesion is
not the prerogative of any one camp. It cannot be a partisan issue. It must be
our common goal.
I am asking the Minister of Justice to ensure that the prosecuting authorities
act extremely firmly in all these cases of exclusion, all these instances where
individuals reject the other, which of course the law condemns. To take, each
time, the requisite steps to ask the courts to hand down extremely severe and
exemplary sentences for acts which are the very negation of the values which
bring our nation together. Dropping cases of racism, antisemitism, xenophobia
and homophobia is unacceptable. Every act must be punished. Similarly, I would
like prosecutors to appeal whenever they consider court decisions too lenient in
view of the seriousness of the acts prosecuted. The very principle of justice is
at stake here.
I am asking the Minister for National Education and all our teachers to take
more care than ever to ensure that our republican principles, law and history
are passed on to and shared by all French young people. The teaching of the
rights and responsibilities of citizenship must be at the heart of the missions
of the republican school—so that, at a very young age, everyone acquires the
sense of belonging fully to the national community, feels proud to be a French
citizen, is more aware of the rights and duties it entails, and of the behavior
and common rules of life it implies. This will be one of the priority objectives
of the Education Outline Bill which the government will present to Parliament
before the end of the year.
I want all mayors in France—who know the local situation better than anyone and
are often the best placed to anticipate, prevent and respond locally, quickly
and justly—to mobilize to the maximum, with the assistance of the State, on
these questions which are essential to our life together and our future. I am
asking the government to ensure that the prefects examine with the mayors
measures and initiatives that will be useful in increasing prevention and
combating this unacceptable behavior.
And I make this request here in Le Chambon because you have set the example.
But no matter
how absolute the determination of the public authorities—which
I pledge—the will and the action of the state and of local authorities, cannot,
on their own, suffice.
The example of the "Plateau" shows us
that it is the commitment of each of us, and the solidarity of all, day after
day, that lead to the strength and the exemplary potential of human communities.
It illustrates the irresistible drive, even in adversity, towards a sense of
fraternity based on respect for shared rules and principles. A fraternity
aware of the requirements of "living together" and of responsible citizenship.
In response to the risk of indifference and passivity in
everyday life, I call on every French man and woman to be vigilant. Confronted
with the danger, I call on them to act and act now.
In the face of growing intolerance, racism and antisemitism, the rejection of
differences, I ask them to remember a still recent past. I tell them to remain
true to the lessons of history, such recent history. I urge them always to
remind their children of the mortal danger of fanaticism, exclusion, cowardice,
and abdication in the face of extremism. I ask them to demonstrate forcefully
our resolution, our common capacity to live in harmony and respect one another.
I ask them always to bear our heritage with pride. France, the home of human
rights, has inscribed on her public buildings the universal values of mankind.
She has made Liberty, Equality and Fraternity the motto of the Republic. Let us
remind our children that the entire history of the French nation is punctuated
with such battles, sometimes terrible ones, but battles which placed tolerance
and the protection of the weakest in the forefront of our principles. Battles
waged by the great minds, the great philosophers who forged our culture. Battles
fought by the most humble, who have often remained anonymous, whose commitment,
and sometimes supreme sacrifice, have done so much for the honor and greatness
of France and the French.
Just days before our July 14th celebration, the symbol of our fraternity, I call
on each and everyone to close ranks, so that together, true to our values, we
can put into practice a certain idea of man and a certain idea of France.
I thank you.