“I am sure that the French people and all freedom fighters will be able to honor our memory with dignity. » Eighty years later, the conviction expressed by Missak Manouchian in the overwhelming last letter addressed to his wife, Mélinée, before his execution on February 21, 1944 at Mont Valérien, will be concretized in the most brilliant way possible, by the transfer of his remains to the Pantheon. The decision, formalized by the President of the Republic on the very scene of the tragedy, Sunday, June 18, during the commemoration of the Appeal of General de Gaulle covers multiple meanings.
Some are historical and memorial in nature: reconciling the memory of the Resistance long shared between Gaullists and Communists, highlighting the role of the latter in the fight against the Nazi occupier. Others reflect current concerns: celebrating the contribution of foreigners to France, its history and our freedoms, reactivating the universalist ideals of the Republic.
Even if Emmanuel Macron, like his predecessors when they decided to “pantheonize” great figures, is not free from personal and political ulterior motives, he unquestionably operates with Missak Manouchian a judicious choice, carrying strong messages and beneficial.
Who better than this Armenian, stateless, communist, anti-Nazi, in love with France to the point of the sacrifice of his life, can better personify the “great men” to whom “the fatherland”, according to the formula inscribed on the pediment of the Pantheon, is “grateful »? He who, “when dying”claimed to have “no hatred against the German people and against anyone” ? He who, at the same moment, dared to wish “happiness to those who will survive us and taste the sweetness of freedom and peace of tomorrow” ?
Benchmarks and lookouts
For a long time now, by Stanzas to rememberby Louis Aragon, popularized by the song The Red Poster, by Léo Ferré, Missak Manouchian is part of the personal pantheon of generations of French people. His itinerary as a survivor of the Armenian genocide, an immigrant who landed in Marseilles in 1925, a worker, a poet, a volunteer in the French army in 1939, who became one of the leaders of the Francs-tireurs and supporters of immigrant labor (FTP-MOI), a communist resistance network made up of foreigners, symbolizes both the extraordinary attraction of universalist ideas promoted by France, internationalism in the fight against Nazism, the role of the PCF in the Resistance but also, because of the gray areas on the tragic end of the network, the ambiguities of the latter with regard to foreigners.
It is an understatement to say that the figure of Manouchian, one of the ten portraits “black menacing beard and shaggy nights” of the Red Poster, a symbol of xenophobic propaganda, resonates in today’s France where the far right thrives on the “threat” of immigration and promises to establish “national preference”.
It is an understatement, too, how much Simone Veil, Josephine Baker, recently “entered” into the Pantheon, and now Missak Manouchian, are so many landmarks and lookouts in the current country threatened by the instrumentalization of scapegoats and the difficulties of integration. It is an understatement, finally, the danger consisting, for the Head of State, in periodically taking advantage of the symbols and heroes representing the spirit and the hopes of the Resistance, even if it means taking liberties with them in reality. of action.