The French president has put his support behind honoring Henri Philippe Petain, one of the most controversial figures in his nation’s history. Petain was widely celebrated for his military leadership during the First World War, but disgraced himself during the Second World War by taking the position as head of the collaborationist Vichy government. In that position, his government was complicit in many war crimes, including helping the occupying Nazi regime round up French Jews. After France was liberated, Petain was sentenced to be executed. He was spared that fate by then-President Charles De Gaulle, who commuted the sentence but left Petain imprisoned until he died in 1951.
“I consider it entirely legitimate that we pay homage to the marshals who led our army to victory,” Macron said a ceremony. “Marshal Petain was a great soldier in World War One.”
The left wing politician Jean-Luc Melenchon, lead of the France Insoumise political party, disagreed. “Marshal Joffre was the military victor of the 1914-18 war,” Melenchon tweeted. “Petain was a traitor and an anti-Semite. His crimes and his betrayal cannot be erased from history. Macron, this time, you’ve gone to far.”