Should Marshal Pétain Be Honored?

As the 100th anniversary of the 1918 armistice is being celebrated, public opinion is divided on the inclusion of Pétain’s name in the list of eight French marshals honored by the Elysée Palace on Saturday 10 November.

Pétain is a major historical figure, having been both the hero of the Battle of Verdun in World War I, and the collaborationist, anti-Semitic leader of the Vichy government during World War II. Emmanuel Macron justified this decision by arguing that the marshal’s first status as a “great soldier” should not be ignored, nor the fact that he later “made the direst of choices.” The Elysée initially defended its initiative by invoking historical truth, before removing Pétain’s name from the list along with those of two other marshals, Gallieni and Joffre, on the pretext that only marshals buried at Les Invalides would be honored.

This anecdote raises the issue of the rehabilitation, or removal, of controversial figures from the past. This question was publicly debated in the United States in August 2017 when [...]