Charles de Gaulle

August 19, 1944: Liberation of Paris

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The City of Lights liberation by the Allies began seventy years ago today.  It started, fittingly enough, with uprisings of Free French resistance forces throughout the city, launching attacks on the German garrison.  Some 800 Free French fighters would die in these attacks.  The Free French quickly held most of the city, while lacking the firepower to attack German strongpoints.  The entry into Paris of the 2nd Free French armored division on August 24, along with the 4th US infantry division, caused the capitulation of the German garrison on August 25, and Paris went mad with joy.

General Charles de Gaulle, normally a rather cold and distant man, gave a speech in liberated Paris on August 25, 1944 that gave full voice to this rapture: →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Bastille Day and the Transformative Power of History

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(I originally posted this in 2012.  I rather liked this post, so here it is again.)

 

The La Marseillaise scene from Casablanca.  Today is Bastille Day, the great national holiday in France, the equivalent of our Independence Day.  In France it is known as La Fête Nationale, the National Celebration, or Le quatorze juillet, the fourteenth of July, rather like Independence Day is often known here as the Fourth of July.  There the similarities end.  Although almost all Americans look back at the American Revolution with pride, many of us dedicated to the great truths embodied in the Declaration of Independence, the French Revolution is looked upon much more ambiguously in France.

Bastille Day recalls an event July 14, 1789 in which the mob of Paris, joined by mutinous French troops, stormed the Bastille, a fortress-prison in Paris which had in the past held political prisoners.  The Bastille fell to the mob after a fight in which some ninety-eight attackers and one defender were killed.  After the fighting, in an ominous sign of what was to come in the French Revolution, the mob massacred the governor of the prison and seven of the defenders.  The Bastille held a grand total of seven inmates at the time of its fall, none of political significance.

So began the Revolution which promised Liberty, Equality and Fraternity in theory and delivered in practice, Tyranny, Wars and Death, with France embarked on a witches’ dance of folly which would end at Waterloo, after almost a quarter of a century of war which would leave Europe drenched in blood.  Edmund Burke at the beginning of this madness, in 1790, saw clearly where all this would lead:

→']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Anne de Gaulle

Anne De Gaulle

(I wrote this post back in 2009.  I am republishing it now because it has always been one of my favorites and the blog readership is far higher now.  Additionally it is one of several posts that I have written that I think, in retrospect, may have been God’s way of preparing me for the loss of my son Larry on May 19 of this year. )

 

 

Charles de Gaulle could be a very frustrating man.  Churchill, in reference to de Gaulle, said that the heaviest cross he had to bear during the war was the Cross of Lorraine, the symbol of the Free French forces.  Arrogant, autocratic, often completely unreasonable, de Gaulle was all of these.  However, there is no denying that he was also a great man.  Rallying the Free French forces after the Nazi conquest of France, he boldly proclaimed, “France has lost a battle, France has not lost the war.”  For more than a few Frenchmen and women, de Gaulle became the embodiment of France.  It is also hard to dispute that De Gaulle is the greatest Frenchman since Clemenceau, “The Tiger”, who led France to victory in World War I.  However, de Gaulle was something more than a great man,  he was also at bottom a good man, as demonstrated by his youngest daughter Anne de Gaulle.

Charles and Yvonne de Gaulle were both devout Catholics, so when their youngest daughter Anne was born on New Years Day in 1928, they had a strong faith to fall back on when they learned that Anne had Down Syndrome.   She also had birth injuries that meant that she would never walk unaided. There was never any question about Anne being institutionalized.  She was a member of their family, and she stayed with the family in all their travels.  There was one sacred rule in the de Gaulle household:  Anne was never to be made to feel different or less than anyone else.  Charles de Gaulle was noted for his reserve and even with family members he was usually not very demonstrative.  Not so with his daughter Anne, who received a warmth that he had seemed to be storing for his entire life just for her.  “Papa” was the one word that Anne could say clearly.  He would sing to her, read her stories and play with her.  She was, he said simply, “My joy”.   As de Gaulle said, “She helped me overcome the failures in all men, and to look beyond them.” →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Bastille Day and the Transformative Power of History

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Something for the weekend.   The La Marseillaise scene from Casablanca.  Today is Bastille Day, the great national holiday in France, the equivalent our Independence Day.  In France it is known as La Fête Nationale, the National Celebration, or Le quatorze juillet, the fourteenth of July, rather like Independence Day is often known here as the fourth of July.  There the similarities end.  Although almost all Americans look back at the American Revolution with pride, many of us dedicated to the great truths embodied in the Declaration of Independence, the French Revolution is looked upon much more ambiguously in France.

Bastille Day recalls an event July 14, 1789 in which the mob of Paris, joined by mutinous French troops, stormed the Bastille, a fortress-prison in Paris which had in the past held political prisoners.  The Bastille fell to the mob after a fight in which some ninety-eight attackers and one defender were killed.  After the fighting, in an ominous sign of what was to come in the French Revolution, the mob massacred the governor of the prison and seven of the defenders.  The Bastille held a grand total of seven inmates at the time of its fall, none of political significance.

So began the Revolution which promised Liberty, Equality and Fraternity in theory and delivered in practice, Tyranny, Wars and Death, with France embarked on a witches’ dance of folly which would end at Waterloo, after almost a quarter of a century of war which would leave Europe drenched in blood.  Edmund Burke at the beginning of this madness, in 1790, saw clearly where all this would lead:

Anne de Gaulle

Anne De Gaulle

Charles de Gaulle could be a very frustrating man.  Churchill, in reference to de Gaulle, said that the heaviest cross he had to bear during the war was the Cross of Lorraine, the symbol of the Free French forces.  Arrogant, autocratic, often completely unreasonable, de Gaulle was all of these.  However, there is no denying that he was also a great man.  Rallying the Free French forces after the Nazi conquest of France, he boldly proclaimed, “France has lost a battle, France has not lost the war.”  For more than a few Frenchmen and women, de Gaulle became the embodiment of France.  It is also hard to dispute that De Gaulle is the greatest Frenchman since Clemenceau “The Tiger”, who led France to victory in World War I.  However, de Gaulle was something more than a great man,  he was also at bottom a good man, as demonstrated by his youngest daughter Anne de Gaulle. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

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