8th November 2008

The French are no different to others around the world in harboring resentment for years and years, sometimes deep within themselves. Take last Tuesday. Thirty people were arrested and three police officers wounded after a protest against European immigration policy turned violent in the French city of Vichy. This was the town that was the shamed capital of France's horrific WW2 experiences, and locals have never forgotten that time.
The world tries to move on, and indeed brave organisers tried to reinvent the town by hosting its first international conference there since the war so that they could shake off their wartime stigma and become a popular spa resort once more. But several busloads of militants had other ideas, with many linking current French policy to that of the pro-Nazi past.
I have often thought that too much of what happened during WW2 has been airbrushed away by nations (especially Germany) who wish only to forget what happened and to move on to what is happening today. What they fail to realise is that by pushing all those wartime attrocities into a locked compartment - things that changed families' lives for ever - people can never be free of the memory.
My solution would be to hold an international conference, but not one on immigration. My proposed agenda would be to confront all the international issues that arose in the years immediately preceding WW2 and trace the individual events that happened, one by one, that led to what happened in that fateful holocaust. It's never one thing, but many - sometimes coming together by chance - that cause eventual disaster. Having a megalomaniac at the helm of a non-democracy is one!
Sometimes you have to confront a festering boil, even one that has been fermenting for over 60 years, and probe deep within to see how it happened before lancing the boil once and for all. A quick clean cut. At a stroke then we learn to recognise how atrocities happened so that they may never happen again. Then, and only then, can proper healing take place.

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