Marine Le Pen, Vichy, and the Battle for French History

Marine Le Pen, Vichy, and the Battle for French History

A national conscience stricken by collective guilt is not easily assuaged. For all the palliative steps that can be taken, from reparation programs and documentation centers to memorial gardens and mea maxima culpae, the blot invariably remains, like an ancient ox-blood fresco rotting through layers of whitewash. Restitution along the lines of the Wiedergutmachungsgeld — that innovation of the Federal Republic of Germany in the immediate aftermath of the Holocaust designed to “make it good again” — does not guarantee the expiation of the sins of the past, any more than would the purchase of a costly indulgence from a medieval pardoner.

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