French 'using de Gaulle anniversary to cover up WWII collaboration'

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France is glossing over the collective shame of collaboration in celebrations to mark the 70th anniversary of Charles de Gaulle's appeal to resist Nazism, a leading historian has claimed.

Jean-Pierre Azéma, a respected author of more than a dozen works, said he was concerned that inconvenient truths about France's wartime past were being played down amid a surge of patriotism around de Gaulle's June 18, 1940 appeal from London.

He said the fervour around the anniversary risked talking up de Gaulle's achievements when the real man of the hour was Winston Churchill.

"History is being used as a political tool in a kind of national story-telling," said Mr Azéma, adding that the vast majority of French had little regard for the wartime General de Gaulle when he launched his appeal on BBC radio – a day after Philippe Pétain, a French general, had announced an armistice with the Nazi invaders.

Dozens of events are being held across France this week to remember the appeal, in which de Gaulle declared: "Whatever happens, the flame of the French resistance must not and will not be extinguished." On Friday, President Nicolas Sarkozy will visit London to mark the anniversary and attend a ceremony at the Mont Valérien memorial to the French Resistance near Paris....

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