Calls have been made for Missak Manouchian, who took part in the French resistance during the Nazi occupation of France in World War Two, to be added to the French Pantheon.
On Sunday the mayor of Marseille, Benoît Payan, praised Manouchian who is of Armenian origin as “the illustrious resistant”, during a speech at a ceremony to commemorate the Armenian genocide.
“I believe that France would be great in offering him a place in the Pantheon of great men,” said the mayor.
The French Pantheon is a building in Paris where the remains of great French citizens are buried.
“Bringing Missak Manouchian into the Pantheon would obviously pay homage to the illustrious resistant; it would also be an act of memory for these millions of Armenian victims of a war that was not theirs.”
Payan, who has made memorial issues one of the main focuses of his mandate, recalled that “it was in Marseilles that hundreds, thousands of Armenian families arrived, rendered stateless by Turkish nationalists”, considering that “without the Armenians and without the Armenians, Marseille would not be Marseille”.
France’s second city has been led by a left-wing coalition, including some of the communist tradition of which Manouchian was a follower, since 2020.
Manouchian, Armenia, resistance, and World War Two
After a ceremony at the Armenian genocide memorial on Sunday morning, hundreds of people marched through Marseille in the afternoon carrying Armenian flags.
A refugee in France after the Armenian genocide, Missak Manouchian formed the “Manouchian group”, one of the most active armed movements of the Resistance.
This group of foreign resistance fighters close to the French Communist Party (PCF) was made up of about sixty men and women.
Manouchian carried out nearly a hundred armed and sabotage operations in the Paris region, including the execution of SS General Julius Ritter, head of the compulsory labour, in September 1943.
Their campaign was disrupted when 23 members of the group were arrested a month later. The group were tortured and handed over to the German military police, before being sentenced to death in 1944.
Just before being executed, Missak Manouchian wrote to his wife Mélinée: “Happiness to those who will survive us and taste the sweetness of tomorrow’s freedom and peace. I am sure that the French people and all the combatants of freedom will honour our memory with dignity”.
In 2015, on the occasion of the entry into the Pantheon of Pierre Brossolette, Geneviève de Gaulle-Anthonioz, Germaine Tillion and Jean Zay, the PCF considered that the absence of any communist representative among them was “a political fault”.