DIZY-LE-GROS, FRANCE (AFP) – President Emmanuel Macron paid tribute yesterday to World War II resistance hero Charles de Gaulle at the site of a key battle he said epitomised French resilience in the face of overwhelming odds.
Macron took time out from directing the country’s latest battle, against the coronavirus, to hail his predecessor’s courage in taking the fight to Nazi soldiers sweeping across western Europe in the early years of the war.
“De Gaulle tells us that France is strong when it knows its destiny, when it stays united, when it searches the path of cohesion…” Macron said in the town of La-Ville-aux-Bois-les-Dizy in northeast France.
It is near the site of the Battle of Montcornet, where French fighters inflicted heavy losses on German troops and briefly stalled their advance before ultimately being defeated.
Though lost, the battle is considered one of few effective counter-attacks by French soldiers against the Nazis, and de Gaulle himself later said it was the moment that hope returned to the campaign.
Even as the Paris government of the day capitulated before the German military might, a then-unknown colonel de Gaulle embodied the French spirit: “Fiercely free and proud, determined and unwavering,” said Macron.
He laid a wreath at a monument honouring France’s war dead, and commended the military bravery that ultimately allowed the country to shake off its Nazi occupation.
The President did not wear an anti-virus mask for the occasion to mark the battle’s 80th anniversary, but he and a handful of other participants observed a safe social distance.