The 80th anniversary of Bir Hakeim, which will be celebrated with a symposium on May 19, revives a question which the order of the Liberation cannot avoid since last October 12 and the disappearance of the last of the 1,038 companions of the Liberation. , Hubert Germain: how to survive when you are an order without a living member? Another way to be confronted with this question that worries our society: the life after?
This question, General Christian Baptiste, at the head of the order since 2017, and who is the first boss not to be a companion of the Liberation, had asked himself as soon as he was appointed. “When I met Emmanuel Macron in August 2017, I made him understand that it would probably be under his five-year term that the last companion would leave. Order would then be in danger. Either we endure under your rule or we disappear, I told him. You didn’t have to be a great cleric to guess that the French administration would indeed have been quick to subordinate the order of the Liberation, that the army would have quickly set its sights on the splendid Louis XV wing of the Invalides that the museum occupies today, in short, that the order would not have survived its recipients.
When General Baptiste took office in 2017, this order became, since 2012, a public establishment placed under the supervision of the Ministry of Justice. The majority of the five awarded municipalities were on its board of directors. Today, this council of the order has expanded, in particular to the chiefs of staff of the three services, to the president of the Association of the families of the companions, to the president of the Society of friends of the museum of Order of the Liberation (Samol), to the President of the Resistance Medal, as well as to the Secretary General of the Ministry of the Armed Forces, whose order now depends more logically. The strategy is not bad. To strengthen a weakened camp, it is better to always invite strong allies.
General Baptiste also created a scientific council chaired by historian Christine Levisse-Touzé, in order to perpetuate an institution which has collected nearly 8,000 objects from the Second World War. Their history is in the process of being digitized, it will be completed at the end of the year within the framework of a portal of collections accessible to all. If we talk about Paris 2024, France 2030, the national delegate of the order – we no longer talk about chancellor, to his great regret, since the transformation into a public establishment – has 2040 in his sights and the centenary of the Second World War. Former director of the Invalides Army Museum between 2011 and 2017, General Baptiste has not forgotten the passion around memories and collections that marked the centenary of the First World War. His order, which continues to receive multiple donations from families and to acquire pieces under the aegis of the Society of Friends of the Museum of the Order of the Liberation, will be able to play a major and legitimate role in its organization.
According to the old adage which says that it is better to address God rather than his saints, the national delegate, an eloquent and passionate former paratrooper, therefore placed himself under the protection of “Jupiter”, who was seized by his first visit, on June 18, 2017, to the crypt of the Mont-Valérien memorial. On November 11, as the remains of Hubert Germain entered the crypt of Mont-Valérien, the president posed as protector of order, in the same way as for the Institut de France. A way to ward off those who have uncharitable views on this institution that some could describe as obsolete. What has been declared de facto will soon be endorsed de jure by a law submitted in the next few months to the vote of Parliament, because everything concerning the order of the Liberation must borrow a legislative rider. General Baptiste was also able to count on the charisma of the last companions of the Liberation.
Daniel Cordier and Hubert Germain did not leave the young president indifferent in search of heroes and “exemplary lives” for the nation. This is how Emmanuel Macron, three times, discreetly visited Hubert Germain in the last months of his existence, followed in this by his Minister of the Armed Forces. But what was the last four’s wish? That the order of the Liberation remains on condition that it is useful to the youth of France.
General Baptiste took this wish for utility at its word. He bet on the educational aspect to seek to “awaken the spirit of defense” and to offer a compass to the citizens. “In 1940, 9% of French people had the baccalaureate, but among the journeymen, the percentage rose to 52%. The more educated we were, the less susceptible we were to defeat, the more ready we were to defend our values, our convictions, to be the “supporters of the intransigent no”, to be the body and soul of France. We have a role to play in transmitting certain values. No question, therefore, of bunkering in the beautiful setting of the 7th arrondissement. The Order of the Liberation has embarked on a territorial network based on the families of the companions, the eighteen decorated units and the five city-companions.
But the order can also highlight a second decoration, the existence of which the French are most often unaware of: the medal of the French Resistance. Nearly 65,000 recipients, including eighteen municipalities, fifteen local authorities (associations, hospitals) and twenty-one units. But unlike the Order of the Liberation, this decoration, administratively attached to the order since its creation in 1943, can still be awarded posthumously today. Ten new medals are awarded each year. So many ceremonies that bring together hundreds of people, as recently in Oyonnax – the medal had never been given to the city, which had organized its liberation on November 11, 1943 – or in Besançon, where the families of three Spaniards who were shot attended. at the discount. In addition, about fifty medalists are still alive.
Working locally on the paths of medalists or companions, making digital tools available to all establishments that wish: the order has taken the turn of the 21st century, encouraged by mayors who find in these stories a rare unifying ground for their administrators. “What is the question we ask all schoolchildren? Why did a 15 year old kid dare that? Why did a father of six take all those risks and sacrifice himself? What is the meaning ? We try to convey to them not a story by heart but by the heart. And why are the Ukrainians resisting the Russians? one would be tempted to add.
The creation of the order, on November 16, 1940, was for de Gaulle a political act: that same day, in Brazzaville, he signed the Organic Declaration of Free France – the legal part – and created a central bank of Free France. . With this order of chivalry – de Gaulle, on the advice of René Cassin, crossed out the first expression of “crusaders” that he had used – he completed his sovereign prerogatives even though he was only at the head of a phantom state. On February 9, 1943, six months after becoming the leader of “combatant France” – and no longer the leader of Free France – as he tried to strengthen his legitimacy against the incubated General Giraud, de Gaulle cover by creating the medal of the French Resistance, a way, with this decoration, to establish its hold on the internal forces. History is always a matter of politics. Especially if you want to go through time, resist bad winds and maintain the burning embers of those who embodied the flame of resistance.
To read: Bir Hakeim, May-June 1942. A Samol brochure, €15. (email@example.com), postal mail to Samol, 51 bis bd de la Tour-Maubourg, 75007 Paris.
May 19. Symposium on Bir Hakeim. Museum of the Order of Liberation. https://us06web.zoom.us/j/83326242500. Historian Julien Toureille will notably present the War Diary of a doctor from Free France. With de Gaulle (1940-1945) (ed. Félin), an unpublished work by Jean Vialard-Goudou, chief physician at Bir Hakeim.