Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Axis Power Peaks

Quick, how many points along the Continental Divide can you list that are named after prominent Axis Power collaborators? Give up?

Well, I know of only one, Mount Pétain, on the borders of British Columbia and Alberta in the Canadian Rockies. Its namesake is Philippe Pétain, noted for his leadership in the Battle of Verdun during World War I and would go on, at the age of 84, to be the oldest head of state in the history of France. That would be reason enough to name a peak after him, wouldn't it, though you'd expect it in Quebec not in the Canadian West.

There is a small problem, however. Though a World War I military hero, in World War II, he would go on to head Vichy France. Vichy France has always fascinated me in much the same way that Manchukuo has, both puppet states of the Axis Powers. I wonder how many people in Canada even know this peak is named after the man happily shaking hands with Hitler? At the end of World War II he was sentenced to death by firing squad for treason against the state, but de Gaulle commuted his sentence to life imprisonment due to his age and service to France during the first world war.

It's a bit spooky that not only is there a museum (noted in the above link) complete with an online "boutique" and association to preserve his memory. Check out this story of the desk that his lackeys stole from a Jewish family who got it back after the war, and now it is going to the museum. Let us not forget, perhaps, but not memorialize.

Perhaps my favorite film of that era is Les Enfants des Paradis. Begun before the end of the war, the production had a weird mix of Vichy collaborators and underground resistance members working side by side. Its star, Arletty, was tried by the time the film premiered for having an affair with a German officer. She is credited with saying , "My heart is French but my ass is international." A quote I could live by.

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At 12:18 AM, Blogger Lorenzo — Alchemist's Pillow said...

Very interesting post. A French coeur and an international derriere, eh? A bold statement that may raise an eyebrow or two in this age of so much wanton francophobia! ;)

At 6:53 AM, Blogger Ladrón de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

Lorenzo - Francophobia? I thought France was consider friendly again. Vichyphobia, however, is eternal. (The regime not the town.)

At 9:42 AM, Blogger ArtSparker said...

One of my favorite films too. It's strangely muted - if I think about it - it seems there is minimal dialogue, and that mostly things are left unsaid - well, that is the story thread. Is it looking back on how and when it was made that make it seem so?

At 9:46 AM, Blogger Ladrón de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

Susan - It does have a strange power and weird feel of much more beneath the surface, both bad and good. Maybe it feels muted since a lead character is a mime. :)


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