Faced with tensions, Emmanuel Macron wants to “maintain the unity of the country” and promises a “meeting with the nation” in January

The procession of dark sedans stopped at nightfall at the foot of the Pantheon

Faced with tensions, Emmanuel Macron wants to “maintain the unity of the country” and promises a “meeting with the nation” in January

The procession of dark sedans stopped at nightfall at the foot of the Pantheon. Thursday, December 7, Emmanuel Macron, flanked by a squad of advisors, rushes into the crypt where rest 80 illustrious men and women whom the nation has chosen to distinguish, for a discreet visit which does not appear on the official agenda. Faithful to the tradition he established since the start of his first mandate, the President of the Republic wants to decide himself where Missak Manouchian, worker, communist and poet, survivor of the Armenian genocide and figure of the Resistance, who will enter the Pantheon, with his wife, Mélinée, on February 21, eighty years after his execution by the Germans. He had performed the same ritual before the pantheonization of the writer Maurice Genevoix, in 2020, and of the magazine leader and resistance fighter Joséphine Baker, a year later.

Accompanied by representatives of the Committee for Entry into the Pantheon of Missak Manouchian, the Head of State stops in front of cellar 13, the “Macron cellar”. On the left, Joséphine Baker. Under the plaque, where his name and date of entry into the necropolis are engraved, two intertwined flowers, one white and one blue. In the background, Maurice Genevoix. Mr. Macron did not want the author of Those of 14 to be installed with Zola, Hugo and Dumas, believing that these three major writers of the 19th century should not be joined by anyone. “The only one who could claim it would be Houellebecq,” jokes the memory advisor of the Elysée Bruno Roger-Petit, who worked for Manouchian, “man of universalism” and the “choice of France”.

Draped in a black coat, Emmanuel Macron continues his inspection. It passes in front of the sixth vault, where, since 2017, Simone Veil rests, alongside Jean Moulin, André Malraux, René Cassin and Jean Monnet. He does not linger in front of the one where François Mitterrand, in 1989, placed three figures of the Revolution, Condorcet, Abbé Grégoire and Gaspard Monge. “The Vault of the Freemasons! », laughs the president, before joining the “Holland cellar”, where, since 2015, four resistance fighters, Geneviève de Gaulle-Anthonioz, Germaine Tillion, Pierre Brossolette and Jean Zay have been resting. Under the vault, Mr. Macron notes the “memorial unity” of the place. “Adding Manouchian to it would be like giving him a folding seat at the very back, no,” he says.

“A place for demanding lucidity”

The small troop returns to vault 13, its own, a mirror of its memory policy. Manouchian will therefore go there, "in front of Baker", specifies the president, who asks that a plaque be installed at the entrance, in order to pay tribute to the entire "Manouchian group" shot by the Germans. “You understood well that with him, it was also the 23 who entered the Pantheon and, beyond that, all the foreign resistance fighters,” thanks the historian Denis Peschanski, while the president of the Unité Laïque association , Jean-Pierre Sakoun, suggests inscribing on the plaque the last three lines of the famous poem by Aragon: “Twenty and three strangers and our brothers nevertheless/Twenty and three lovers of living to death/Twenty and three who cried out France falling down. » The president approves. “Bringing here these women and men who chose France and gave their blood for it is both a moment of recognition and, for me, of inspiration,” he told Le Monde.