A Painful Undertaking for France: A Museum on the Ravages of Terrorism

PARIS — No different nation in Western Europe has suffered as a lot from terrorism as France over the previous decade. With greater than 50 assaults which have killed practically 300 folks — together with dozens of youngsters and youngsters — the nation has borne the brunt of a few of the worst attacks in Europe.

Now, France plans to memorialize this collective struggling with a brand new museum that can hint the event of terrorism over the ages, together with the assaults on the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and the Bataclan concert hall in Paris which have deeply shaken the nation lately.

The transfer is a daring one provided that the nation remains to be grappling with the trauma of those assaults, with victims whose bodily and psychological wounds are nonetheless uncooked. Solely final fall, there have been a sequence of latest assaults, including the beheading of Samuel Paty, a history teacher who confirmed cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in a category on free speech.

Along with the dying toll, practically 1,000 folks have been wounded in assaults since 2012.

However the planners of the mission say the museum is required to assist the folks of France to confront and perceive a scourge that they are going to be dwelling with for a while.

“The actual fact that we’re making a memorial museum whereas the phenomenon of terrorism has no probability of vanishing within the years to come back is a means of displaying our capability to take a step again,” Henry Rousso, a French historian who’s overseeing the mission, mentioned in an interview.

“It’s a type of resistance via tradition, data, intelligence and the transmission of experiences,” mentioned Mr. Rousso, who additionally helped create the Caen Memorial Museum, which marks the Normandy landings of World Warfare II, and the Shoah Memorial in Paris, commemorating victims of the Holocaust.

President Emmanuel Macron of France pledged in September 2018 to create a memorial museum to put the victims of terrorist assaults “on the coronary heart of our recollections.” The brand new museum is anticipated to be inaugurated within the Paris space by 2027, and can goal to point out how France and different terrorism-affected nations have reacted to assaults over the previous 50 years, with a specific emphasis on the resilience of their folks.

Mr. Rousso mentioned the perpetrators of the assaults would even be featured within the museum. Responding to questions he has confronted about whether or not the museum would unintentionally glorify them, he mentioned it was vital to characterize them as nicely.

“It’s a historical past museum,” he mentioned. “After we do one on Nazism, now we have to say Himmler and Hitler.”

Gérôme Truc, a sociologist on the French Nationwide Heart for Scientific Analysis who helps create the museum, referred to as worries about glorifying perpetrators a “crimson herring.”

Mr. Rousso and Mr. Truc mentioned they had been delicate about how terrorists is perhaps introduced within the museum, noting that depictions may deal with them sporting handcuffs in courtroom as a substitute of posing with weapons.

Christophe Naudin, a historical past trainer who was on the Bataclan on Nov. 13, 2015, when gunmen burst in and murdered 90 folks — a complete of 131 had been killed that day in terrorist assaults throughout Paris — mentioned he was in favor of mentioning the names of assailants within the new museum, however with warning.

“I do know some victims refuse to say or see them,” mentioned Mr. Naudin, who wrote a book about his experience. “I want to keep away from seeing their footage. I do know a variety of victims wouldn’t be capable of deal with it.”

Final fall, France was struck by a string of lethal terrorist assaults that got here concurrently the trial of 14 individuals who aided the Charlie Hebdo attack in 2015, by which a dozen folks working for the satirical journal had been slaughtered. Along with the beheading of Mr. Paty in October, three people were killed at a church in Good that month.

Mr. Rousso mentioned that in contrast to the 9/11 memorial in New York, the French memorial museum wouldn’t be devoted to a specific assault. It should function exhibitions, conferences and movies on assaults all over the world, and a historic retrospective on terrorism in France, relationship again to the plot targeting Napoléon Bonaparte, can even be a part of a everlasting exhibition.

The museum’s precise location is anticipated to be determined by subsequent spring.

A memorial for victims of terrorism has existed in Paris since 1998, within the gardens of Les Invalides, the place Napoléon is entombed — a fountain and bronze statue of a beheaded girl with darkish, empty eyes and her head in her palms. However in contrast to the reflecting swimming pools that mark the 9/11 terror assaults in New York, the Paris memorial is just not extensively identified or visited, besides by officers commemorating France’s nationwide day of remembrance for terrorism victims on March 11.

“The nation doesn’t neglect,” Mr. Macron wrote on Twitter after laying a wreath at the statue at this yr’s commemoration.

The memorial was inaugurated at a time when France’s mind-set on terrorism was very totally different. Françoise Rudetzki, founding father of the primary victims affiliation, SOS Assaults, which commissioned the statue, mentioned that “again within the 1980s, folks had been me in a humorous means, telling me that we’ll quickly be executed with terrorism.”

Now, there may be broad acknowledgment that it is here to stay, mentioned Ms. Rudetzki, who can be a member of the memorial museum advisory committee and was wounded in a terrorist bombing in 1983 that price her using her legs.

The long run memorial will checklist the names of victims of terrorism assaults in France and French victims of assaults overseas. It should cowl a interval beginning in 1974, the yr that Carlos the Jackal carried out the bombing of a Paris drugstore and when France started granting “a medal of recognition” to victims of terrorist assaults, Mr. Rousso mentioned.

Impressed by memorial museums all over the world, similar to the 22 July Centre in Oslo, officers have began figuring out objects and paperwork that might be showcased, similar to textual content messages despatched by victims, sealed courtroom data, and poems and drawings left at ephemeral memorials.

“Terrorism, whether or not we prefer it or not, is a part of our societies,” Mr. Rousso mentioned. “Making a museum is just not a solution to put the difficulty behind us. It’s a solution to make folks perceive it.”

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