Remembering and Forgetting: French Politics and Ceremonies of May 8, 1954
From May 7-9, 1954 the ninth anniversary of the German surrender was celebrated through ceremonies and commemorations throughout the city of Paris. That Friday, May 7th and the first day of ceremonies, the French army suffered a crippling defeat in their Vietnamese colonies at Dien Bien Phu. Meanwhile, other political tensions brewed: the proposed European Defense Community, the future of a strengthening West Germany, and the continuous failure of the Fourth Republic to form a coalition government. These concerns about the future of France, as well as questions about the very nature of the war being celebrated are evident throughout the ceremonies. I argue that this weekend took place at a unique period in both French politics and in the negotiation of post-WWII commemorative practices. By studying and analyzing the ceremonies of this weekend, it becomes clear that they demonstrate the construction inherent in commemoration as a practice.