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article imageFrance rewrites history with World War II 'armistice'

By Johnny Summerton     Apr 30, 2010 in World
Is the decision by the press office of the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, to use the word "armistice" in its description of the ceremony marking the end of World War II hostilities in Europe a question of ignorance of history or political correctness?
That's the question that has been posed by some sectors of the media here this week after the services of the Elysée palace, the French president's office, sent out what it called "a message" to journalists informing them of "The 65th Anniversary of the Armistice of 1945" to be held in the eastern French town of Colmar next weekend.
May 8 is Victory in Europe Day (VE Day) marking the date when the Allies formally accepted Germany's unconditional surrender at the end of World War II.
It's a national holiday in many parts of Europe and in France there'll be ceremonies up and down the country including the one at which Nicolas Sarkozy will be present.
But for the second year in a row the office of the Elysée palace has decided to use the term "armistice" rather than "capitulation" or "surrender" in describing the ceremony.
And that's a mistake, as far as the French weekly news magazine Le Point is concerned.
"The Armistice of May 8 1945 never existed," it says. "It was an unconditional surrender that occurred in two stages."
A point also taken up by the left-of-centre news weekly Marianne, which digs deeper into history, consults definitions of "capitulation", "surrender" and "armistice" and comes to the conclusion that either the whole affair illustrates a lack of knowledge of history on the part of the Elysée or it's an attempt to rewrite the history books.
"Such a confusion of the terms is understandable, if inaccurate, among Internet users, but not by those working closely with the French president," it says.
"Are the services of the Elysée totally ignorant?' it asks. "Or are they attempting to be 'politically correct' and trying to soften a painful part of the Europe's recent history?"
To get to the bottom of the matter the daily free newspaper 20 minutes contacted the Elysée directly to be told that the so-called "message" was "not an official press release nor an invitation, but simply a reminder of the upcoming event."
Perhaps not the most convincing explanation of the intent behind the use of the word "armistice", but the one with which it looks as though the the French media will have to be content.
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