“It’s complicated to have people for the commemorations”: in Haute-Loire, these memorial associations do everything so that no one forgets

“It’s complicated to have people for the commemorations”: in Haute-Loire, these memorial associations do everything so that no one forgets
“It’s complicated to have people for the commemorations”: in Haute-Loire, these memorial associations do everything so that no one forgets

May 8, the day the Second World War ended in Europe, is commemorated every year. But, with time and the gradual disappearance of veterans, perpetuating the memory of them and those who fought for France becomes complex. If the presents in front of the war memorials are rare, the members of the Brivadoise memorial associations do everything to ensure that no one forgets.

Since the start of the war in Ukraine on February 24, 2022, Europeans have once again become aware that a major conflict could break out on their territory. Which had not been the case since the end of the Second World War in Europe, on May 8, 1945. A reminder of history which is accompanied this year by two dark anniversaries: the start of the First World War 110 years ago, that of the Second 85 years ago. An eternity on the scale of a human life. Not for history.

Why is May 8 a public holiday?

So as not to forget these conflicts, this week, May 8 was once again commemorated. But, from year to year, fewer people are present in front of the war memorials. Disappearance of veterans, men and women who lived through this period or simply the passage of time explain this phenomenon. In order not to forget the dead for France and, above all, so that the mistakes of the past are not repeated, memorial associations work on a daily basis. In Brioude, there are three of them working hand in hand: the Fnaca, the Greniers de nos soldiers and, the last to see the light of day, the Souvenir français. Unfortunately, one of them is set to disappear. “In our statutes, to join the association, you must have fought in North Africa,” specifies Roger Charbonnier, president of Fnaca. The members are therefore fewer and fewer in number.

Between deaths and those whose health is declining, it is complicated to have people for the commemorations or funerals of our members. When we are all gone, there will be no more Fnaca.

However, they are the last fighters to commemorate the memory of those who died for France. So what to do? How can we enable new generations to perpetuate this memory? In addition to interventions with young people, particularly in schools, the three association presidents have noted, for some time, the arrival of new members. “We have a few young people, often history buffs,” they rejoice.
If their participation in the ceremonies and in the life of the associations is appreciated, the latter are beginning to realize the difficulty of perpetuating the duty of memory in the years to come. “We have young people who came back to us around 17 and who are 20 or 25 today. They tell us: “Prepare for the future, collect things because we won’t have them.” But we have to do it now because afterwards, there will be nothing left,” adds Patrick Vallat, president of Greniers de nos soldiers.

Oblivion and disappearing archives

This quest for objects, for memories, concerns all conflicts. “There is also Indochina and Algeria. There, we collect, we classify, and the next generations will take care of it. » But nothing is simple. “If people don’t have close family involved in a conflict, it doesn’t affect them. And then over time, we forget,” laments Roger Charbonnier. For his part, Patrick Vallat, whose association Les Greniers de nos soldiers recovers archival documents, makes the same observation. “We have people who throw away their grandfather’s 14-18 outfit or their father’s FFI outfit. It does absolutely nothing for them. Without thinking that they could give it to a museum or benefit an association. » Before completing: “It happens every week. We have people who tell us: “We threw away this or that, it’s a shame we didn’t know you before”. » These traces of history, important for the duty of memory and transmission to young audiences, are disappearing a little more every day.

People don’t make the connection between a piece of clothing and the life it had. There was a man in these clothes, that represents something.

So how can we ensure that we don’t lose the link with past events? This question is a headache for memorial associations that members are trying to answer. Because, as Otto von Bismarck, former Imperial Chancellor of Germany, said: “He who does not know where he comes from cannot know where he is going because he does not know where he is. In this sense, the past is the launching pad for the future.”

Nicolas Jacquet

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