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Mont Valérien


History

The Fort of Mont Valérien was built starting in 1841 in Suresnes, near Paris, overlooking the Bois de Boulogne wood. It was here, during the occupation – from 1940 to 1944 – that the Germans executed about a thousand hostages and prisoners. They had been brought there in a truck from other locations to be shot, were locked up inside an unused chapel, and were later taken to a clearing a hundred yards down from there. The bodies were then dispersed throughout the Paris-area cemeteries.

Seven Companions of the Liberation were shot at Mont valérien

Bernard Anquetil
Martial Brigouleix
Bernard Chevignard
Jan Doornik
Roger Dumont
Honoré d'Estienne d'Orves
Henri Schaerrer

After then end of the war, on the 18th of June of 1945, General De Gaulle decided to consecrate this place himself during a ceremony dedicated to those who were massacred there: preceded by two hundred Companions of the Liberation, General De Gaulle entered the Fort with the flame carriers. Accompanied by Admiral Thierry d'Argenlieu, he stopped for a moment of prayer in the old blockhouse where so many condemned marched towards their death. Upon exiting, he leaned over the bronze bowl and lit the flame that is the symbol of the Resistance, which is never to go out.

The Provisional Government of the French Republic ruled that a war memorial was to be erected, dedicated to the War of 1939-1945. Mont Valérien stood out as one of the most appropriate places for the Nation to pay homage to its Sons. Upon the initiative of Henri Frenay a great ceremony took place on November 11th of 1945. The bodies of fifteen combatants symbolizing the campaign of 1939-1940 – the Free French Movement, the Resistance Movement and the Deportation – were placed under the Arc de Triomphe during a solemn military parade, and then taken to a temporary crypt at Mont Valérien.

In 1952, a sixteenth body, that of a French Resistance fighter in Indochina killed by the Japanese was joined to be group (see the of sixteen Men who died for France buried at Mont-Valérien).

Each year thereafter, on June 18th, an identical ceremony was organized by the Chancellery of the Order of the Liberation in the presence of General De Gaulle.



The "France Combattante" Memorial at Mont-Valérien


The "France Combattante" Memorial

When General De Gaulle became President of the Republic, he decided to materialize the Will of the Nation expressed after the Liberation by ordering that a Memorial be built at Mont Valérien dedicated to "France Combattante".

The monument was erected near the clearing where the executions took place, on an esplanade measuring more than 10,000 m2. It has sixteen bronze high reliefs, the work of several different sculptors, representing allegories that are a reminder of the heroic acts of the fighters. In the center, on a bronze square, stands a Cross of Lorraine that is 12 meters tall, with an eternal flame burning in front of it. Under the cross are two bronze doors: one of these leads to a course of Memories, and the other leads to the burial crypt carved out of the bedrock.

The Memorial was inaugurated by the President of the Republic June 18th, 1960. The eve of the inauguration, at night during a sumptuous ceremony, the coffins of the sixteen fighters were transferred to the crypt. The sixteen tombs in vaults carved out of the ground surround an urn containing the ashes of unknown deportees. Vault No. 9 is empty – it is reserved for the last Companion of the Liberation.



Ceremony of the transfer of 16 coffins to the crypt
of the France Combattante Memorial, on June 17th, 1960.


The commemorative ceremony on June 18th, 2005

The Mont Valérien ceremony is the most outstanding annual event organized by the Chancellery. Attendees include the most important figures of the National Government, the Companions of the Liberation, their families and the families of deceased Companions, representatives of the the Companion of the Liberation Communities and the the Companion of the Liberation units. On June 18th, 2005, almost 1,000 people were present at this event.

On June 17th, 2006, there was a mass dedicated to the memory of General De Gaulle at the church of Saint-Louis-des-Invalides, to which the various authorities were invited. The actual ceremony at Mont Valérien took place the afternoon of the 18th of June from 18 to 19 p.m..

The ceremony is always carried out in the same exact way. First of all, the invited guests and the government representatives arrive and position themselves according to protocol. Then the President of the Republic reviews the troops and is then lead to his spot by the Chancellor. The Chancellor then revives the Flame using a torch with the flame from the Arc de Triomphe. After a minute of silence, the text of the Appeal of June 18th is read. Then the President of the Republic, accompanied by the Chancellor, enters the crypt, takes a moment of prayer and signs the Visitors’ Book. Upon coming out, the President greets those present, including the Companions of the Liberation, before the Chancellor leaves.

 

Last updated: 28 July 2006
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