After a comic strip devoted to Algerian troops during the First World War, Kamel Mouellef tackles the Second World War with this comic on the Resistance and more particularly on foreigners and French people from abroad (and especially from Maghreb) who participated in the Liberation of France while fighting. A comic that asks the question of the links between History, memory (s) and politics while the screenwriter is president of the association "Déni de Mémoire" and the work is prefaced by a tenor from Socialist Party... Comics: a new vector of choice for memorial claims?
The aim of this comic strip is not to be satisfied with “the image of the French maquisard” in order to enhance the resistance from various backgrounds who also fought against the German occupier. The scenario therefore takes the form of a series of portraits presented more or less chronologically and making it possible to capture a handful of the fates of resistance fighters mainly from the Maghreb such as Addi Bâ, a skirmisher who passed into resistance who organizes the refractory camps at the STO (Service du Mandatory Work), or Abdesselem Ben Ahmed, resistance member of the Vercors victim of the massacre in the Liure cave.
Other nationalities are mentioned, sometimes more succinctly as for the German anti-fascists or the Manouchian group. We find the Spaniards of the Nueve liberating Paris, the Croats, Poles, Spaniards, Algerians and Moroccans from the maquis of the Black Mountain.
If at first the narration is a little artificial, Addi Bâ seeming to comment while in monologue, the comic gradually takes its rhythm and becomes more and more involved. The drawing is realistic, but relatively naive, or to put it better: not very precise. The watercolor-like colorization recalls the previous comic book by Kamel Mouellef, Turcos.
The photographic dossier
This comic is completed by a beautiful photographic dossier of ten pages presenting various period photos where we can see resistance fighters of Moroccan, Armenian, Spanish, Kabyle, Guinean, Algerian, German ... panel of the national diversity of the Resistance, particularly highlighting the North African fighters. This file is completed by an extract from the book by Captain Lanvin of the Maquis de l'Oisans: Temporary freedom.
History, politics and memory (s)
This comic does not hide its memorial claims. Kamel Mouellef is presented as leading "for several years a fight to make young people of immigrant background rediscover the love of France" and those up to college where he intervened as he declares on Radio Orient. His previous comic strip, Turcos, was also affiliated with his association "Déni de Mémoire" which aims to support veterans and war victims and their rehabilitation, in particular colonial troops, through textbooks. . This comic strip with an evocative title is immediately presented as iconoclastic, repairing a lack, an injustice to render " tribute to these fighters often forgotten by official history ", at " role of foreigners in the Resistance [which was] increasingly denied, then gradually forgotten ". However, this prosecution deserves to be greatly qualified, if indeed the role of resistance "of stock" was more valued at the end of the war within the framework of a national and virile reconstruction, the proportion of resistance members "from the colonies "And" strain "is also to be taken into account. The role of North African combatants in World War II is not ostracized from any official history, it is even discussed in high school where this conflict and decolonization are mentioned and where this aspect is addressed in the context of various explanatory elements of the discontent in Algeria leading to war. What about foreigners from other horizons such as the Manouchian group and the famous “Red Poster” that students often meet, whether in History, French or even Music! The memory of the Second World War (or the Algerian war) is itself on the program in Terminale. The iconoclastic aspect must therefore be qualified and we can rather notice that this theme of combatants of African origin has been a very fashionable theme in recent years, hence many comics devoted to colonial troops during the First World War. We have here only the continuation of a fashion which passes on the following conflict.
Fashion ? Or need? Because beyond telling the story, this comic seeks above all to propagate a memory towards a target audience: young (and not so young) French people with an immigrant background. In addition to a reminder of the role of their North African elders in the fight for the Liberation of France, the comic strip takes care of a civic mission by inviting young people to also continue the fight against other enemies who no longer wear the uniform. German, but called " intolerance, amalgamation, ostracism, xenophobia, racism, anti-Semitism "... The resistance fights and the union of men of all origins and all faiths against a common enemy are essentialized to become the example to follow in order to ensure the cohesion of a multiethnic and multicultural society. This civic (and therefore political) "recovery" of the history of the Resistance is further accentuated by the preface which was entrusted not to a historian, but to a politician: Jack Lang, current President of the Arab World Institute, former Minister of Culture and key figure of the Socialist Party which repents the verse on " oblivion "And" denial »... A choice which is reminiscent of that of another comic book dedicated to the role of foreigners in the Liberation, La Nueve, whose preface was also entrusted to a member of the Socialist Party: the mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo ... Strangely, to our knowledge, we do not find interventions by members of the Socialist Party in comic book prefaces evoking themes other than the role of foreigners and colonists in the history of France ... Where is the limit between duty of memory and political recovery?
And besides, is there a duty to remember? Should we not be talking about the duty of History and the right to remember? Besides, what memory? Because the memories are multiple, intersect, oppose, obscure each other ... Indeed, if here the memory of Magrebins in the Resistance is well highlighted, it is sometimes to the detriment of memory Communist of the Resistance for example! Indeed if communism, which was one of the engines of the Resistance, is evoked (in particular through the person of Marcel Langer), it remains very anecdotal whereas it should be at the very heart of a comic strip of this type. 'interesting to the participation of foreigners in the Resistance, evoking the Spanish Civil War and the wars of decolonization ... How do we hope that young people get a fair idea of events if we do not really address the issue of communism and the notion of internationalism? Alas, all this aspect is obscured and the motivation of the combatants is limited to the fight for freedom. All this to say that any memorial work, as full of good will as it may be, cannot exempt from a real work of History and that the civic mission that we want to give to History does not is not necessarily reinforced by this accumulation of memories. Because memories are also often carriers of resentment, they are not content to be commemorations of historical events, they are often the object of claims.
And indeed, if this time the association "Déni de Mémoire" is not explicitly mentioned in the comic strip, Kamel Mouellef who combines the caps of president of the association and of comic book scriptwriter does not forget to do two birds with one stone. Indeed, the question of the resistance fighters is widened to that of the colonial troops engaged alongside Free France then to the question of the recognition of this engagement by the French authorities: the will of De Gaulle and the Americans to "whitewash 'liberation army', the arrears of pay and unpaid demobilization bonuses, the repression of the protest by the French army, the freezing of the pensions of the ex-combatants after independence and until the 2000s ... All good presented as a ground for legitimate claims since the characters react by denouncing the " Two weights, two measures "Or by calling into question the obligation to reside in France for nine months per year for" receive a decent pension ».
The comic strip therefore supports activism in a certain way ... But does it ultimately achieve the civic objective advocated in the press kit, namely " give young people with an immigrant background the love of France "? The answer is not obvious, if indeed resistance makes it possible to evoke a union of all the goodwill without preoccupation with origin and belief, if the conclusion of the work wants to be humanist, the emphasis placed on a form of "denial", on the post-demobilization injustice, on the demands in terms of pensions and on the repression by the French troops on November 30, 1944 in the camps of Thiaroye which would have killed 70 people (35 officially, without taking into account the wounded deaths subsequently) do not necessarily go in the direction of appeasement and social cohesion. On the contrary, doesn't it revive the debate between the quest for recognition and the refusal of repentance? The comic shows demobilized colonial soldiers denouncing the abuses " white people "And swept by" French troops Which is represented by a focus on a tank and two machine guns (which actually participated in the operation, with a half-track). On the other hand, it is omitted to specify that the troops participating in the repression are, in addition to the gendarmes, also colonial troops (1st and 7th Senegalese infantry regiment and 6th colonial artillery regiment) and that, as often in these situations, the The origin of the first shot remains undetermined ... A partial vision therefore of an element of hot memory and burning news since the Socialist President François Hollande mentioned it during his speech in Dakar in 2012, even offering archival documents for the Senegalese memorial, then in 2014 when he went to the scene. The repression of Thiaroye, which has already been mentioned in a short film by militant producer Rachid Bouchareb has become a key theme of memorial activism since, on the occasion of the socialist president's visit, CRAN (Representative Council of Black Associations) announced a legal action against the French State. The official recognition of the massacre by the French State and the rehabilitation of the tirailleurs is the subject of an online petition supported among others by the CVUH (Committee of Vigilance against the Public Uses of History). The LDH (League of Human Rights) also asked the French government to recognize the facts and assume its responsibility. The responsibility of the French state and the camouflage carried out at the time on this event is certain. However, it is not in the register of History to claim anything in terms of "recognition", this is a matter of politicians and jurists ...
Ultimately this comic that the president of the Arab World Institute considers to be " a remarkable and indispensable! testimony "Is a memorial rather than a historical comic strip, and as often the memory is partial and therefore partial, and this although Mr. Jack Lang considers that" the important work of memory research carried out on the occasion of the publication of this comic gives it legitimacy and historical interest and makes it a real educational tool to be placed in the hands of alls ”... An original comic strip, on an interesting theme, but which sometimes has a militant aftertaste and where the memorial claims made by the French from immigrant backgrounds intersect with the political“ recovery ”of these memories. Comics, more accessible to the masses as Mouellef himself recognizes on Radio Orient, would it be a new vector of choice for memorial activism?
Screenplay: Kamel Mouellef & Olivier Jouvray
Design & Colors: Baptiste Payen