HONOR TO POLAND



By Jean-Claude Damamme, Representative for France
to the International Napoleonic Society





I DEDICATE THIS ARTICLE TO THE MEMORY OF MY MUCH LAMENTED FRIEND, BEN WEIDER, WHOSE FAMILY ORIGINATED IN POLAND

 

 

            As far as Napoleon and the First Empire are concerned, Poland is not the same as France, as this article will attempt to demonstrate.

            In France, as every honest person recognizes, it is stylish and even strongly recommended to spit on Napoleon.  M. Claude Ribbe’s miserable book, whose title I will not repeat so as not to give publicity to such a disgrace, is one of the most obvious examples of the wretched tendency.  Commercial constraints and a desire for a healthy (!) popularization require such abuse.

            Following the publication of what one can only describe as this rag, the French government at the time (2005) hastened to avoid the subject and, above all, not to commemorate the bicentenary of the victory at Austerlitz.  Important “affairs” detained the government elsewhere.

            Imagine that!

            What an infamy to commemorate a “massacre”—that was the term used by a reader in the daily Le Monde—of that malevolent Corsican.

            What does it matter that we owe the modern shape of Europe to Napoleon?

            What does it matter if the famous wars, slyly relabeled “Napoleonic,” were nothing but coalition wars forced upon France?

            What does it matter if the murderous conflicts that engulfed Europe for more than a decade were financed by Britain in an effort to overthrow the France of that time, a France that First Consul Bonaparte had pulled from its post-revolutionary shambles and that the Emperor Napoleon I restored to the first rank of nations?

For the British government of that era, this was unacceptable, intolerable.

            Thus, one must put an end to this scandal by any means necessary.

            First came the attempted assassinations, financed by London and carried out by French royalists—the attack of the Rue Saint-Nicoise on December 24, 1800, leaving a score dead and some fifty wounded, for the most part mutilated, providing the precursors for today’s suicide bombings.  Then, because a sovereign is more difficult to eliminate than a “mere” First Consul, our neighbors across the channel began to finance all the European monarchies—Russian, Prussians, Austrian, etc—with large reinforcements of gold coils to launch war after war.

            The “massacre” of Austerlitz, so dear to the reader of Le Monde, was the first result, calamitous to those involved, of this determination to destroy the Empire.

            Therefore, the European sovereigns of that time made themselves mere—cheap?—mercenaries of the British crown.

            But in France, we no longer care about such things.

            As a result of active brainwashing, effectively disseminated by the media, we only hear the invectives and insults hurled at a very great man and the unequaled repudiation of his civilworks—I emphasize civil.

            In Poland, the view is very different.  We must warmly salute the Poles for having “dared” to erect a statue in honor of him who did so much for their country.  Even if the term seems absurd in our time, he restored a national pride that had been laid low by successive dismemberments, a sinister work by which the brave Russian, Austrian, and Prussian monarchs appropriate the best portions of Poland.

 

Soldiers of the Warsaw Garrison render Honors to Napoleon

 

            The statue the Poles installed is more than 4.5 meters tall, and mounted on a plinth of clear granite.  They didn’t position this monument just anywhere in their capital, but in the Place of the Warsaw Uprising, a site and a name that are highly symbolic because they refer to the 1944 Warsaw Uprising against the Nazi occupation.

            The Polish section of the Mutual Aid Society of Members of the Legion of Honor financed and directed the re-construction of the statue.  It also organized the ceremony in the presence of the French Ambassador to Poland, M. François Barry Delongchamps, of the president of the Polish section of the Mutual Aid Society, M. Jean Caillot, of the National Security Advisor of the President of the Polish Republic, M. Tadeusz Mazowiecki, of the vice-marshal of the Polish Diet, M. Marek Kuchcinski, of the vice-marshal of the Polish Senate, Marek Ziolkowski, as well as the interim director of the office of architecture and urban planning of the Mayor of Warsaw, M. Marek Mikos.

            The statue is located on the same spot where, on May 5, 1921, the first monument was erected.  The original monument is preserved in the Museum of the Polish Army.  It was originally intended to commemorate the centenary of the Emperor’s death.

            Thus we must salute these Poles and thank them all the more warmly for this gesture, especially moving because the inauguration took place on May 5 of that year, on the anniversary of the Emperor’s death, 100 years earlier, on the bare rock of Saint Helena, a stain that the British government can never wash away.

            A final word:  Until the end of the Second World War, this site in Warsaw carried another name:  Napoleon.

            And we, here in Paris?

            In regards to the First Empire and its leader, Poland decidedly is not France, and the most pathetic part is that this honorable example coming from abroad will not change our attitudes at all.

 

 

 

 

(The photographs illustrating this article are taken from the site of the French Embassy at Warsaw, which can be found at the following address:  http://ambafrance-pl.org/spip.php?article4550 )