The memorial for former French Minister of War Philippe Pétain, accused of being a Nazi collaborator, in New York City on January 27, 2023 / © AFP
New York officials and members of the city's Jewish community called Friday for the removal of plaques bearing the name of French Nazi collaborators from Manhattan's celebrated Broadway street.
The granite plaques for Vichy leaders Philippe Petain and Pierre Laval were embedded in the "Canyon of Heroes" sidewalk, New York's answer to Hollywood's "Walk of Fame," in 2004.
The plaques honor participants of ticker-tape parades, which ex-general Petain and former leader Laval took part in in 1931.
Petain was invited to the parade because of his status then as the hero who led the French army to victory at the Battle of Verdun in World War I.
Laval was honored because he was then French prime minister.
The parade took place before they worked for the Nazis during Germany's occupation of France during World War II.
"Removing the plaques is not a whitewashing of history. Rather, it is a refusal to continue to honor two people who made the choice to embody the worst of humanity," said Manhattan borough president Mark Levine.
"Petain and Laval's World War I contributions and ticker-tape parades will continue to exist in historical records, but their names do not need to remain on Broadway alongside true heroes like Nelson Mandela and Covid-19 pandemic essential workers.
"France itself convicted both of treason and has renamed streets that once honored these villains," he added.
The call was made on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
"The Holocaust remains one of the darkest periods in history, and we must not honor those who enabled and participated in that atrocity," said Eric Dinowitz, chair of the city council’s Jewish caucus.
Ex-mayor Bill de Blasio had promised to remove the plaques in 2017. Instead, a commission suggested adding some historical context but it never happened.