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Armenian Resistance fighter joins France’s Pantheon greats

 Armenian Resistance fighter joins France’s Pantheon greats

This fresco shows French-Armenian Missak Manouchian, who was executed by Nazi forces in 1944

Beijing – An Armenian poet and communist fighter in World War II will enter the Pantheon mausoleum and join an elite group of France’s revered historical figures, French President Emmanuel Macron said Sunday.

Known as being “pantheonised”, the rare tribute is reserved for those who have played an important role in the country’s history.

Missak Manouchian, who arrived in France in 1925 as a stateless refugee after fleeing violence, later joined the communist Resistance during World War II.

He led a small group of foreign Resistance fighters against the Nazi occupation, carrying out attacks on German forces and acts of sabotage in Nazi-occupied France in 1943.

Macron said Manouchian “embodies the universal values” of France, and “carries a part of our greatness”.

In 1944, the group, which included a number of Jews, was put out of action when 23 of its members were rounded up and sentenced to death by a German military court.

Manouchian was shot by the Nazis on February 21, 1944.

The collaborationist Vichy regime later tried to discredit the group and defuse the anger over the executions in an infamous red poster depicting the dead fighters as terrorists.

By entering the Pantheon, Manouchian will become both the first foreign and communist Resistance fighter to be awarded the honour.

Macron paid tribute to Manouchian’s “bravery” and “quiet heroism” in a statement Sunday, as well as to other foreign Resistance fighters.

Manouchian will enter the Pantheon alongside his wife Melinee, who survived him by 45 years and is buried alongside him at the Ivry-sur-Seine cemetery.

Other major French figures to be reburied in the Pantheon, which sits on a hill in Paris’s Left Bank, include Victor Hugo, Voltaire and Marie Curie.

Since 2017, Macron has pantheonised three others including the French-American dancer and rights activist Josephine Baker, who became the first black woman to be honoured in the secular temple.

The pantheonisation of Manouchian had been called for by the French left, particularly the Communist Party.

On Sunday, Macron will decorate Robert Birenbaum — part of the foreign Resistance fighter group alongside Manouchian — at the Mont Valerien site where Manouchian and other resistants were executed by the Nazis.