'Cowardly' label unfair
Madam – I always find Eoghan Harris's column interesting, but last week (Sunday Independent, May 26, 2013) he referred to Marshal Petain as "a cowardly old man who put Jews in concentration camps". I think it is unfair to call a man who was 84 years old when he became leader of France a coward.
Perhaps Petain did nothing – or less than he could have done – to save the Jews of France, but anti-Semitism was rife in France, Germany, Poland, Russia and most European countries, including Ireland. Many of our political and university leaders spoke of the dangers of world Jewry plots, and our Taoiseach and foreign diplomats did not welcome Jews to Ireland although everyone must have been aware of their treatment in Germany before the war.
Petain, like many others who had seen the mass murder and horrors of the First World War, was anxious to avoid another war. He had seen the destruction of millions of young Frenchmen and Germans and, like Chamberlain, thought a repeat should or could be avoided.