Avenue Bugeaud (16 Arrondissement) will become Avenue Hubert Germain, Source: Mbzt, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED)

In a rare move, Paris changes street name to avoid glorification of war criminal

In a rare move, Paris changes street name to avoid glorification of war criminal

This is only the third such case in 20 years

The Paris City Hall announced that it has decided to rename Avenue Bugeaud (16th Arrondissement) and give it the name of Avenue Hubert Germain. At first glance, this may not sound like something awfully newsworthy until you consider the fact that the renaming policy in the French capital is actually quite conservative in that regard.

This will make the street only the fifth such to be renamed since the start of the 21st century, and the third in the past two decades.

The reason for the upcoming name change, known as debaptisation in French, is that evidence shows that before Robert Bugeaud (1784-1849) was made Marshal of France he was in fact guilty of abuses during the colonization of Algeria in the 1830s.

Appointed governor-general of Algeria, he put into practice on his own initiative the so-called “enfumades”, which consisted of asphyxiating native populations with smoke to accelerate the conquest of territories. These real war crimes caused a scandal in his time. Even his contemporaries were scandalized and judged his actions as atrocities.

The street plaques will be preserved for historical memory, though

For certain things, Paris likes to keep things firmly as they are, and this even includes a policy of not removing statues (even ones glorifying colonialism) and rarely resorting to changing street names. The latter is permissible if they are considered to harm the reputation of the city.

Nevertheless, the street plaques bearing the name of Marshal Bugeaud will be retained in the Carnavalet Museum to bear witness to this moment in the history of the capital.

As for Hubert Germain, whose name will now grace the 542-metre-long street, home to two embassies, people can rest assured that his legacy is heroic. He was the last living Companion of Liberation before passing away in 2021 at the age of 101.

The title of Companion of Liberation was given to World War II veterans who had distinguished themselves in the struggle to liberate France from the Nazi invaders.



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