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Monday, November 07, 2016

Paris To Change Name of Former Templar Location


The Paris Templar Enclos as it appeared in 1795

I received a link to to a French Change.org petition today. It seems that some central planning genius in Paris has decided to rename the city's Square du Temple after Elie Wiesel to memorialize the Nobel Prize-winning author, activist, and Auschwitz survivor.

Some stories I have found conflict: the petition says its new name will be 'Square Elie Wiesel,' while Le Parisien says it will be hybridized into 'Square du Temple-Elie Wiesel.' So, I'm a little confused. That article says it has already been renamed, so it may be that no public input was allowed, and petitions to stop it are already meaningless.


Patrick Marguerit, Socialist Party mayor of the 3rd Arrondissement, made the official announcement last Thursday. Apparently, the Paris Council made the decision September 12th in a vote that was not unanimous, and it has angered many of the citizens of the city, especially those who reside in the area. 

So, I read it and signed it, for whatever good it might accomplish. These Change.org petitions rarely prevent any political steamrollering anywhere. I’m certainly all in for a Parisian location or monument to memorialize Wiesel. I was introduced to his works in high school, beginning with Night, and his books have humanized and personalized the unfathomable horrors of the Holocaust in a way that few other authors could ever equal, because he lived it. His books have been read by millions all over the world, and continue to impact new readers today. As they should. They should remain in circulation for as long as words can appear in print, and then repeated by rote if we ever descend into a world like Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. (In an age of speech codes, safe spaces, and trigger warnings, such a notion no longer seems unthinkable, I'm afraid.)


But Paris planners could certainly have chosen somewhere other than this particular location that occupies such an important place in history. Wiesel lived in Paris after the war, but I haven't been able to figure out whether he lived on or near Square du Temple. He is largely regarded today as an American author. 

Unfortunately, if you go poking around too much on Parisian websites, the controversy over the renaming gets wrapped up in French anti-semitism, with the usual shrieks of Zionist conspiracies to obliterate Christian sites. Such is the territory of certain types who inhabit the web.


There is literally nothing physical left in this area today to even hint that the Templars had such an enormous presence in the city besides its name and nearby Metro station. Even the sole remnants of the Templar's 13th century Great Tower - its doors - were moved to Chateau Vincennes two centuries ago. 

Here is a rough translation attempt of the wording of the petition:

NO to the renaming of the Square du Temple Square Elie Wiesel!
Without consulting the residents, the mayor of the third arrondissement, Pierre Aidenbaum, expressed the wish to give it the name of Elie Wiesel at Temple Square. 
This decision, if implemented, would erase the memory of the Enclos du Temple (Enclosure of the Temple) from the twelfth century and whose fortified tower appears on a seal dated 1290.  
The fortified enclosure was the [headquarters] of the Knights Templar in France in connection with the Temple in Jerusalem. 
After its dissolution in 1312, the order gave way to the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem (Order of Malta) . L'Enclos survived and remained a vibrant free city with its many artisans. The activity of costume jewelery still very present today remains a living testimony.  
Economically and religiously vibrant, the Yard was behind its walls [was home to] famous people like Rousseau and Beranger. Mozart played there before the nobility. 

(Model of the enclosure time in the eighteenth century https://goo.gl/gQRddb )
[During] the  Revolution with the imprisonment of the royal family in 1792 and the death of little Louis XVII in the tower, which was destroyed in 1809, [followed by] the Paris Commune and the Premiere International [an international organization of left wing political groups and labor unions] in 1871, the area of the Temple was the Parisian field where political movements mingled with force, and often tragically.   
The Second World War did not spare the neighborhood; a monument recalls the names of 85 small Jewish children deported and exterminated in Auschwitz with their family from 1942 to 1944.    
The palace of the Grand Prior no longer exists but its garden is still there. Since 1857 it bears the name of the square of the Temple built by Alphand. 
If affixing the name of Elie Wiesel, Nobel Peace Prize [winner], died July 2, 2016, should not seem to be criticism in itself, as can be reserved for a [different] Parisian site, however, it is particularly questionable want to wish erase the memory of the Temple. 
The people of the 3rd love the Square du Temple. This is a lively place and very popular with people of all ages! All have their say on what is the heart of their district!  
NO to the arbitrary decision of the name change!   No to the oblivion of the memory of one of the oldest neighborhoods in Paris! The Square du Temple should bear this name, a name that marks the true historical heritage of the capital.

The first time Alice and I went to Paris after I became a Mason, like every good John Robinson reader, I eagerly sought out any site that had anything to do with the Order. We visited the tiny park on the Ile aux Juifs as soon as we got to town, and saw the plaques marking the death of Jacques de Molay (the one over the steps placed by the DeMolays and the other official one by the city). The next day, it rained all afternoon, but we hiked up the Rue du Temple to the Square, and I desperately searched for some remnant, some fragmented wall, some old archway, or even just a chunk of foundation stone in the park. But Napoleon did his job and erased every bit of it.

Interestingly, as was pointed out in one article I saw, Elie Wiesel himself wrote, "A man without a past is poorer than a man without a future." If the Council is wedded to the location for some reason, then just name the park there after Wiesel (although, even that is troublesome, as it was the Templar Grand Prior's own garden). But not the square. Don't erase history. 

If you are so inclined, click here to sign the petition. 

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