Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre promised that public places in his city named for a French Nobel laureate, who was an alleged Nazi sympathizer, will be changed soon.
He was referring to a street and park in the Rivière des Prairies district, near the eastern tip of the island, honouring Alexis Carrel, a physician who won the Nobel Prize for medicine in 1912.
Coderre, in consultation with Rivière des Prairies-Pointe aux Trembles borough mayor Chantal Rouleau, announced the decision of his executive committee on April 20, a day after D’Arcy McGee MNA David Birnbaum called on all municipalities in Quebec to remove Carrel’s name from public places.
Birnbaum has also contacted the mayors of Châteauguay and Boisbriand, where there are also streets named for Carrel, a pioneer in vascular surgery, who died in 1944.
Birnbaum says Carrel was “a proponent of eugenics and a supporter of the collaborationist Vichy regime in wartime France.”
The MNA cited the German edition of his book L’Homme, cet Inconnu, in which Carrel praised the Nazi regime, writing: “The German government has taken energetic measures against the propagation of the defective, the mentally diseased, and the criminal. The ideal solution would be the suppression of each of these individuals as soon as he has proven himself to be dangerous.”
In the same book, Carrel endorsed destroying humanity’s “inferior stock” through the use of gas chambers.
At time of writing, Birnbaum had received no response from Mayor Nathalie Simon of Châteauguay or Mayor Marlene Cordato of Boisbriand to his demand.
The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) commended Coderre for his swift action.
CIJA termed Carrel “an enthusiastic supporter of the Nazi regime’s sterilization of minorities, homosexuals, criminals and people with disabilities in order to create a so-called master race.”
The organization called on Châteauguay and Boisbriand to follow the example of Montreal and Gatineau, which last year got rid of a street named for Carrel. That only happened following a two-year campaign led by a resident to get the city council to do so, and representations by CIJA.
“It seems to me that each of the mayors would want to move swiftly to remove this painful and public honouring of an individual who propagated views shared by Adolf Hitler and his Nazi regime,” Birnbaum stated.
“Quebec was one of the first jurisdictions in the world to adopt a law commemorating the Holocaust each year. That day is approaching in May, and it would be a sign of respect to Holocaust survivors among us, as well as to all residents of the municipalities, to honour the opportunity remove this dishonoured name from their public face.”
He pointed out that municipalities can quite easily vote to propose such name changes to the provincial Commission de toponymie du Québec for approval.
CIJA stated: “While it is clear that these municipalities did not knowingly pay tribute to a man whose views were so contemptuous of humanity, there is no place to honour a proponent of such inhumane ideas in an advanced democracy such as Quebec.”
Gatineau also renamed a street last year honouring another Nobel laureate with clear Nazi sympathies, the German physicist Philipp Lenard (1862-1947), who was an active proponent of Nazism and supporter of Hitler.
Alexis Carrel became Albert Einstein Street and Philipp Lenard was renamed Marie Curie Street, after two other Nobel winners.
Quebec City also once had an Alex Carrel street, which became Maurice Bellemare Street.
The Nobel Prize organization makes no mention of Carrel’s alleged association with Nazism. The online biography states that Carrel, a close friend of Charles Lindbergh, returned to France from the United States when World War II broke out and worked for the Ministry of Health. The following year he became director of the Carrel Foundation for the Study of Human Problems, set up by the Vichy government, until his death. Due to this support, Carrel was accused of collaboration.