Home    Figure and Events    President Ho Chi Minh: The visit to France in 1946 and his friendship with Raymond Aubrac
Monday, 12 December 2016 10:33
1516 Lượt xem

President Ho Chi Minh: The visit to France in 1946 and his friendship with Raymond Aubrac

(LLCT) - President Ho Chi Minh’s visit to France in 1946 was one of the most important diplomatic activities of the Government during the 1945-1946 period. His visit to France began a diplomatic trend of new Vietnam according to his own thinking: peaceful dialogue on the basis of respecting each other’s sovereignty. During his time in France, he left an unforgettable impression on French people because of his sincerity, open-mindedness and simplicity. One of those French people he met was Raymond Aubrac, former Commissioner of the Republic in Marseilles and member of the French Parliament, who during President Ho Chi Minh’s visit in 1946 not only became his friend but also participated in Vietnamese fight for national liberation and their national construction for decades that followed.

As the August Revolution ended successfully, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam was born, marking a great turning point in the history of Vietnam. Then, a people’s government was established and undertook the mission to lead the entire population in the fight for the newly gained independence and in national construction.

However, the newly gained independence was faced with countless difficulties. The main danger laid in French colonialists attempting to return to Vietnam to reestablish colonial rule on the Indochinese Peninsula. No sooner had the Preliminary Agreement of 6 March been signed than French colonialists took destructive actions and showed lack of goodwill. For example, they demanded Vietnam’s troops to hand in weapons. They launched surprise attacks against Vietnamese troops in the South and Southern areas of the Central region. They moved their troops to places where Vietnam would not allow them to. A truce was of importance to the revolutionary government, which needed time to consolidate itself and prepared forces for upcoming historic, fierce fighting. Therefore, President Ho Chi Minh tried every way and took advantage of every opportunity to prolong the truce. He had a good number of meetings and negotiations with the French side.

On 24 March 1946, President Ho Chi Minh talked with Georges Thierry d’Argenlieu on the cruiser Emile Bertin in Ha Long Bay. The two sides agreed that there would be official diplomatic exchanges of visits between the two countries, that a preparatory meeting would be held in Da Lat (prior to any official negotiations) and that the Vietnamese government’s delegation would go to France to sign the official treaty. President Ho Chi Minh was invited to be the VIP guest of the French government. His visit to France began a diplomatic trend of new Vietnam according to his own thinking: peaceful dialogue on the basis of respecting each other’s sovereignty.

President Ho Chi Minh’s visit to France in 1946 was one of the most important diplomatic activities of the Government during the 1945-1946 period. On his way to France, he stopped over in Burma (now Myanmar), India, Pakistan, Iraq, Egypt, Algeria and Biarritz, the capital of the Pyrénées-Atlantiques department in Southern France. In these places, he took every opportunity to express Vietnamese people’s good feelings towards the host countries, trying to making them understand that our resistance against the French was a just one. He also demonstrated his good will towards France.

During his time in France, President Ho Chi Minh had nearly 400 meetings with most important politicians of different political parties and tendencies in the country and met most ministers of the contemporary French Government and 14 French military generals. He also had extensive meetings with cultural and social circles and the media from France and socio-political activists coming from Europe, Asia and Africa.

Through these meetings, President Ho Chi Minh knew the feelings and wishes of different walks of life and political parties in France. He made them understand Vietnamese desire for freedom and their determination to protect national independence and territorial integrity. He left an unforgettable impression on French people because of his sincerity, open-mindedness and simplicity.

One of those French people he met was Raymond Aubrac, former Commissioner of the Republic in Marseilles and member of the French Parliament, who during President Ho Chi Minh’s visit in 1946 not only became his friend but also participated in Vietnamese fight for national liberation and their national construction for decades that followed.

On 27 July 1946, Vietnamese living in France held a welcome party at Bagatelle Rose Garden in Paris for President Ho Chi Minh. Raymond Aubrac was present at this function. During their first meeting, “the French friend” felt and shared his similar revolutionary ideals with Ho Chi Minh. “Such was the relationship between the resistance of French patriotic forces and Vietnamese revolutionary cause”, recalled Raymond Aubrac. Right then he came up with the idea of inviting President Ho Chi Minh to stay in his home in Soisy Sous Montmorency in the North of Paris although the French government spared him a floor in a mansion near the Arch of Triumph. Gladly accepting the invitation, President Ho Chi Minh said, “I’ll be more than happy to visit your garden, my dear friend. So can I visit your family for at afternoon tea time next week?”(1) After that, he moved to stay in Aubrac’s home and garden.

The six weeks President stayed at Raymond Aubrac’s home (from early August to mid-September 1946) was the most memorable time for Raymond Aubrac and his family. There were Raymond Aubrac and his wife, their two small children, his mother-in-law and their home help. Aubrac recalled, “When he stayed at our home, a lot of French friends asked if he was there to entertain himself. No, he didn’t. He was there to get to know French lives and situations. He talked with my mother and drew comparisons with Vietnamese living conditions”. Every morning, Aubrac’s family would take President Ho Chi Minh books and newspapers in French, English, German and Russian. And he would read them on the grass for hours. Also at Aubrac’s home, President Ho Chi Minh received and held reception parties for people of different political tendencies as well as authors and journalists.

On 31 July 1946, on Aubrac’s birthday, President Ho Chi Minh presented him a painting by Vu Cao Dam, a patriotic overseas Vietnamese intellectual and an artist. The painting describes a mother caressing her newborn’s head with her slender fingers. Some while after that, Aubrac’s wife gave birth to their third daughter named Elizabeth. Ho Chi Minh went to the maternity hospital to visit them, gave them flowers and offered to be godfather of Elizabeth, who he called Babette. “It was the fifteenth of August 1946. From then on, during the war, we would receive gifts or hear something from President Ho Chi Minh for my daughter”, recalled Aubrac. President Ho Chi Minh’s gifts were very simple, a small globe, an ivory buffalo, a portrait of himself, or a gold coin with his picture on it, but they all contained his love and profound care for her. A special gift Babette received from her godfather was a piece of golden silk used to make wedding dresses. Babette would keep his gifts carefully as her treasures, and according to her, they were “the best memories” she had with President Ho Chi Minh.

Nine years after President Ho Chi Minh’s visit to France in 1946, Aubrac had a chance to see him again. In 1955, while on a business trip in Beijing, Aubrac came across a large headline on the English language version of a local newspaper, “Welcome President Ho Chi Minh to the People’s Republic of China”. He immediately called the Vietnamese Embassy in China and asked them to say hello to President Ho Chi Minh, who he had not met for nine years. Fifteen minutes later, his phone rang. Somebody told him that President Ho Chi Minh invited him for breakfast at 6 a.m. the next morning. The next morning, his driver drove him to meet President Ho Chi Minh. When they met, President Ho Chi Minh gave him hugs and kisses and asked about his family and children. Knowing that Aubrac came to Beijing to negotiate a French-Chinese trade agreement, President Ho Chi Minh asked for his help with the negotiation of the first trade agreement between France and Vietnam. “President Ho said if I stayed in Hanoi I could help Vietnam with this because both the French and Vietnamese delegations knew me. I said I’d be very happy to help to resume this negotiation. Soon after that, I left for Hanoi”. Aubrac spent 5 days and 4 nights on a train from Beijing to Vietnam, for the first time, via Lang Son border gate. In Hanoi, he met Pham Van Dong and representatives of the French delegation. Within 5 minutes after Aubrac expressed his views as an arbitrator, the two sides signed their first bilateral trade agreement. After that, he took the train from Lang Son back to Beijing. He recalled, “I took 10 days and 8 nights to work for only 5 minutes”.

In 1967, the Vietnamese resistance against US invasion was in a period of fierceness. An anti-nuclear warfare organization consisting of world famous scientists convened in Paris, where they discussed Vietnam and agreed to send two French scientists as “envoys” between Washington and Hanoi. The aim was to organize a meeting between authorized representatives of the two Governments so they would discuss an end to war escalation.

Aubrac was working for the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome, Italy. He was asked to return to France to join French professor Herbert Marcovich in this mission. When he arrived in Hanoi, he went to the stilt house inside the Presidential Palace to meet President Ho Chi Minh. When they met, President Ho Chi Minh asked him about Mrs. Lucie Aubrac and their children, especially Elizabeth. Then Aubrac talked about Pugwash’s meeting in Paris and said he was tasked with handing President Ho Chi Minh a “verbal message” from this organization seeking a solution to the Americans’ war in Vietnam. President Ho Chi Minh said, “This is unacceptable unless the Americans stop unconditionally bombing Vietnam”. Before heading for his stilt house for a rest, President Ho Chi Minh gave Aubrac a piece of silk and said, “This is my present for Elizabeth”. Then they hugged each other dearly. After that, as an envoy, Aubrac many times contacted American and Vietnamese representatives in Paris. In August 1967, the White House sent the Government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam a note expressing their willingness to stop bombing North Vietnam on condition that this would not be exploited and that this would lead to productive discussions.

The 1967 meeting was the last time Aubrac met President Ho Chi Minh. However, it was not the last time he visited Vietnam. From then until when he passed away, he visited Vietnam 16 times. On 30 April 1975, he was in Hanoi to witness the historic moment when the general attack and uprising of Spring 1975 culminating in the Ho Chi Minh Campaign ended in victory, liberating the South and unifying the country.

First developing a bond with Vietnam in 1946 when he met President Ho Chi Minh in Paris, Raymond Aubrac was the one who helped with the signing of the first bilateral trade agreement between Vietnam and France in 1955. It was him who exchanged messages between Hanoi and Washington in an effort to stop unconditionally American bombing onto Vietnam in 1967. It was also him who called on an end to the bombing of Red River dykes and helped to make it happen in 1972.

He wrote the book Où la mémoire s’attarde published in 1946. In the book he wrote about his lifelong memories. Ho Chi Minh and Vietnam left a profound impression on him and his wife. They became close friends of President Ho Chi Minh and the Vietnamese people.

Nguyen Van Cong

 

Ho Chi Minh Heritage Site at the Presidential Palace

Related Articles

Contact us

Links