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Posts Tagged ‘Vichy government’

(1856-1951 ) Marshal,

Politician, war hero of Verdun

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Philippe Henri Pétain was a military and political leader and France´s greatest hero in World War I (1914-1918). He was later condemned as a traitor for having headed the pro-German Vichy regime after France’s defeat in World War II (1939-1945). 
     Born in Cauchy-ó-la-Tour in 1856, Pétain was educated at the Saint-Cyr military academy and the École Supérieure de Guerre (army war college) in Paris. As a general during World War I, he won fame for his successful defense of Verdun against the Germans in 1916. Later, as commander in chief, he did much to restore morale in the French army after a series of mutinies in 1917. He was made a marshal of France the following year. During the 1920s Pétain served in French Morocco. In 1934 he was minister of war, and from 1939 to 1940 he was ambassador to Spain. 
     Following the German invasion of France in 1940, Pétain – then 84 years old – was recalled to active military service as adviser to the minister of war. On June 16, 1940, hesucceeded Paul Reynaud as premier of France and soon afterward he asked the Germans for an armistice, which was concluded on June 22. On July 2, with the consent of the Germans, he established his government in Vichy in central France, and on July 10 he assumed the title of chief of state, ruling thereafter with dictatorial powers over that portion of France not directly under German control. Pétain and his prime minister, Pierre Laval, established a Fascist-oriented government that became notorious for its collaboration with German dictator Adolf Hitler. The Vichy government ruled with Germany’s approval, appointing all government officials, controlling the press, and practicing arbitrary arrests. The government also passed anti-Semitic laws and rounded up French, Spanish, and Eastern European Jews who were deported to German concentration camps.

With the German army occupying two-thirds of the country, Pétain believed he could repair the ruin caused by the invasion and obtain the release of the numerous prisoners of war only by cooperating with the Germans. In the southern part of France, left free by the armistice agreement, he set up a paternalistic regime the motto of which was “Work, Family, and Fatherland.” Reactionary by temperament and education, he allowed his government to promulgate a law dissolving the Masonic lodges and excluding Jews from certain professions.

He was, however, opposed to the policy of close Franco-German collaboration advocated by his vice premier Pierre Laval, whom he dismissed in December 1940, replacing him with Admiral François Darlan. Pétain then attempted to practice a foreign policy of neutrality and delay. He secretly sent an emissary to London, met with the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco , whom he urged to refuse free passage of Adolf Hitler’s army to North Africa, and maintained a cordial relationship with Admiral William Leahy, the U.S. ambassador to Vichy until 1942.

When, in April 1942, the Germans forced Pétain to take Laval back as premier, he himself withdrew into a purely nominal role.


     After the Allies landed in France in 1944, Pétain went toGermany and then to Switzerland. He returned to France after the war to stand trial for treason. In August 1945 he was found guilty of intelligence with the enemy and sentenced to death. The sentence was commuted to life imprisonment, and he was moved to Ile d’Yeu, an island off the coast of Brittany, where he died.

(Ack:worldatwar.net/biography, Brittanica.com)

 

 

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Jew-baiting in Europe was pervasive right from the time the powers- that- be found the Jews a convenient scapegoat. The rulers of principalities funded their wars with the money extorted from the Jews. Torquemada for example comes to mind. Jews were banished from the Catholic Spain. France was not free from this prejudice. That was then.
In the late 19th century France was rocked by a scandal. In its wake their deep seated fear of Jews came to the fore. I cite the collapse of the company that floated the Panama Canal project. In 1888 the company formed by Ferdinand de Lesseps went under with a loss to stockholders, most of them small bourgeois investors, of $300,000,000. From inquiries and trials that followed an endemic corruption in which several cabinet ministers, some 150 members of Parliament and nearly every important newspapers had been bribed off. The company wanted to avoid a crash and money spent at the right quarters allowed the company to stave off an immediate collapse. For the time being. Of these corrupt people only one was found guilty and prosecuted because his conscience prick made him confess! Now the question is how come anti-semitism suddenly became the news of the day? The politicians and corrupt law-givers wanted to save their hides,- and also face, one would think.
The Jews as a nation was a nation within the national life of Russia and as elsewhere, in France also.
There cannot be smoke without fire. In fact there were three Jews who on behalf of the company actually handled the bribing of influential people. In the mass hysteria surely l’affaire Dreyfus was waiting to happen. The man on the street as a result of corruption,divisions lost faith in the Third Republic and in those who ran the Republic. Of course politicians who used the Jews as smoke screen may have escaped immediate retribution but their actions would surely bring disaster. How else one can explain the utter fiasco under which France met the challenge of rising Nazism?
Within a span of six weeks during the balmy May-July days of 1940 the world’s second largest empire were utterly brought to their knees. France may have prided in her culture and civilized way of life but all these would give way to a Fascist dictatorship and an epitome of Totalitarian Political system. Who genuflected shamelessly before the Moloch but the father figure of the French Army, the one and only Philippe Petain?
It is poetic justice that Army caved in when the nation needed them most. The Army had long before their debacle lost their morale in the Dreyfus case.
In 1894 throwing Dreyfus to the wolves in order to protect the Army made the country split in the middle. The Left and Right veered to extreme positions. For the Army, the Catholic Church and the conservative majority it was not the question whether Dreyfus was guilty or not but that it were better that he suffered than sacrifice the prestige and honor of the French Army. With such persuasive argument France walked roughshod over the individual liberties of some individuals as though their lives didn’t count. On a flimsy charge that will never stand in a court of law Captain Dreyfus was publicly disgraced. La Libre Parole a paper noted for her anti-semitism commented next day: “It was not an individual who was degraded here for an individual crime. The shame of an entire race was bared in its nakedness.”
When a nation has sacrificed its moral force what morale can an army muster in case of emergency? When the House has developed a cleft down the middle what hope is left for the inmates? In the face of the national crisis the Cardinal Archbishop of Paris led the prayers and hoped as with the people for a miracle. It was of no use since the Army was sapped by dreams of glory and of the past than of the present.
2.
Curtailing individual liberties of even one person do carry its measure of seeds of poison. If the nation could make short shrift of one it stands to reason there shall be many more cases similarly repeated elsewhere. The accumulated poison shall spread through wind, water, rivers and oceans that in the end will create catastrophe.
benny

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While at the military Academy, Saint-Cyr, cadet deGaulle because of his height, high forehead, and nose, acquired the nicknames of “the great asparagus” and Cyrano. During the War years FDR seemed to have expressed his antipathy saying, ‘how can one trust a man who has the face of pineapple and waist of a woman?’
Ambitious, proud and intransigent De Gaulle was anathema to great many. When France capitulated to the Nazis, de Gaulle denounced the Vichy government, and he knew his life was in danger. So he had to escape. But he was in the radar of Weygand who had just become Marshall Petain’s Minister of Defense.( De Gaulle was the most junior of all brigadier-generals and relatively unknown and with no political backing. He could be silenced without any difficulty.)
On the morning of 17 June 1940, de Gaulle and other senior French officers fled the country with 100,000 gold francs in secret funds provided to him by the ex-prime minister Paul Reynaud. Meanwhile passports were sent to his wife and children who were in Brittany. (They escaped in the last boat.) Narrowly escaping the Luftwaffe, he landed safely in London that afternoon. Churchill believed he carried in this small plane the honor of France.’
De Gaulle in his memoirs described his escape in characteristic terseness:’ the departure took place without romanticism and without difficulty.’
Postscript:
He was the target of many assassination attempts and he survived them all (31 such attempts are documented). He earned another epithet,’ the Great Survivor.’
benny

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