Maxime Weygand, born in Brussels on January 21, 1867 and died in Paris on January 28, 1965, was a French general officer and member of the Académie française. He played an important role in both world wars.
As Marshal Foch”s right-hand man at the end of the First World War, he was in charge of reading the conditions of the Armistice in Rethondes to the German delegation on November 11, 1918.
Appointed on May 17, 1940, by the President of the Council, Paul Reynaud, as commander-in-chief of the French army, replacing General Gamelin, he could not prevent the defeat in the Battle of France. He was the first to declare himself in favor of an armistice (as in the First World War) with Germany, while the President of the Council and other members of the government were in favor of abandoning metropolitan France and continuing the fight from North Africa with the British.
On June 17, 1940, he became Minister of War in the Pétain government, prepared the armistice, signed on June 22, and then participated in the Vichy government for two months, before being appointed delegate general for North Africa on September 4, 1940. He reorganized the African Army in preparation for the resumption of fighting. Recalled and relieved of his command by Pétain in November 1941 under German pressure, he was placed under house arrest in a villa in Provence.
Arrested by the Gestapo the day before the Germans invaded the free zone on November 11, 1942, he was deported to Germany and interned until the end of the war. He was arrested on his return from Germany, accused of high treason and imprisoned by the Provisional Government of the French Republic led by General de Gaulle. He defended the memory of Marshal Pétain and supported the partisans of French Algeria during the Algerian war.
Weygand was born on January 21, 1867 in Brussels, of unknown parents (it was the obstetrician who, two days later, declared the birth of the child to the civil registry, answering to the first name of Maxime). According to some sources, he was the illegitimate son of the Empress Charlotte of Mexico, daughter of the King of the Belgians Leopold I, and of the colonel (and future general) Alfred van der Smissen (1823-1895), commander of the Belgian army corps that had accompanied the French troops of Marshal Bazaine during the expedition to Mexico under the Second Empire. This thesis is studied among others by Dominique Paoli. In order to confirm this filiation, some people point out the striking resemblance between Van der Smissen and Weygand as an adult, as it appears when one compares their two photographs, as they were presented in a television program by Alain Decaux. This is also the opinion of the history journalist André Castelot, to whom the King of the Belgians, Leopold III, declared “Weygand is the son of Van der Smissen”.
General de Gaulle, for his part, did not hesitate to link the birth of Weygand to the Mexican expedition. Thus, during a council of ministers where General de Gaulle”s official visit to Mexico was being prepared, the Minister of the Armed Forces, Pierre Messmer, announced that France was going to return to Mexico the Mexican army”s flags taken during the Mexican expedition under Napoleon III, stating that this war had not brought anything to France. The general interrupted him and said: “Yes, this war brought us Weygand!
According to another thesis, that of Charles Fouvez, who published Le Mystère Weygand in 1967 (La Table Ronde), he was the illegitimate son of the Belgian king Leopold II. Although formal proofs are not provided, according to him, there is a cluster of clues that form quasi-proofs. In the periodical Histoire pour tous no 100 of August 1968, the author confirms his conviction on the basis of the mail he received after the publication of his book. Moreover, according to Fouvez, Weygand”s mother was the Countess Kosakowska, wife of a Russian aristocrat of Lithuanian origin.
According to Bernard Destremau, author of a biography of Weygand in the late 1980s, there are three main hypotheses:
Entrusted at birth to a Brussels nanny, Mrs. Saget, who raised him until the age of six, young Maxime was then taken to France where, under unclear circumstances, he became the ward of David de Léon Cohen, a Jewish merchant living in Marseille. Curiously, Maxime Weygand”s memoirs are completely silent about his guardians, although he pays tribute at length to his governess and the chaplain of his high school, who instilled in him his Catholic faith.
A certain Hortense Denimal, wife of Félix Vandievoet, is mentioned several times in Dominique Paoli”s book, Maxime ou le secret Weygand (Brussels, 2003), because at one point she had taken in a child named Maxime, known as de Nimal, who was none other than the future General Weygand. She was in fact the sister of Thérèse Denimal, companion and then wife of David de Léon Cohen, legal guardian of Maxime de Nimal, the future General Weygand.
After studying at the Lycée Michelet in Vanves, at the Lycée Thiers in Marseille, at the Lycée Louis-le-Grand and then at the Lycée Henri-IV in Paris, he entered the École Militaire de Saint-Cyr in 1885 under the name of Maxime de Nimal as a foreign student (Belgian). He was part of the Annam class (1885-1887). He was ranked twentieth in his class when his training ended in 1887. He chose the cavalry and joined, still as a foreigner, the Cavalry School of Saumur. He left the school on August 31, 1888, number 9 out of 78 students. He was assigned with the rank of second lieutenant to the 4th regiment of dragoons, in Chambéry, Savoie, under the command of Captain Alain Pierre Touzet du Vigier.
Shortly thereafter, on October 18, 1888, Maxime de Nimal was recognized as his natural son by François-Joseph Weygand (1846-1915), an accountant at David de Léon Cohen”s office, who came from an old Alsatian family in Rhinau. This act of recognition endowed the young man with the name of Weygand and allowed him, according to his wish, to acquire French nationality almost immediately (the decree of naturalization was issued on December 3 of the same year). However, Maxime will never have any personal relationship with this father.
His military career will continue from then on in Chambéry, Saint-Étienne, Lunéville, Saumur, Niort and Nancy.
Lieutenant in 1891, he was appointed captain in September 1896. At that time, he chose not to prepare for the École de guerre, citing his desire to remain in contact with his men.
At the time of the Dreyfus Affair, he distinguished himself as an anti-Dreyfus supporter by participating, in 1898, in the national subscription opened by the anti-Semitic newspaper, La Libre Parole, of Édouard Drumont, for the benefit of the widow of the author of the false document, Colonel Henry, who had committed suicide when his falsification of the document accusing Dreyfus was revealed. This enterprise earned Weygand the only punishment he ever received: four days” simple arrest, imposed by order of the Minister of War, Charles de Freycinet, “for having taken part in a subscription that could be political in nature.
Two years later, on November 12, 1900, while a captain in the 9th Dragoon Regiment in Vitry-le-François, he married Marie-Renée-Joséphine de Forsanz (1876-1961) in Noyon, in the Oise region of France. The couple had two sons: Édouard Weygand (1901-1987), who later became an industrialist and father of six children, and Jacques (1905-1970), who, following his father”s example, was destined to become a soldier.
From 1902 to 1907 and from 1910 to 1912, periods during which he was promoted to squadron leader (May 1907) and then lieutenant-colonel (May 1912), Maxime Weygand was an instructor at the Saumur Cavalry School. In 1913, he was made a knight of the Legion of Honor and entered the Centre des Hautes Etudes Militaires, where General Joffre noticed him.
At the beginning of the First World War, Weygand was a lieutenant-colonel and second-in-command of the 5th hussar regiment in Nancy, with whom he participated in the defeat at Morhange. However, following the rapid reorganization of the French command wanted by General Joffre to avoid a probable debacle, he was promoted to colonel on September 21, 1914 and immediately appointed chief of staff of the 9th army. Promoted to brigadier general on August 8, 1916, he fulfilled the same functions in the northern army group, then in General Foch”s group, and finally became assistant to the army”s major general. Despite this, Weygand had to follow Foch in his temporary disgrace during the first months of 1917: he accompanied him on a confidential mission to Berne to discuss the possibility of a violation of Swiss territory by the German army.
During the war, he had the opportunity to travel to Belgium as a member of a French military delegation to meet with the Belgian King Albert I and his family in La Panne, where the Belgian General Staff was based throughout the war. But as to the origin of Weygand, nothing came of this meeting or of other meetings with the Belgian royal family. At least, Weygand did not get any information from these meetings, which were apparently exclusively military, if we are to believe his memoirs.
In May 1917, after the failure of General Nivelle, Pétain, the new commander-in-chief, recalled Foch as Chief of the General Staff. Weygand became one of the deputy chiefs of staff and was promoted to major general (temporarily). With Foch, he took part in the Rapallo Conference (it), on November 6 and 7, 1917, held to support the Italian front after the defeat at Caporetto, during which the Allies decided to create a Higher Inter-Allied War Council. Following the meeting held at Doullens on March 26, 1918, when the command-in-chief of the Allied armies, with the title of Generalissimo, was entrusted to Foch, his direct collaborator was appointed to the essential position of Major General of the Allied armies. On November 8, 9 and 10, 1918, Weygand assisted Foch in the armistice negotiations and read out the conditions of the armistice to the Germans in the clearing at Rethondes, in what was to become the Armistice wagon.
Weygand is thus a rare example in the history of the French army of the rise to the highest levels of the hierarchy of an officer who had not been a commander-in-chief at the front, something that General de Gaulle emphasized in his War Memoirs.
In 1920, General Weygand was appointed “technical advisor to the Franco-English mission” in the words of Marshal Piłsudski, the Polish head of state, a mission sent to Poland by the Allies when Warsaw found itself threatened in July 1920 following the Soviet counteroffensive. According to Foch, Weygand “soon became the military representative” of this mission to the Polish High Command in order to help the routed Poles. Indeed, the Poles, engaged since 1919 in a war against Bolshevik Russia, were about to be defeated by the Soviet forces of Tukhachevsky. At a conference on July 27, 1920, in the presence of Ignacy Daszyński, Vice President of the Polish Council and representative of Piłsudski, Prince Eustachy Sapieha, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and members of the Interallied Commission, the British even proposed that Weygand take over the leadership of the Polish army, but the Poles refused. The reason was that the Polish government did not accept Weygand”s stance, which was to support Germany over disputed territories due to “overly agitated Polish miners”.
The inter-allied mission, which was present in Poland for only a few weeks in July-August 1920, and which included General Weygand, the French diplomat Jusserand, the British diplomat Lord D”Abernon and the British General Radcliffe, should not be confused with the French military mission. The latter, which had been present before and since April 1919 and until 1932, was then commanded by General Paul Henrys, under whose orders were, among the 500 or so people in the mission, Captain Charles de Gaulle and his deputy, Captain Jean Touzet du Vigier.
The role of General Weygand and the Interallied Mission is debated. Some Polish officers claimed that the Battle of Warsaw, also known as the “Miracle of the Vistula,” was won by them alone, before the French mission could write and send its report, a view shared, for example, by the British historian Norman Davies. Nevertheless, French historians co-attribute to him, along with General Tadeusz Rozwadowski and, to a lesser extent, Piłsudski, the authorship of the battle plan. In particular, the axis of the counteroffensive, from south to north, exploiting Boudienny”s decision to branch off to the south, thus relieving the pressure on Warsaw, would be his doing. Weygand was thus able to impose his views or, at least, Piłsudski partially integrated them into his plan, rejecting, however, the idea of an attack in the Siedlce sector. The final plan would therefore be Piłsudski”s own, approved by Rozwadowski and Weygand. From then on, Weygand was in charge of designing the defense of Warsaw, a field in which he excelled; in order to implement his views and help the Poles, he demanded from General Henrys on the one hand the sending of French advisors not only at the divisional level, but to push it to the regimental level, and on the other hand specific support for the establishment of fortifications and the improvement of artillery positions. He also suggested placing the north of the front under the command of General Józef Haller, who was in disgrace at the time, and entrusting the command of the south of the front to Władysław Sikorski; Piłsudski retained these suggestions. Nevertheless, Weygand”s role in this battle is considered minimal at best by modern historians.
Clemenceau gives this description of Weygand in Jean Martet”s M. Clemenceau peint par lui-même to understand the figure of the general:
“It”s that Weygand is somebody. But he”s not a very good one. He is a man who must have been kicked in the butt when he was still in limbo. But he”s smart. He has je ne sais quoi, a kind of dark fire. I got angry because at the Council of the Allies he came and spoke. I told General Foch: “You don”t have the right to come there yourself. You are only there to answer when you are consulted. At least keep him quiet. “Weygand is a man… how can I put this? Dangerous, capable, in a moment of crisis, of going very far, of throwing himself into it, – and intelligently, much more intelligently than Mangin would have done, who would have given his nose anywhere. Dangerous, but precious. And he had one enormous quality: he knew how to do his job without talking about it, without being talked about. He went to Poland. I don”t know what he made there, – but what needed to be done, he did. He put it all back together; the matter was settled. He came back, did not triumph, did not say anything; we don”t know what he did, where he is. This is quite strong. It is not that Foch is stupid; but he has a good-natured and simplistic genius. The other one adds something tense and deep. Naturally, he is up to his neck in curates.
In 1920, Weygand was made a corps general and an army general in 1923. He succeeded General Gouraud in Syria and Lebanon, as High Commissioner of France in the Levant. That same year, 1924, Weygand was relieved of his command in Lebanon, because he had communicated articles from the royalist and nationalist Parisian daily L”Action française to the local newspaper L”Orient: the President of the Council of the Cartel of the Left, Edouard Herriot, relieved him immediately and replaced him with a general who was markedly left-wing, General Sarrail. Herriot justified this abrupt replacement before the National Assembly by concluding: “This is how Weygand spent the money of the Republic”. The Weygand street in Beirut pays tribute to him.
In 1924, Weygand joined the Conseil supérieur de la guerre. In 1925, he directed the Centre des hautes études militaires.
He was promoted to Chief of the General Staff of the Army in 1930 by André Tardieu. He was vice-president of the Conseil supérieur de la guerre, and in this capacity, denounced the danger of Hitler and condemned disarmament, but opposed Colonel de Gaulle”s theory of building up armoured divisions. In 1932, the left-wing government returned to power and implemented a disarmament policy that provoked the indignation of Weygand, who wrote in his secret reports that “the French army had descended to the lowest level permitted by the security of France”. He had to withdraw from the Conseil supérieur de la guerre on January 21, 1935, having reached the age limit – he had just turned 68 – leaving his place to General Gamelin, but he was kept on duty without age limit. In 1938, he expressed a false optimism about the capacity of the French army to win in the event of a conflict.
On June 11, 1931, along with the novelist Pierre Benoit, he was unanimously elected to the French Academy to succeed Marshal Joffre in the 35th chair.
In the 1930s, Maxime Weygand, who voted for Charles Maurras for the French Academy, was close to Action Française but his legalism prevented him from publicly expressing his agreement with Maurras.
He specifies his thought in front of Pertinax on March 18, 1935: “I am for the military force, the alliances and the religion against the Freemasonry”. According to a later testimony of Pertinax, he would have considered creating an anti-masonic league.
He joined the steering committee of the “National Rally for the Reconstruction of France” after the victory of the Popular Front in 1936, alongside Bernard Faÿ, the doctor-general Jules Emily and the academician Abel Bonnard. This think tank was founded in February 1936 by René Gillouin, Gaston Le Provost de Launay and Lucien Souchon, its general secretary. It published documents against the Popular Front and communism, and held a few rare conferences which Weygand attended in 1937-1938. Questioning Weygand for the investigating committee of the High Court of Justice in 1946, a commissioner of the judicial police summarized his testimony as follows: “In summary, five or six intellectuals met monthly to study various questions of a national nature. The results of their studies were left to the meditation of a few people who provided the association with the material means to subsist. Is this the way to summarize your hearing? “Yes, except that I was not an intellectual,” Weygand corrected. According to the general, the work of the association “dealt primarily with educational and social issues” and with social and economic issues. Among the employers who financed this grouping were Georges Brabant, the Vosges textile industrialist Georges Laederich, who for a time distributed the Cahiers du Rassemblement to some of his staff, Bernard du Perron de Revel, from the Saint-Louis sugar refineries in Marseilles, and Marcel Doligez, the owner of a textile company in Tarare in the Rhône, Ets Champier. They met Weygand at his home in March 1937 and from this meeting came the idea of financing the association. It was put on hold in 1938 following a break-up between Weygand and Bonnard.
In 1937, at the height of the Spanish Civil War, he was one of the signatories of the Manifesto to the Spanish Intellectuals, a manifesto of support for Franco by French intellectuals. He presided over several “national” dinners: those of the Dupleix-Bonvalot Committee and the “Affinités françaises”. In May 1936, at one of these dinners, Weygand took the floor to “show that to the certain dangers that Hitlerism poses to us, it is advisable to oppose three forces, material force, moral force and political force. His conferences, his books of 1937, Comment éduquer nos fils? and La France est-elle défendue? and his articles in the Revue des deux Mondes and La Revue hebdomadaire, all took into account what was happening on the other side of the Rhine and preached the need for an “ardent patriotic faith” and for unity.
For example, he stated: “The most immediate and considerable danger results from the unprecedented development of our Eastern neighbors” military forces, and from the fact that France is always considered as the enemy to be destroyed before satisfying other aims. He also emphasized that “considerable credits” had been “voted by the parties that had previously been most resistant to military spending,” which recognized the war effort of the Popular Front government, contrary to what would be asserted at the Riom trial in April 1942.
In 1938, after the Munich crisis, Weygand evoked the 20th anniversary of the Armistice in the premises of Serge Jeanneret”s Union corporative des instituteurs; he blamed “the rapid rise of our enemies of yesterday and the undeniable decline of our own forces” on “the oblivion into which we have too quickly allowed the lesson of the dead to fall”. But “it is not too late for the French to hear it”. At a meeting devoted to the colonial empire and German pretensions, he declared: “We must therefore not allow ourselves to be taken in by Mr. Hitler”s claims that the colonial conquest is the last, as he has already announced on several occasions on the occasions that we know. (…) In order to face the demands of the Third Reich, it is important for France to show herself to be strong, united and firm. To exclude all bargaining. To be one with the government.
Other declarations announced the themes of the “National Revolution” of the Vichy regime: he thus declared in 1937 at a dinner of the Dupleix-Bonvalot committee: “The French genius needs security and each day increases material and moral instability. Everything is nothing but appearance: working conditions, daily bread, property are the plaything of blind agitation. The race becomes exhausted and bastardized. The countryside empties itself. The generous and idealistic people let themselves be led by political and social conceptions of a primary materialism (…). To give back to the best the legitimate influence in the affairs of the country, it is necessary to break with the errors of principle and of fact which led us where we are “.
In the 1930s, the general became passionate about educational issues. An active member of the Cercle Fustel de Coulanges, he wrote articles in its notebooks and had a book published in 1937 entitled Comment élever nos fils? In particular, he attacked the teachers who “rise up against the existing social order and rebel against the idea of the fatherland”.
He supported the Centre d”action et de propagande nationale à l”école, directed by General René Madelin, director of the monthly review La Belle France, which at the time hosted articles by Weygand, Bonnard, Faÿ (Weygand was on its patronage committee along with Marshal Pétain, Generals Gamelin and Brécard, and academics), and which also published a periodical, L”Instituteur national. Weygand discussed education with Georges Laederich, who asked him for advice in 1938 when the general had broken with Madelin”s Center and Laederich, a subscriber to this Center, was looking for another more active grouping for right-wing Vosges teachers. In 1938, Weygand was on the board of directors of the Association of Friends of the French School, linked to the newspaper L”École française and the Rassemblement national, and financed by Georges Brabant. He sat on the board alongside Gillouin, among others. In 1939 the association was renamed Les Amis de l”Éducation française.
He supported the various initiatives to develop the cult of Joan of Arc in Domrémy, in the Vosges.
In 1934, his bust made by Philippe Besnard was exhibited at the Salon d”Automne in Paris.
After his withdrawal from the Conseil supérieur de la guerre in January 1935, he became a member of the board of directors of the Compagnie universelle du canal maritime de Suez in April 1935, a privilege never before granted to a military man and a very well-paid position. He replaced Louis Barthou. He joined the former President of the Republic Gaston Doumergue. His entry into the board of directors raised questions and suspicions. His knowledge of the Middle East and diplomacy would have interested the other members of the board. His entry was denounced by left-wing newspapers and by Roger Mennevée, who questioned Weygand”s financial inability to own the one hundred shares of the firm required to be a director. It was also badly perceived by other former officers. These one hundred required shares had been lent to him. He returned them when he resigned in August 1939. He had been vice-president of the Compagnie de Suez since July 1939. He did not receive any dividends from these shares, but he did benefit from directors” fees and a luxurious apartment on Avenue de Friedland belonging to the Company.
The funny war
At his request, Weygand was recalled to active duty by President Edouard Daladier in August 1939 to lead the French forces in the Middle East. He was appointed head of the Eastern Mediterranean Theater of Operations and, from his headquarters in Beirut, coordinated the French military presence in the Levant and the Balkans. In October 1939, he went to Turkey to sign the mutual assistance treaty linking this country to France and the United Kingdom. In the months that followed, he tried to put in place several military action plans aimed at creating an Eastern front that could take Germany and its allies by surprise. In particular, he prepared plans for a French landing in Thessaloniki and Romania, as well as an offensive against the USSR, which was then linked to Germany by the German-Soviet Pact, directed mainly against the Baku oil fields. The limited number of troops at his disposal (barely three divisions) meant that these ambitious plans, judged chimerical by some historians, remained in the project stage.
Appointed Generalissimo in the midst of defeat (May 1940)
In May 1940, the military situation in France was so compromised that the supreme commander, General Maurice Gamelin, who was considered too passive, was dismissed. Weygand, who was in Syria at the time, was called in on May 17 by the head of the government, Paul Reynaud, to replace him. On that date, Marshal Pétain joined the government as vice-president of the Council, refusing to take over the War Ministry. The German armored divisions, having broken through from the front at Sedan on May 13, continued to push westward and cut the French army in half, trapping part of it in Belgium with the Belgian and British armies.
Weygand arrived in France on 19 May. On that same day, he declared to the government that “I know Foch”s secret! The change of command with General Gamelin, in Vincennes, lasted a few hours, during which the latter reported to him on the extent of the German breakthrough at Sedan, and informed him of the absence of reserves. Ignoring the exact situation of the armies of the North, Weygand lost precious time, during 3 days from castles to castles, visiting the front, which the Germans did not lose, to take back after his return to Vincennes, the ex-order number 12 of General Gamelin (Somme-Aisme withdrawal) to his account, in order number 1. The Gamelin line was called the Weygand line.
On 21 May, he arrived by plane at the Ypres conference, where he met the King of the Belgians, Leopold III, and the head of the French army in Belgium, General Billotte. Weygand then decided to take up the idea of a counter-offensive to cut off the most advanced German armored columns, which were often deprived of support by the infantry, which could not always keep up. His plane having been attacked, Weygand stopped in Calais and postponed the meeting in Ypres: Lord Gort, commander of the British expeditionary corps in Belgium, who had not been informed of the time or place, did not take part in the meeting, which could not therefore coordinate all the armies. Weygand left immediately by submarine. What”s more, General Billotte, who was in charge of the implementation of this counter-offensive, was killed in a car accident that same evening. General Blanchard, who succeeded him, did not attend the conference. At this stage, Churchill”s War Cabinet had already ordered Gort, on the evening of 19 May, to rush south to cut the German lines, but he was reluctant.
On 22 May, at the Fort de Vincennes, Weygand presented his campaign plan to the French and British governments in order to confine the Germans between Amiens and Saint-Quentin. Churchill agreed to the plan, while specifying that the British expeditionary force would have to safeguard its access to the coast.
But during these three days of procrastination, the Germans took the lead. A gap was thus created in the allied front. De Gaulle”s 4th armoured division attacked towards Abbeville on the evening of 27 May with some success. In Rethel, General de Lattre de Tassigny”s division established a solid defensive glacis which resisted from 14 May to 11 June. A small but desperate battle was fought around Arras by part of the British Corps with 76 tanks, against Rommel between the 21st and the 23rd.
For the rest, the plan was not really put into effect, because the command itself did not have “the hope and the will to win”. After his meeting with Churchill, Weygand issued an “Operation Order No. 1”. The armies of the north were to prevent the Germans from reaching the coast – in fact they were already there. On May 24, he announced that a newly formed French Seventh Army was advancing north and had already taken Peronne, Albert and Amiens, which was an illusion.
According to the historian Olivier Wieworka, the lightning defeat did not come from an insufficiency of means nor from an insufficient combativity on the Allied side, but on the one hand from an ignorance of the possibilities offered by the air force and the tanks, and on the other hand from a disastrous conduct of the operations by the general staff
Faced with the German ascent along the coast and the assaults against the Belgian army, the British troops began a retreat towards Arras and then Dunkirk on the 25th. In order to avoid an encirclement of the BEF in the short term, Gort was obliged to reinforce the front held by the Belgians with the two divisions that were to take part in the attack to the south. He also took the opportunity to order a general withdrawal of 40 km to the north. Although this measure may have seemed judicious, he did not inform either General Blanchard or his government. From then on, Gort had only one fixed idea: to save his men against all odds, even against his government, which he felt was giving him inappropriate orders.
From May 23, the Belgians fought on the Lys, stopping the German advance for four days, the king having given up on a final retreat to the Yser, as in 1914, because the Belgian army had lost a good part of its means of transport and, moreover, was running out of ammunition and fuel. The King of the Belgians, judging his forces to be too isolated, finally decided, against the advice of his government, to capitulate on the 28th. Weygand condemned the king”s decision, even though he had no way of helping the Belgian army, as he admitted in his memoirs.
Completing the campaign in France and Belgium, the battle of Dunkirk allowed the reembarkation of the maximum number of British soldiers. 215,587 British soldiers were evacuated from May 24 to June 4, as well as 123,095 French soldiers, with the French becoming the majority of the retreating troops as of June 1.
From June 5, 1940 onwards, the British refused to engage the bulk of the Royal Air Force in France, in order to preserve their air force for the future Battle of Britain. From then on, Weygand never stopped condemning the lack of British involvement in France, and his resentment reawakened an Anglophobia that had already been felt during the Great War.
Battle of the Somme (early June 1940)
In the south, what remained of the French armies tried to form a front, the so-called “Weygand Line”, on the Somme, the Crozat Canal, the Ailette and the Aisne.
On May 25, a war council was held at the Élysée Palace, bringing together the President of the Republic, Albert Lebrun, the President of the Council, Paul Reynaud, the Vice-President of the Council, Philippe Pétain, the Minister of the Navy, César Campinchi, and Weygand. It was at this meeting that the possibility of an armistice was raised for the first time by President Lebrun. Paul Reynaud rejected this idea and was in favor of continuing the war alongside the British. At this meeting, Weygand was not yet openly in favor of an armistice, although he considered it inevitable: like Marshal Pétain, he felt that it was necessary to wait for the outcome of the future battle of the Somme and the Aisne before asking for an armistice, and to demand it only once the honor of the army was safe.
According to the portrait painted by the historian Jean-Louis Crémieux-Brilhac, based on Weygand”s words to the minister Paul Baudouin, who served as his intermediary with Pétain and who, like them, was in favor of stopping the fighting:
“This old-fashioned military hobgoblin, a nationalist with no sympathy for Germany, a fervent Catholic and a reactionary in the literal sense of the word, wanted to pull France out of the war in order to rebuild a strong and healthy believing nation, free from the seeds of decadence and democratic corruption. The rebirth of France can be done, according to him, only starting from the army, only body which escaped the general degradation – the army, not emanation of the nation, but autonomous entity, guardian, on behalf of the nation, of its values and its virtues (…) The honor of the army, the only body which escaped the general degradation, can be done only starting from the army. The honor of the army forbids, in the eyes of Weygand, the military capitulation that Reynaud envisages, it implies the maintenance of a national sovereignty and it should make it possible to save enough remnants of the army to maintain order, a major preoccupation of this old man who remembers the Commune and who is obsessed by the fear of disturbances provoked or exploited by the Communists: “Ah, if I were sure that the Germans would leave me the forces necessary to maintain order,” he said on June 8 to General de Gaulle. “
On June 5, the Germans attacked on the Somme and the Aisne. The so-called “hedgehog” tactic, adopted by Weygand, renounced a linear defense and replaced it with a defense in depth based on spaced support points crossing their fire. This tactic was effective: German losses increased significantly between 5 and 8 June, and brief local stoppages were even made here and there in the advance of the Wehrmacht. But Weygand only had 64 French and 2 British divisions to oppose the 104 German divisions. By June 9, the front had been pushed in everywhere, and the government left Paris the next morning for Tours (from June 10 to 13), then Bordeaux from June 14.
In the first decade of June, Paul Reynaud considered the creation of a Breton reduction, an option deemed unrealistic by Weygand. With General de Gaulle, who had been appointed Under-Secretary of State for War on June 6, Reynaud also envisaged transporting troops to North Africa to continue the war alongside the British, with material assistance from the Americans: Weygand did not believe that this withdrawal was possible either, and judged that it was far too late to organize it. De Gaulle asked Weygand to continue the fight in the Empire on June 8, according to his War Memoirs, but the Generalissimo laughed. In any case, since the end of May, he had been in favor of withdrawing from the war through an armistice signed by the government. This would exempt the army from having to surrender, but would prevent any continuation of the struggle by the government from the colonies.
Reynaud and de Gaulle then considered replacing Weygand, a supporter of the armistice and considered defeatist, and they thought of General Huntziger as a possible successor.
The Briare conference: the accentuated divorce with the British (June 13, 1940)
On June 11, an inter-allied supreme council took place at Breteau, in the Château du Muguet, not far from Briare in the Loiret region, with the participation of Churchill and Eden. During this council, tensions between the French and the British appeared, but also fractures between the French military and political leaders. Weygand demanded the intervention of the entire RAF, which he felt was the only way to change the course of the battle. When Churchill refused, because he needed his twenty-five fighter squadrons for the future defense of the United Kingdom, the Franco-British alliance broke down. Nevertheless, Churchill obtained assurances from Paul Reynaud that no final decision by the French government would be taken without reference to the British, and promised that the victorious United Kingdom would restore France “to its dignity and greatness. He notes in his memoirs that Pétain and Weygand should have been ashamed to ask for additional RAF squadrons when the former had already written a note suggesting that an armistice be requested (without having yet given it to Reynaud).
Paul Reynaud was in favor of continuing the war. The idea of the Breton reduction having been abandoned, he envisaged the continuation of the fight in the colonial Empire, whereas Marshal Pétain and General Weygand were in favor of a rapid armistice to avoid the annihilation and total occupation of the country. Paul Reynaud reminded Weygand that the decision on an armistice was a political one and not the responsibility of the Generalissimo. Reynaud proposed to Weygand to surrender, which Weygand refused because it would have the effect of exempting the politician from his responsibilities, but would allow the government and the French who wanted to fight to continue the struggle, a situation that already existed at that time for the Netherlands and Belgium, the governments of these two countries having gone into exile in England following the capitulation of their forces.
Both Winston Churchill and General de Gaulle described Weygand in their memoirs as defeatist, Anglophobic and anti-republican. Churchill noted that the only member of the French government who did not sink into total pessimism was Charles de Gaulle, whose promotion to the rank of general (on a temporary basis) Weygand had signed at the end of May. Like Churchill, de Gaulle reasoned in global terms and did not limit the conflict, which he saw as worldwide, to a simple Franco-German issue. Weygand, on the other hand, believed that he was only witnessing a new episode in a historical cycle that had begun in 1870, and, like Marshal Pétain, he held to a purely hexagonal vision, alien to the nature of Nazism and the danger of seeing France permanently enslaved within the framework of a Hitlerian Europe.
In 2009, the historian Éric Roussel considered that Pétain and Weygand were, in May-June 1940, “intellectually sclerotic.
Pioneer supporter of the armistice and minister in the Pétain government
During the council of ministers that took place from June 12 to 16, Weygand was the first to demand an armistice with Germany (although he was only a generalissimo and this decision belonged to the government alone). He was the first to demand an armistice with Germany (even though he was the Generalissimo and this decision belonged to the government alone). With the rout of the French armies, accompanied by the exodus of the Belgian and French populations, Weygand feared that disorder would spread throughout the country. For him, the political class was responsible for a defeat, not taking into account the high military responsibilities that he had held since the end of the Great War. Crémieux-Brilhac specifies that “an armistice is a political act that engages only the politicians, it implies the maintenance of national sovereignty and it should make it possible to save enough of the army”s remains to maintain order. By wishing for an armistice, Weygand wanted the politicians to take their responsibilities and for France to continue to exist legally. Once the armistice was signed, Weygand would always fight to remain within the framework of the armistice, and this is what allowed him to set up the African Army, which would ensure France”s presence alongside the Allies from 1942 onwards.
On the evening of June 12, at the Château de Cangé near Tours, where the President of the Republic had taken refuge, he defended the idea of an armistice, claiming the agreement of all the army generals. He showed himself to be “impetuous, incisive, even insulting towards politicians whom he hated” and the politicians returned the favor.
Now in open conflict with Weygand, Reynaud objected that “we are not dealing with William I, an old gentleman, who took Alsace-Lorraine from you and everything was said, but with Genghis Khan. It is not possible for us to ask for an armistice, which would be dishonorable and entirely useless. For Reynaud, military capitulation was less dishonorable; Weygand was opposed to this option because it was contrary to military honor and punishable by court martial.
At the Council of Ministers held in the same place the following evening, Weygand returned to the charge and “became aggressive (…) His fury to get things over with, his harshness earned him a few reminders. Relying on false information that he had not verified, he invoked the installation at the Élysée Palace of the communist leader Maurice Thorez, who had returned from the USSR in Wehrmacht vans. This is what Crémieux-Brilhac indicates in Volume I of Des Français de l”An 40.
In fact, according to Destremau, Weygand received information during the council of ministers that a communist coup was taking place in Paris. During the break in the council, he telephoned General Dentz, the military governor of Paris, who denied it; for his part, the Minister of the Interior, Mandel, telephoned the Prefect of Paris, who told him that the situation was calm. When the Council of Ministers resumed, Weygand told President Lebrun and the other ministers that the situation was calm in the capital, which was confirmed by Mandel. Several ministers confirmed how this event had unfolded during the parliamentary commission of inquiry in 1947. The President of the Council, Paul Reynaud, who preferred a cease-fire or a capitulation, put forward political arguments:
For the first time, Marshal Pétain openly supported Weygand, citing the ignorance of civilians in military matters, and announcing that “the French revival should be awaited by staying put rather than by a reconquest of our territory by allied guns at a date that was impossible to predict. The Government was divided but agreed on a moderate motion by Camille Chautemps.
On June 15, in Bordeaux, where the government was now located, Paul Reynaud, supported by Georges Mandel, raised the possibility of continuing the struggle on the side of the United Kingdom: the army would surrender in mainland France while the government and parliament would move to North Africa. Weygand violently refused this solution, which he considered contrary to military honor.
He also pointed out that a capitulation would entail the occupation of the entire territory, the surrender of all troops and the seizure of all weapons, including the fleet. Like Pétain, he considered it inconceivable that the Government would leave the metropolis. He declared to Reynaud that “the Government had taken responsibility for the war; it was up to it to take responsibility for the armistice.” According to the analysis of historian Jean-Pierre Azéma, this was an unprecedented political stance by a military leader since the 19th century: “through the mouth of Weygand, it was the “great mute” that broke the political pact tacitly concluded – since the Dreyfus Affair – between the army and the nation.” After the war, President Lebrun said of him:
“What misfortune when, in extreme peril, it is the generals who refuse to fight!
On June 16, to a collaborator of the nationalist deputy Louis Marin who mentioned a possible resistance from the French colonies, Weygand replied bluntly: “It”s a bunch of negroes over whom you will have no more power as soon as you are beaten.
At the last Council of Ministers of the Reynaud government, Weygand contributed to the failure of the Franco-British union project proposed from London by Winston Churchill and Jean Monnet, and pressed for a rapid decision on the armistice. Increasingly isolated, Paul Reynaud resigned from President Lebrun on the evening of June 16 and recommended Philippe Pétain to form the new government. Pétain announced on June 17 that France had been informed by Spain of the armistice conditions issued by Germany and declared on the radio that “the fighting must stop” (while demoralized troops were still fighting). The same day, Weygand was appointed Minister of National Defense. Charles de Gaulle, under-secretary of state under Reynaud, lost his portfolio; he accompanied Spears to England as the latter sought to recruit leading French politicians to continue the fight with England.
Before starting armistice negotiations, Weygand made two decisions: he ordered the transfer to the United Kingdom of all the arms contracts signed by France with the American arms industry, as well as the delivery to British ports of all the arms in the process of being delivered, while the French ports were under German control, and then the transfer to North Africa of all the airplanes in flying condition, i.e. 600 aircraft, for an eventual resumption of fighting; in fact, he never ceased to repeat throughout the war that the armistice was a “momentary halt to the fighting”.
As the new Minister of Defence, Weygand gave the French delegation led by General Huntziger instructions concerning the Fleet and its maintenance under French control before its departure for Rethondes. Having learned of the armistice conditions laid down by the Germans, Huntziger reported to Weygand on June 21, 1940 at 8:00 p.m., during a long telephone conversation in which he dictated the full text of the agreement, which was immediately transmitted to the Council of Ministers meeting in Bordeaux. During the talks that took place throughout the day on the 22nd, interspersed with new telephone communications between Huntziger and Weygand, the French delegation was only able to obtain two modifications: Article 5 on the delivery of military aircraft and Article 17 on the transfer of securities and stocks were amended. The Germans refused all other concessions, despite French protests, in particular on article 19 concerning the right of asylum and on Italy (France had not been defeated in the Alps). Following the ultimatum received at 6:34 p.m. from the head of the German delegation, General Keitel, Weygand transmitted the order to sign the armistice to Huntziger at 6:39 p.m.
On June 19, Weygand ordered General de Gaulle to return from London, ignoring the latter”s invitation to continue fighting.
Shortly afterwards, Weygand demoted de Gaulle from the rank of temporary general to colonel, and then convened a military tribunal that sentenced him to four years in prison. On a minimal appeal by the minister, a second court sentenced the Free French leader to death on August 2, 1940.
Weygand held the position of Minister of National Defense in the Vichy government for three months (June 1940 to September 1940).
On June 28, he drafted a program approved by Pétain, with a strong corporatist, clerical and xenophobic tone. He explained the need to liberate France “from a regime of masonic, capitalist and international compromises that had brought us to where we are today”, and blamed “the class struggle that had divided the country, prevented all profitable work, and allowed all the one-upmanship of demagogy”. He advocated “a new social regime, based on trust and collaboration between workers and employers.” He deplores that because of the decline in the birth rate, the national defense was assumed by “an unacceptable proportion of North African, colonial and foreign contingents”, and denounces “massive and regrettable naturalizations delivered a part of our soil and our wealth to foreign operators”.
Finally, he affirms that it is necessary to reform the education of youth, to put an end to “the wave of materialism which has submerged France”, “to return to the worship and practice of an ideal summarized in these few words: God, Fatherland, Family, Work.” He concludes by calling for a purification of the administration and the leading personnel: “To a new program, new men. Henri Amouroux, in Pour en finir avec Vichy, emphasizes, unlike Weygand”s biographer Bernard Destremau, the anti-Semitic allusion contained in the words “capitalists and internationals”; he also recalls that Weygand had taken part in a subscription in favor of Major Henry, in 1898, in the context of the Dreyfus Affair.
Following the battle of Mers el-Kébir (July 3-6, 1940), where part of the French fleet was destroyed by the British, he opposed those who wanted to avenge this aggression by reversing the alliance in favor of Germany. On July 16, he also opposed the Germans who demanded air bases in Morocco, the use of North African ports with the use of the railroad from Rabat to Tunis as well as the use of French merchant ships.
At the beginning of July 1940, in an exchange of notes with the British ambassador, he asked Jean Monnet to cancel the arms purchases contracted by France with the United States, and to transfer to the British the arms already manufactured and paid for.
On September 5, he was appointed Delegate General in French Africa. In strict compliance with the armistice agreements, he had to oppose any intrusion, whether friendly or enemy, British or German. The same day, while he was to carry out an inspection of the air base, he was slightly injured when his plane (Amiot 143) crashed on landing at the Limoges-Feytiat airport. Immobilized for a month, he did not return to Africa until October 9, after the battle of Dakar. From then on, he worked to avoid the spread of De Gaulle”s dissidence, which had already been joined by Cameroon, Chad, Congo and Ubangi Chari (Free French Africa).
Hostile to the political practices of the Third Republic, he shared Pétain”s project of national revolution and his social project, and applied the Vichy policy in all its rigor in North Africa.
In particular, he enforced the racial laws passed by the Vichy government, including those excluding Jews from the civil service, from almost all private activities and from the university, and placing their property under sequestration.
But he went further than the Vichy regime, by excluding, without any law, Jewish children from schools and high schools, with the support of the rector Georges Hardy. In a simple memorandum no. 343QJ of September 30, 1941, he established a school numerus clausus excluding almost all Jewish children from public educational institutions, including elementary school, “by analogy with the legislation on higher education,” whereas similar measures had not been taken in metropolitan France.
He banned Freemasonry and, with the support of Admiral Abrial, locked up the foreign volunteers of the Foreign Legion, real or presumed opponents of the regime, and foreign refugees without work contracts (although they had entered France legally) in prison camps in southern Algeria and Morocco.
Since the United Kingdom had resisted victoriously, contrary to his initial predictions, he persisted in thinking, along with Marshal Pétain, that even if the United Kingdom was not defeated, it was unable to win the war. Weygand shared Pétain”s view that there was “no other possible outcome” to the conflict than a peace “without victor or vanquished”. In the summer of 1941, Weygand addressed the same American diplomat to urge the United States to use its influence at the global level to allow a peaceful end to the impasse.
Within the Vichy government, Weygand remained hostile to the Germans, and saw the National Revolution as a means for France to recover morally and materially and to one day take its revenge against Germany. However, this vision was not shared by Darlan, Laval, or Pétain himself, who only ever played the German card, and who knew that the Vichy regime could only exist in the context of a defeated France and a Europe dominated by the Reich.
Weygand, through his protests to the Vichy government, opposed the Paris Protocols of May 28, 1941 signed by Darlan, and in particular the clause that gave the Germans the bases of Bizerte and Dakar. He was opposed to the commitment of a possible military collaboration with the Axis. Hitler”s government sought to detach Vichy France from its passivity towards England by committing Pétain to allying what remained of the French forces with the German and Italian armies for a common war against any allied attack on French territory, whether in metropolitan France or elsewhere in the Empire. Weygand”s opposition to a policy of active collaboration led the Germans to demand his dismissal, and even to consider his physical elimination.
Weygand had certain personnel and weapons concealed from the German and Italian armistice commissions. He also tried, after the attacks on Mers-El-Kébir and Dakar, to reinforce the French armistice army in Africa, and gave his agreement to René Carmille for the mechanographic equipment of the recruitment offices. He also made some colonial units look like simple police forces, and tried to remobilize the spirits, notably with the creation of the “Chantiers de la jeunesse française” (created by General de La Porte du Theil), which, in a strict maréchalisme, tried to accustom the youth to a new moral order. Pierre-Étienne de Perier became its chief of staff.
At the same time, Weygand supported Robert Murphy, President Roosevelt”s special envoy to North Africa, allowing the establishment of twelve vice-consuls who would be the effective agents of the landings. He negotiated supply conditions with the Americans, leading to an agreement signed with Murphy on 26 February 1941. On December 27, 1941, President Roosevelt wrote a letter to General Weygand expressing his confidence and gratitude. It was reproduced by Georges Hirtz.
However, Weygand”s respect for the Marshal”s authority was total; when he learned, following a denunciation, that some officers in his entourage (Major Faye, Major Dartois and Captain Beaufre, from the Alliance network) were preparing a plan for him to enter the war with American military aid, he had them arrested and handed over to the courts, saying: “It”s not at my age that one becomes a rebel.”
In October 1941, shortly after the Syrian campaign, following which a fifth of the troops had joined the Free French, he demanded that the soldiers of the African Army swear an oath to Marshal Pétain.
Hitler”s pressure on the Vichy government to dismiss Weygand finally led to his recall to France in November 1941.
Arrest by the Germans
On November 20, 1942, after the American landing in North Africa and the subsequent invasion of the free zone by the Wehrmacht, Weygand was taken prisoner by the Germans and placed under house arrest in the Austrian Tyrol, in the castle of Itter (administratively dependent on the Dachau concentration camp, but without any comparison of detention conditions). His detention lasted thirty months. During the last year, he shared his captivity with Paul Reynaud, Édouard Daladier and Maurice Gamelin, with whom relations were tense, as well as with Albert Lebrun, Colonel François de La Rocque and Jean Borotra.
In May 1945, the prisoners were freed by the Americans and Weygand was received with all the honours due to his rank at the headquarters of the VIIth American army in Augsburg, where he was the guest of General Patch. Having received a telegram from Paris instructing him to secure Weygand”s person and to keep him under American surveillance until further notice, Patch, indignant, had the general taken with consideration to the headquarters of the First French Army in Lindau. On their arrival, General de Lattre received an order from de Gaulle to arrest the personalities who had held positions in the Vichy government, an order that concerned Weygand and Jean Borotra, Pétain”s minister. De Lattre reluctantly carried out this order and arrested his “old chief”, but not without having had him honored with military honors and his personal car made available.
Dismissal at the Liberation
Sent back to France, Weygand was first interned as an accused collaborator at the Val-de-Grâce, then finally released in May 1946, freed of all responsibility and relieved of national indignity, in May 1948 by a decision of the investigating commission of the High Court of Justice to dismiss all charges.
Proposal of the Marshalate under the Fourth Republic
In 1951, he refused to be included in the bill concerning the promotion of generals to the marshalate, his name having been proposed by the deputy Guy Jarrosson, author of the bill, alongside generals Jean de Lattre de Tassigny and Alphonse Juin. On this subject, he declared:
“A tradition has been established in France: only military leaders who have led their troops to victory receive the Marshal”s baton. This is the case of Generals Juin and de Lattre de Tassigny. My case is quite different. If I have rendered services in the past, the last conflict was for me only a series of trials, each more cruel than the other. I tried, in Africa, to prepare the revenge of the 1940 armistice, but it is not the act of command in front of the enemy that the Marshal”s baton rewards. Even if this honor were offered to me, my conscience would command me to reject it.
In 1955, following the publication by General de Gaulle of the first volume of his War Memoirs, Weygand responded point by point in a concise book, En lisant les Mémoires de guerre du général de Gaulle (Reading General de Gaulle”s War Memoirs), which Flammarion printed in 35,000 copies.
Political commitment in the “national” movement
General Weygand was opposed to the European Defence Community project as early as 1952: “We believe that the creation of the European army as it is conceived dismembers the French army and leads France to exceptionally serious abandonment”. In 1954, at the request of Michel Debré, he co-signed a declaration of 14 personalities against the EDC. That same year, he co-signed an international appeal calling for a strengthening of NATO and a closer Atlantic community and joined the French committee of the Movement for Atlantic Union, chaired by Firmin Roz and then by General Pierre Billotte. In 1962, he co-signed a new international appeal for an Atlantic Union. During a Parisian meeting of the Movement for Atlantic Union in 1956, he contested the conclusions of Raymond Aron, who stated that “sooner or later (…) it would have to be recognized that there would be an Algerian state and that within a period of time to be determined it would be independent” and wrote to Le Monde to express his indignation at a report that did not sufficiently point out the challenges to Aron”s conclusions. He was in fact convinced that it was in North Africa that “the destiny of France was being played out today”.
He took a stand for French Algeria. He implicitly attacked General de Gaulle in October 1959 in a statement to the press: “Neither the Constitution of the French Republic, nor the principles of indivisibility and sovereignty on which it is based, authorize anyone to undermine the integrity of the national territory. This military legalist was opposed to the Week of the Barricades in January 1960: “It was a crazy adventure, from which only evil could come out,” he declared during a conference given at the Catholic Institute on the army. In June 1962, he broke his silence to take a stand in favor of the Harkis: “If we abandon without a word the Muslims of Algeria who have given their word in the name of France, the honor of our country will be lost. He was then a member of the patronage committee of the French Union for Amnesty. He was also a member of the Chartres pilgrimage committee initiated by Colonel Rémy in 1963, although he almost refused to be a member because he did not want to be associated with an event that could have been favorable to General de Gaulle:
“If it is a question of reconciliation with the most deceitful and evil man who has governed France, I am not one of them. I feel that I have forgiven him in a Christian way for the insults and the evil done to my person. But I by no means forgive him his lies, his historical fraud, and all the evil and immense damage done to France in the fields of domestic and foreign policy.”
His positions were published in the venerable Revue des deux Mondes, the stronghold of the academic right to which he belonged, as well as in Le Monde, for example in 1956 on the refusal “to eliminate the use of nuclear energy for military purposes” because it was “a matter of life and death”, or in the neo-royalist weekly La Nation française.
For several years, beginning in 1950, he chaired Achille Dauphin-Meunier”s Center for Advanced American Studies; in its newsletter he called for “the reconciliation of the French. He then became president emeritus.
The Center celebrated its anniversaries: in 1956, when it was chaired by Pierre-Étienne Flandin, it organized a luncheon for the General”s 89th birthday. Among those present were Marshal Juin, whom Weygand had sponsored for his entry into the Académie française, other academics and members of the Institut, the American ambassador Douglas Dillon and “numerous personalities from political and economic circles. Weygand asked the government to be firm in its negotiations with Morocco and Tunisia; he wanted only internal autonomy for Morocco. The Center also celebrated its 95th anniversary in May 1962: its president, Georges Bonnet, Alphonse Juin and Henri Massis celebrated his achievements and presented him as a “great servant of the State” and a “defender of the Christian West.
Until his death, Weygand campaigned for the rehabilitation of Marshal Pétain and his memory, as honorary president of the Association to Defend the Memory of Marshal Pétain (ADMP), from its founding until his death in 1965. He was particularly active on the occasion of the centenary of the birth of the Marshal in 1956: he chaired his committee and participated in the ceremonies organized by the ADMP. These ceremonies, according to Weygand, celebrated the action of Pétain at Verdun but also during the Occupation – that of a man to whom France had given a “legitimate power if ever there was one”, who had carried out the “gigantic task” that had been entrusted to him, right up to “martyrdom”. He also had more current concerns, since Weygand called for turning to “North Africa, where so many of our soldiers and leaders are fighting (…) a thankless and merciless battle with our adversaries”. He sponsored one of the demonstrations of the very anti-communist Union for the Defense of Oppressed Peoples (UDPO) of François de Romainville in 1953, and published in its periodical, Exile and Freedom in the 1950s. He also renewed his ties with the reconstituted Cercle Fustel de Coulanges; he presided over its first post-war banquet in 1954.
He is also honorary president of other associations:
A herald of the traditional Catholic right
A member of the honorary committee of the Committee for the Safeguarding of the Holy Places, he is a regular at the opening sessions of the Catholic Institute of Paris, alongside Bishop Feltin.
In 1956, he co-signed a manifesto inviting all French people to join together “in the face of the worldwide surge of the materialistic and Marxist wave” to fight to the end “for their faith and their home”, alongside personalities of the Catholic right such as Gustave Thibon, Léon Bérard or Henry Bordeaux. In May of the same year, he presided over “civic study days” devoted to Joan of Arc on the occasion of the ceremonies in honor of the saint, celebrating the traditional alliance between Catholicism and patriotism, in the context of “the lowering of France” and the “slippage of the State”: “Let us remain faithful to God, to the patriotism whose lesson she has bequeathed to us, simple, human, healthy, free of all subtle discussions, unconditional. (…) Let us affirm our faith in the Christian and civilizing vocation of France. In 1957, he founded and presided over a short-lived Alliance Jeanne d”Arc, which was more political, with Gustave Thibon, André Frossard, Léon Bérard, Marc Rivière, and Jean de Bronac: it intended to make Jeanne d”Arc “the champion of French Algeria”, in the words of Michel Winock, and wanted to devote itself “to the defense of French honor, which is exactly a function of the fidelity of men and institutions to God. In his meetings, Weygand castigated “those who call colonialism what is only civilization”. According to him, the “ringleader” in Algeria was a communist: “We are witnessing a vast maneuver by Moscow, whose goal is to turn the Western defense to the South. He called for the “punishment of defeatists and traitors” and considered it legitimate for the French army to hunt down the “rebels” in their lairs, even if they were abroad (alluding to Tunisia and Morocco). He addressed a message to the Christians of Algeria in which he denounced “a persevering effort, which finds accomplices in France, and even among Christians, (and which) tries to separate Algeria from the fatherland”. He also notes: “If excesses have been committed, conscience cannot approve of them, but it cannot ignore the climate of terror and provocation created by the enemies of France. These words contrast with the declarations of the French episcopate, which Weygand accepted.
In 1959, he supported the action of Georges Sauge, who, with Jean Damblans, had founded the Centre d”études supérieures de psychologie sociale (CESPS), an anti-communist office of the “national-catholic” movement. He then supported the “Catholic City” of the counter-revolutionary Catholic activist Jean Ousset: he presided over its 1960 congress and, with Colonel Rémy, Henri Massis, Gustave Thibon, Michel de Saint-Pierre, Gilbert Tournier, Marshal Alphonse Juin and the deputy Édouard Frédéric-Dupont, co-signed a collective declaration in favor of the Catholic City in 1962. Weygand was “attached to tradition, (and) he was afraid of the consequences of a too rapid evolution of the liturgy or the environments of the dogma; he deplored the independence of the young clergy”. He would have declared to Admiral Gabriel Auphan, after having read a new attack against the traditional Catholic religion: “If I were old enough to make a business card, I would simply put: ”Weygand, integrist””.
Death and funerals
When he died in 1965, at the age of 98, he was the oldest member of the Académie française. Disavowing his minister Pierre Messmer, General de Gaulle refused that a solemn ceremony be held at the Invalides.
A large crowd (between eight and ten thousand people) flocked to his funeral in the church of Saint-Philippe-du-Roule (8th arrondissement of Paris) on February 2, led by the wife of Marshal Juin and the widows of Marshals de Lattre de Tassigny and Leclerc, in the presence of some forty generals, including the military governor of Paris – but none of the four chiefs of general staff – some twenty academics, the president of the Paris City Council, Pierre Lyautey, Pétain”s lawyer and ADMP leader Jacques Isorni, Édouard Bonnefous, Pierre-Christian Taittinger, Édouard Frédéric-Dupont, as well as Jean-Louis Tixier-Vignancour – the “French Algeria” candidate for the presidency of the Republic and former Vichy minister between 1940 and 1941 -, accompanied by Jean Dides and Colonel Jean-Robert Thomazo. Among the crowd, many “Pieds-noirs”, young people and people in their fifties wearing the Francisque. General Jean Touzet du Vigier (vice-president of the CEPEC) paid the funeral tribute on the square in front of the church: “Certainly, we would have liked to recall these high points of your military career in a setting reserved for military glories,” he said. “A torrent of applause cut him off,” according to the journalist from L”Aurore. The tribute speech of Jean Paulhan, as director of the French Academy, was booed by part of the audience.
In an article in Le Monde, Hubert Beuve-Méry summarized the feelings of a part of the public opinion: “One may not have shared the ideas of the deceased… he is still surrounded by the glory of the victors of 14-18. Chicaner this companion of Foch, grand-croix of the Legion of Honor and military medalist, a simple Requiem mass in this same church (Les Invalides) where so many lieutenants have their young loves blessed appears to be a gesture without grandeur, an injustice, a fault, and one fears that personal grudges have more of a part in it than the reason of State. Gilbert Cesbron (Le Figaro, February 2, 1965) and General Paul Vanuxem (Aux Écoutes, February 5, 1965) protested in the press against the “refusal of the Invalides”, while others painted a flattering portrait of Weygand in La France catholique (Jean Guitton, Jean de Fabrègues, Marshal Juin, Henri Massis, General Chambe), Aspects de la France (Xavier Vallat and Gustave Thibon), Les Nouvelles littéraires (the Duke of Lévis-Mirepoix), La Revue des deux Mondes (Claude-Joseph Gignoux), etc. .
Maxime Weygand was buried in the Saint-Charles cemetery in Morlaix, where he owned a manor house, on April 21, 1965. Two thousand people attended his funeral, including local authorities (the prefect of Finistère, the sub-prefect of Morlaix, the maritime prefect, the mayor of Morlaix, Jean Le Duc, etc.), the bishop of the diocese, Mgr. ), the bishop of the diocese, Mgr Fauvel, generals (Lenormand, vice-president of the Saint-Cyrienne, Touzet du Vigier, who gave an address in the name of the Saint-Cyrienne and the National Union of Cavalry, Declerck), the presidents of the UNC of Finistère and Côtes-du-Nord, Me Jean Lemaire, Pétain”s lawyer, Pierre Henry, secretary general of the ADMP, etc.
The following year, however, the refusal of the Invalides was remedied. The Minister of the Armed Forces, Pierre Messmer, authorized access to the Saint-Louis des Invalides church for a requiem mass, celebrated on January 22, 1966, and presided over by Mgr Brot, auxiliary bishop of Paris. 23 veterans” associations or groups that Weygand protected, encouraged or presided over organized the mass, insisting “on the recollection that must permeate” the ceremony and asking those present “to refuse any initiative that would be likely” to disturb it. A strictly personal invitation card was required at the entrance. The president of the CEPEC and personalities such as Wladimir d”Ormesson, Pierre Lyautey and Jean Borotra attended.
: document used as a source for the writing of this article.
Weygand during the Second World War