Vichy France


The name Vichy regime refers to the authoritarian political regime established in France during the Second World War. Traditionalist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic in nature, this regime was headed by Marshal Philippe Pétain, assisted by the head of government Pierre Laval in 1940 and from 1942 to 1944, with an interim leadership by Admiral François Darlan. The Vichy regime governed France from July 10, 1940 to August 9, 1944 during the occupation of the country by the Third Reich. The regime is so called because the government was based in Vichy, located in the free zone.

After the vote of full constituent powers to Philippe Pétain, on July 10, 1940, by the National Assembly (meeting of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate), the term “French Republic” disappeared from official documents; the regime was then referred to as the “French State. Because of its particular aspect in the history of France, its lack of legitimacy and the generic nature of its official name, the regime is most often referred to as the “Vichy regime”, “Vichy government”, “Vichy France” or simply by metonymy “Vichy”.

The Germans, who first occupied the north and west of France and, from November 11, 1942, along with the Italians, the entire country, left the French administration under the authority of a French government installed in Vichy, in the southeast of the Allier, and headed by Pétain. Appointed on June 17, 1940, in the midst of the debacle, as President of the Council by President Albert Lebrun, Pétain replaced the President of the Republic in July 1940, who, although he had not resigned his mandate, withdrew from the position, Pétain calling himself “Head of the French State”, and then implemented a policy of collaboration with the Nazis and introduced anti-Semitic laws.

During the Second World War, this collaboration took several forms: economic cooperation, arrests of resistance fighters, freemasons, Catholic clergymen, and political opponents (notably communists), roundups of French and foreign Jews, who had taken refuge in France with the rise of Nazism in the 1930s, on the metropolitan territory, handed over to the Germans and deported to Nazi extermination camps. In military terms, the regime was not an official ally of the Third Reich, but the sixth Laval government recognized the French Volunteer Legion (LVF) as an association of public utility and also contributed to the German war effort through the collaboration of its military industry. It also provided the occupying forces with a supplementary armed force for repression in metropolitan France, with the French Militia, responsible for murderous acts of violence throughout the country. In view of the small number of German occupation troops spread over a territory as large as France, the Nazi order could not have been carried out without the total involvement of the entire French state, police and administrative machinery then under the orders of the Vichy regime, which remains a unique example in the occupied countries of Europe.

Considering that the French Republic had never ceased to exist, General de Gaulle declared the Vichy regime “illegitimate, null and void” at the Liberation in the summer of 1944. The responsibility of the French State in the persecution and deportation of Jews during the occupation was only recognized in 1995 by Jacques Chirac.

Two governments (Daladier and Reynaud) succeeded one another and on June 16, 1940, Pétain”s government put an end to the Third Republic on July 10 and established the Vichy regime on July 11. In the meantime, General de Gaulle”s appeal of June 18 created Free France.

Daladier government: funny war

In response to the invasion of Poland by Adolf Hitler”s troops, France and the United Kingdom declared war on the Third Reich. Adopting a defensive strategy, the two allies did not engage in combat against Germany while a large part of the Wehrmacht was deployed in Poland, facing Polish troops who were defending themselves fiercely. The French therefore remained behind the Maginot Line and waited, hoping to be able to rely on a maritime blockade, like the one that contributed to the German collapse in 1918. It was the “phoney war” which caused the death of about 3,000 French soldiers from all three arms (land, sea and air). But following the Winter War against Finland launched by the USSR, and France”s non-intervention, the fifth Daladier government was overthrown on March 20, 1940. Paul Reynaud was appointed President of the Council and Minister of Foreign Affairs on March 22, 1940.

Reynaud government: German invasion and defeat

Thanks to his victory in the East and the German-Soviet pact, Hitler had a free hand to put all his forces in order of battle towards the West. On May 10, 1940, he invaded the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Belgium. The French command expected it and launched its troops to the defense of Belgium, as planned. Using to the full the innovative concepts of 1918 of the French, ignored by their own command (shock and speed, binomial tank-aircraft, concentration), the spearhead of the German army (about ten armoured divisions) crossed the Ardennes massif, considered impenetrable by the French generals (and thus poorly defended, and poorly supported when the attack appeared obvious) and encircled from south to north the Franco-British army engaged in Belgium.

At the beginning of June, defended around Dunkirk by a few French divisions that sacrificed themselves, the British Expeditionary Force returned to Great Britain during Operation Dynamo. The government left Paris on June 10 for Bordeaux. The refugees fleeing Belgium and the North of France were joined by two million refugees from the Paris region. According to historian Jean-Pierre Azéma, between May 15 and June 10, at least six million French people left their homes. Participating in the “exodus of 1940”, they found themselves on the roads under the attacks of the Luftwaffe, and ruined the French military logistics. The battle of France was lost, despite the heroic resistance of many units. The military campaign caused 120,000 deaths on the French side (100,000 soldiers and 20,000 civilians) and 40,000 soldiers on the German side. The Reich troops took 1,800,000 prisoners (600,000 between May 10 and June 17 and 1,200,000 between June 18 and 24), of which 1,500,000 remained in captivity in Germany.

On June 10, 1940, Mussolini, an ally of Hitler, declared war on France (his approach being described as a “stab in the back”), but was unable to advance his troops through the Alps, which were well defended by General Olry”s Alpine Army. Franco, solicited but cautious, refused to go to war against France, even when the French collapse was obvious.

There was panic in France in the political and military world. Some wanted to continue the fight, while others wanted to ask for an armistice, in violation of the inter-allied commitment of March 28, 1940. At the last meeting of the Supreme Inter-Allied Council on June 13 in Tours, Reynaud, demoralized, asked Churchill to release France from its commitment not to sign a separate peace: after discussions with his cabinet in the garden, Churchill replied unequivocally in the negative. He reaffirmed that England would fight to the end, while showing, according to de Gaulle, a “pitying understanding”.

Paul Reynaud, although in favor of continuing the war, did not act in a firm manner. Although he had the full support of the Minister of the Navy and the Colonies, the Minister of Armaments and the Under-Secretary of State for War, Charles de Gaulle, and the relative support of the President of the Republic, Albert Lebrun, the majority of the Council of Ministers and a few members of the military, he did not succeed in forming an English-style “war cabinet”.

The second camp, supported by General Weygand, Philippe Pétain, Pierre Laval and Admiral Darlan, won. General de Gaulle, in favor of continuing the war, went to London to seek support from the British. Other personalities, especially intellectuals such as André Breton, Marcel Duchamp, Darius Milhaud, Marc Chagall, Jules Romains, Claude Lévi-Strauss and Jean Perrin, to name but a few of the most famous, took refuge in America. The President of the Council, Paul Reynaud, who wanted to continue the struggle, finally chose to resign on June 16, 1940.

The President of the Republic, Albert Lebrun, appointed Marshal Pétain President of the Council.

Pétain government: request for armistice

On June 17, 1940, after a brief stay in Tours, Marshal Pétain reformed his government in Bordeaux, then announced on the radio that France should stop fighting and ask for an armistice. The next day, General de Gaulle pronounced from London his famous “June 18 appeal” (which went relatively unnoticed in the chaos). The Free French movement was organized in the United Kingdom with other French volunteers. See : Free France – Chronology of the Free France.

On June 22, 1940, the French delegation had to go and sign the armistice, in the clearing at Rethondes, in the railway carriage that had been used for the armistice of the First World War and in front of the monument that evoked the “criminal pride of the German Empire defeated by the peoples it wanted to enslave. Hitler then blew up the monument in front of the cameras. As for the railroad car, it was sent to Germany, where it was destroyed in 1945. Germany thus intended to erase the defeat of the First World War and humiliate France.

The conditions of the armistice were motivated by Hitler”s concerns at that time. Of course, it was necessary to prevent France from becoming a major military power again in the long term, but in the short term, it was necessary to ensure that its fleet did not join the United Kingdom, which was the last country to be defeated or to be seduced, because a peace agreement with the United Kingdom was still desired at the end of June. Finally, neither the Italian ally nor the benevolent Spanish neutrality should be offended, as Franco did not want to involve Spain in a conflict after three years of civil war. All these complex considerations will determine the content of the armistice agreement, a brief text of twenty-four articles, which contains the following clauses:

According to Winston Churchill, the France of the Vichy regime remained independent of Germany. International political decisions were taken only by the Vichy regime, which did not follow Nazi Germany in the wars against the United Kingdom and the USSR: Pétain”s France was theoretically neutral in this war once the armistice was signed. Moreover, the French army in the free zone and the colonies was not dependent on Nazi Germany and the government was French (it was the French parliamentarians who appointed Pétain as head of the provisional government) and was not under German control. For Churchill, it was therefore a mistake to describe the Vichy regime as a satellite state of Germany. It was obviously not a satellite state of Fascist Italy either, for the above reasons.

Hitler”s choice to leave his colonial empire to the defeated France may seem quite singular today. At the time, in a letter to the Duce, Hitler justified this choice (as well as that of maintaining an unoccupied zone) by the concern of not pushing France and its powerful fleet to continue the war from its colonies, the German navy not being able to conquer these vast territories, and the sending of troops to distant lands not being part of Hitler”s strategy. In fact, with the exception of French Equatorial Africa, French Polynesia (then known as the French Establishments of Oceania) and New Caledonia, the French colonies did not rally to de Gaulle or the Allies in the months following the armistice.

For his part, Churchill, faced with the risk of seeing the French fleet join its naval bases now occupied by the enemy, in accordance with the armistice agreements, dispatched a British squadron on July 3, 1940, to summon the French squadron at Mers el-Kébir to join it, or to join the French Antilles. The French Admiral Marcel Gensoul rejected the ultimatum, without informing Vichy of all the possibilities it offered, including the possibility of joining the French West Indies to be safe from the Germans. A naval battle ensued at Mers el-Kébir, during which the ship of the line Bretagne was sunk and two others, the Dunkerque and the Provence, were put out of action, as well as the destroyer Mogador. This battle cost the lives of 1,297 French sailors. Of the six ships of the line of the French Navy, only three were left in fighting condition: The Richelieu, the Strasbourg and the Lorraine.

Moreover, although Italy claimed the former county of Nice and Savoy, which it did not manage to seize, it had to make do with part of Menton and Fontan (its only wartime holdings). The other territories claimed (including Corsica) were not occupied by the Italian army until later, on November 11, 1942, during the invasion of the free zone.


After spending a fortnight in Bordeaux, the government left the city on June 29, 1940 and moved to Clermont-Ferrand (the Germans had been in Bordeaux for a few days and the city had been in the occupied zone since the signing of the armistice). But the city of Clermont-Ferrand was not satisfactory because the government had to spread out to other cities in the area due to the lack of a sufficiently large reception structure. Pétain had to decide that the new government and the National Assembly should move to Vichy in the first days of July. The city was chosen because it was politically calm and had a large hotel capacity while being well connected to Paris. Propaganda was put in place to justify the political choices made, including that of the new “capital”. The cult of the Marshal”s personality, also called “Marshalism”, was the main driving force.

On July 10, 1940, a proposal to revise the Constitution, allowing full powers to be granted to Marshal Pétain, President of the Council, was submitted to the National Assembly. The Assembly brought together the deputies and senators, and sat for the occasion in the opera house of the Grand Casino in Vichy. Theoretically, it included 907 members of parliament, but only 649 votes were cast, including 57 deputies and 23 senators who voted “no”, and 20 other members of parliament who abstained (three of whom requested that their votes be corrected), for a total of 572 votes in favor of the revision. The session was chaired by Jules Jeanneney.

The text adopted was :

“Sole article. The National Assembly gives full powers to the government of the Republic, under the authority and signature of Marshal Pétain, to promulgate by one or more acts a new constitution for the French State. This constitution will have to guarantee the rights of the Work, the Family and the Homeland, and will be ratified by the Nation and applied by the Assemblies that it will have created. The present constitutional law, deliberated and adopted by the National Assembly, will be executed as a law of the State.”

The new constitution, drafted by Marshal Pétain, was never promulgated, the head of state only enacting twelve constitutional acts between 1940 and 1942 on the basis of the constitutional law of 1940, in order to temporarily organize the regime of the French state. The draft constitution provided for the Head of State to retain the title of President of the Republic.

During the Occupation, Parliament was not dissolved, but the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies were “adjourned until further notice”, as only the Head of State could convene them: in fact, they were replaced by the National Council set up on January 24, 1941.

The foreign powers, including the United States, took note of these changes and sent their diplomatic representatives to Vichy; at that time, General de Gaulle still had no legitimacy other than his conscience, the unofficial support of the British government from June 28, 1940, and the enthusiasm of a handful of Free Frenchmen, whom the Vichy regime considered to be “rebels, traitors, and seditious”. When the war took a turn more favorable to the Allies, the Gaullists began to be accepted as legitimate representatives of France. After the Soviets entered the war on June 22, 1941, they recognized the French National Committee on September 26, 1941. The French Committee for National Liberation was recognized by the Allies on August 26, 1943. The Americans did not fully recognize Charles de Gaulle”s authority until after the landing on June 6, 1944.

Controversy over the legal basis of the regime

The question of whether, behind this change of name, the “French State” is the same public and international law personality as the French Republic, remains controversial. Indeed, two theses are opposed.

The Ordinance of August 9, 1944, on the re-establishment of republican legality on the continental territory, however, settles the legal question and reaffirms that “The form of government of France is and remains the Republic. In law, it has not ceased to exist” and “Consequently, all constitutional, legislative or regulatory acts, as well as the decrees taken for their execution, under any name whatsoever, promulgated on the continental territory after June 16, 1940 and until the re-establishment of the Provisional Government of the French Republic, are null and void”. The Ordinance also organizes the return to legality and republican order.

However, certain acts, such as Jacques Chirac”s speech of July 16, 1995, at the Vélodrome d”Hiver, recognizing France”s responsibility for the deportation to Germany of French Jews during the Nazi occupation of the country, constitute a break with the Gaullist doctrine, followed before him by all the presidents of the Fourth and Fifth Republics, who rejected such recognition on the grounds that the Vichy regime, under whose leadership these exactions were carried out, was not the legitimate political authority of France (this authority being embodied by General de Gaulle, leader of the Free French Forces).

“On June 17, 1940, Marshal Pétain, the new President of the Council, who had just asked Nazi Germany for the conditions of an armistice, proclaimed: “I am giving France the gift of myself to alleviate its misfortune. In his message to the French on June 25, 1940, the very day of the armistice, he announced a “new order” that was beginning. “It is to an intellectual and moral recovery that I invite you first of all”, he added.

The Republican motto “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity” was replaced on September 15, 1940 by the slogan “Work, Family, Homeland”. This motto was already the motto of the Croix-de-feu in the 1930s, and even earlier, in 1902, but in a different order, that of the anti-Semitic and extreme right-wing Fédération nationale des Jaunes de France, founded at the beginning of the century by Paul Lanoir and Pierre Biétry.

The slogan reflected the reactionary, nationalist and pro-natalist policies of the regime. The personalization of the regime, closely associated with Pétain, was marked by the use of the francisque: a symbol of the head of state in a personal capacity, it served as the emblem of the regime on official documents as well as on the national currency.

The ideological foundations of this “new order” are specified in the speech of October 11, 1940:

“Never in the history of France has the State been more enslaved than in the last twenty years by coalitions of economic interests and by political or trade union teams, falsely claiming to represent the working class. It is necessary today to rebuild France. One could not discover in it more the features of a revenge of the events of 1936. The new order is a French necessity. Tragically, we will have to realize, in defeat, the revolution that in victory, in peace, in the voluntary agreement of equal peoples, we have not even been able to conceive.

“The new regime will be a social hierarchy. It will no longer be based on the false idea of the natural equality of men, but on the necessary idea of the equality of “chances” given to all Frenchmen to prove their aptitude to “serve”. Only work and talent will again become the basis of the French hierarchy. No unfavorable prejudice will reach a Frenchman because of his social origins, on the sole condition that he integrates himself into the new France and that he gives it his unreserved support. The class struggle, which is fatal to the nation, can only be eliminated by eliminating the causes that have formed these classes and set them against each other. In this way, the true elites will be reborn, which the past regime took years to destroy and which will constitute the necessary frameworks for the development of the well-being and dignity of all.”

In 1940, the vast majority of the French people recognized the providential man in this “handsome old man” of 84 years of age, haloed in his prestige as the victor of Verdun, who would be the object of great veneration maintained by institutions such as the French Legion of Combatants, created on 29 August 1940. However, despite Pétain”s conciliatory statements rejecting any idea of revenge, his most ardent supporters on the clerical, conservative, antidreyfusard, anti-republican and reactionary right were not mistaken in savoring the departure of those they hated. Thus, Paul Claudel wrote in his diary:

“France is delivered after sixty years of yoke of the radical and anti-Catholic party (professors, lawyers, Jews, Freemasons). The new government invokes God and returns the Grande Chartreuse to the religious. Hope to be delivered from universal suffrage and parliamentarianism.”

On February 9, 1941, Charles Maurras, founder of the royalist journal L”Action française, hailed the disappearance of the “wench” (the Republic) as a “divine surprise.

At the same time, and in total opposition to the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, which had been replaced by the Principles of the Community, the Vichy government re-established the “offenses of opinion and membership” in the legislation, which gave it the possibility of prosecuting all its opponents. Most of them were either placed in camps or imprisoned, or subjected to administrative purges.

The laws of exclusion of Jews of August and October 1940, which hit Freemasons and Jews, were like professional bans. The hunt for communists, which had begun under the Daladier government (following the signing of the German-Soviet pact on August 23, 1939), was a priority of the Vichy regime, even before the Germans became concerned. It was a constant in the collaborationist policy from October 1940 to the Liberation. The PCF had been banned under the Third Republic in September 1939 following the German-Soviet pact, and all communist activity was therefore already illegal when Pétain took office.

The historian Jean-Pierre Azéma has thus retained six characteristics of the spirit that animated the reactionary Vichy regime:

The Vichy regime privileged the myth of a rural, corporate and religious society. The “national revolution” made the concept of peasant folklore closely intertwined with that of regionalism a normative model, an integral part of the Vichy ideology and its cultural project.

The communist historian Roger Bourderon in the 1970s and the writer Bernard-Henri Lévy in 1981 described the Vichy regime as fascist. This idea is not taken up by historians of the period such as Jean-Pierre Azéma and Robert Paxton; they point out that Pétain, strengthened by the popular support he had created, refused the idea of a single party proposed by Marcel Déat in August 1940, and also that the obsession with discipline that characterized the marshal”s moralistic sermons did not translate into a real militarization of the country turned towards expansion. This was partly due to the conditions of the armistice, which considerably limited the armed forces. There was a desire to recruit young people in the creation of the Chantiers de la Jeunesse (a form of “national civilian service” that replaced compulsory military service), which, from August 1940, took in the 100,000 young people of the 1940 class who could not be incorporated into the armistice army and who were supervised by officers to carry out various public service tasks in the open air, but who could not be mobilized militarily like the Hitler Youth. The collaborationist parties with fascist tendencies, such as Jacques Doriot”s Parti populaire français (PPF) or Marcel Déat”s Rassemblement national populaire (RNP), remained marginal to the government and to the Marshal”s entourage for a long time. It was only in 1944 that the Germans forced Joseph Darnand, head of the Militia, and Philippe Henriot into the government (January 6, 1944), followed by Marcel Déat (March 16, 1944).

The clericalism of Vichy

The Vichy regime sought the support of the Roman Catholic Church, whose influence at that time was not negligible. Before becoming head of state, Pétain was not a practicing Catholic, but at least he had been raised in the Church, whereas Laval and Darlan were rather “on the other side”.

Philippe Pétain and certain prelates of the French Catholic Church had a good relationship, and they flocked to visit him in Vichy. At the head of these Marshalist bishops and cardinals was Cardinal Gerlier, primate of the Gauls. The Catholic doctrine of the time, and in particular its social component, largely inspired the National Revolution, and Cardinal Gerlier declared: “Work, Family, Homeland, these three words are ours”. Since the end of the 19th century, France had known governments for which the label “secular” was more or less synonymous with anticlerical. The Roman Catholic Church in France was counting on taking advantage of a favorable government to score some points, especially in the area of religious education.

The members of the clergy took their place in the official ceremonies. In addition to these outward signs of sympathy, the French episcopate obtained satisfaction on a number of points:

On the other hand, the Church did not obtain the right to teach religion in public schools. Despite this, the episcopate recognized the legitimacy of the Marshal”s regime until 1944. This legitimization did not prevent several prelates from publicly expressing criticism, for example, on the subject of the deportations of Jews, starting in July 1942, which marked a break in public opinion. The faithful and priests, such as Jules Saliège, then archbishop of Toulouse, and Abbé Glasberg (in Lyon), insisted on the incompatibility of racial segregation with Christianity and thus took risks. Jules Saliège will only escape deportation by the occupying forces because of his age and precarious health. Glasberg had to hide with Théas, the bishop of Montauban, who was himself arrested by the Gestapo on June 9, 1944. A certain number of Catholics clearly detached themselves from the regime and joined the Resistance. It was Georges Bidault, president of the National Council of the Resistance and founder of the Christian Democracy, who asked de Gaulle in 1944 to evict a long list of bishops who had compromised with Vichy.

One of the institutions of the new regime to which Catholics most readily gave their support was undoubtedly the Légion des combattants, which replaced all the veterans” associations. From its foundation, priests joined in large numbers, as well as some bishops. Later, some of the Legion”s leaders participated in the creation of the Militia, but others abandoned it, such as François Valentin from Lorraine, one of its most active leaders, who chose August 29, 1943, the third anniversary of the Legion, to launch an appeal to the resistance.

The specificity of the Vichy regime in occupied Europe

The specificity of the Vichy regime resides in two facts: it was created by a vote of the legislature, and the head of state and his government remained in place. It shares this specificity with Denmark. On the other hand, the fact that until November 1942, the Vichy government resided in the non-occupied zone, that it thus benefited from a relative autonomy, that it practiced its own anti-Semitic policy and that it militarily fought the Allies overseas, remains a unique case in occupied Europe, which brings it closer to the Axis countries. State collaboration began in France as soon as the armistice was proclaimed. The historian Robert Paxton points out that the civilian authorities of an occupied country were normally required to cooperate with the occupying army in a certain number of technical areas in order to provide essential services to the civilian population, it being understood that the occupying soldiers also benefited from these services. The Vichy regime ended de facto with the Liberation and its government took refuge in Germany, in whose eyes it continued to represent France de jure until the final collapse.

Poland was first divided between Nazi Germany and the USSR on September 17, 1939: massacres, deportations and destruction followed. On the German side, part of its territory was attached directly to the Reich, while the rest was placed under German authority without being annexed, under the name of “General Government” (enlarged in the summer of 1941 when Germany attacked the USSR). The German Nazi leader and ex-lawyer Hans Frank was appointed Governor General. This system ended with the arrival of the Red Army in the summer of 1944.

Finland, first attacked by the USSR on November 30, 1939, and supported by the Allies, remained a democracy throughout the war. Finland found itself on the side of the Axis on 22 June 1941 when Germany attacked the USSR, which had become the common enemy. This de facto alliance with the Axis ended on September 4, 1944 when Finland made peace with the USSR and drove the Wehrmacht out of its territory (the Germans withdrew to Norway).

In occupied Denmark, King Christian X and the social-democratic Prime Minister Thorvald Stauning remained in office after the capitulation of April 9, 1940, and practiced, under duress, economic collaboration with Germany until the occupation ended on May 9, 1945.

In Norway, the king and the government, initially refugees in the north, went into exile in London with a large part of the armed forces. Quisling, leader of the far-right Nasjonal Samling party, was imposed by the Germans in 1942. He set up a pro-Nazi puppet government, with the real power in the hands of Reichskommissär Josef Terboven until the end of the occupation on May 9, 1945.

In the Netherlands, the government went into exile in London with Queen Wilhelmine. The country was then administered by Reichskommissar Arthur Seyss-Inquart, who pushed forward the pro-Nazi party NSB (Nationaal-Socialistische Beweging, National Socialist Movement). This system ended with the Liberation in early 1945.

In Belgium, after the capitulation of May 28, 1940, decided by King Leopold, the government took refuge in France and then went into exile in London, while the King remained in his palace in Laeken. Belgium was then placed under a German military administration which left the Belgian administrative services to work under the direction of secretaries general. This administration also extended to the north of France (departments of Nord and Pas-de-Calais). This system ended with the Liberation at the beginning of 1945.

In Czechoslovakia, the Czech part was annexed by Germany under the name of Protectorate of Bohemia-Moravia. A German Reichsprotektor was placed at its head, first von Neurath, then Heydrich (killed by the Czech resistance). The occupation was very harsh, and hundreds of villages suffered the fate of Oradour-sur-Glane. This system lasted until the end of the occupation on May 9, 1945. For its part, Slovakia was placed under the authority of Bishop Tiso, who allied himself with Germany. It ceased to exist as a satellite state of Germany in September-October 1944, when the Soviet and Romanian armies drove out the Wehrmacht and re-established the authority of the Czechoslovak Provisional Government.

In Hungary, the Nazis benefited from the spontaneous alliance of the government in place, led by Admiral Horthy, who wanted to erase the consequences of the Treaty of Trianon of 1918 (a goal partially achieved from 1940 to 1945). In the summer of 1944, Horthy tried to free himself from the German alliance and was replaced by Szálasi, who kept Hungary in the German orbit until the end. The Soviet and Romanian invasion put an end to the Hungarian-German alliance.

Bulgaria, after a period of neutrality, became an Axis ally on March 1, 1941, without going to war against the Allies; its goal was only to expand by annexing the Bulgarian-speaking territories of Yugoslavia, Romania and Greece (a goal that was achieved between 1941 and 1944). Bulgaria broke its alliance with the Axis the day after the Soviet armies entered its territory, on September 5, 1944.

Greece capitulated to the invasion of Germany, Italy and Bulgaria in April 1941, and was occupied by Germany, Italy and Bulgaria. Here too the occupation was very harsh and resulted in a war of harassment and constant repression throughout its duration, with most of the territory being liberated by the resistance at the end of 1944 and the rest at the beginning of 1945.

As for Italy, the Germans considered it an enemy country after the capitulation of September 8, 1943 (even if, in the North, Mussolini was authorized to form the “Republic of Salo”) and subjected it to a regime of occupation; wherever they were, its soldiers were disarmed and taken prisoner by the Wehrmacht. The resistance grew and the Italian people welcomed the Allies as liberators.

The men of the Vichy regime

Pétain, Laval and Admiral Darlan, the head of state and his two prime ministers (who in fact only held the rank of vice-president of the Council) are the three most emblematic politicians of the period. Laval was vice-president of the Council from July to December 1940 and from April 1942 to August 1944, and Darlan was vice-president from February 1941 to April 1942.

The historian Robert Frank emphasizes that the fundamental point of agreement between the three men was first and foremost their desire to stop a fight that was considered “murderous and useless,” and on this point they had the support of the vast majority of French people. All three were betting on a final victory for the Reich. From the moment the armistice was signed, certain consequences followed: the French who wanted to continue the fight became outlaws. None of the three men had initially adhered to any Mussolini or Hitlerian ideology, but in the atmosphere of the defeat, they quickly came close to it and their interests were linked to those of Germany: German peace allowed them to develop the National Revolution and to reorganize France according to their ideas, strengthened by the sovereignty they exercised in the colonial empire and the unoccupied zone.

The servants of the Vichy regime who were the protagonists of the “National Revolution” were recruited from the extreme right, but also from the left and the ultra left. We are then in a period where many forms of conscious or unconscious racism were a way of “thinking about people” that was very widespread in Europe and North America, so that men with different ideological backgrounds could be seduced by the right of blood that permeated the whole “National Revolution”, and by the anti-Semitic ideas according to which “the Jews” as a group “are this” or “do that” and “pose a problem” to the other nations, from which they are being excluded: this “problem” requires a “solution”, if possible a final one. The logic of these ideas would lead to the “Final Solution”, but those who adopted them in the years 1935 to 1941 did not understand in advance their criminogenic scope, and

This is the background of Raphaël Alibert, close to Action Française; of Joseph Barthélemy, a parliamentarian of the liberal right, who was a member of the Alliance Démocratique; or of Philippe Henriot, who had been vice-president of the great traditional right-wing party that was the Fédération Républicaine; of Jean-Louis Tixier-Vignancour, a member of the Croix-de-feu when he was elected deputy of the Basses-Pyrénées in 1936. Among those whom Pascal Ory calls the “new crusaders” there is a Christian component, not necessarily fascist-merican, but in any case reactionary: among them, Cardinal Baudrillart, Alphonse de Châteaubriant, Robert Valéry-Radot…

It is among men who rallied more to the collaboration than to the Vichy regime itself that one finds a properly fascist affiliation: Jacques Doriot, Simon Sabiani went from communism to fascism as early as the 1930s; founders of the Cagoule such as Eugène Deloncle and Jean Filiol quite naturally joined the Vichy regime. Activists of the French extreme right such as the national-collectivist Pierre Clémenti, Jean Boissel or the francist Marcel Bucard played a role in the Vichy authorities, in the Militia or the Legion of French Volunteers against Bolshevism (LVF). The former leader of the Cagoule, Joseph Darnand, founded the French Militia.

Jean-Pierre Abel, Gaston Bergery, Marcel Déat, René Belin and Charles Spinasse had more atypical backgrounds: they had initially been pacifists, socialists, radicals or trade unionists. A small group of elected communists around Marcel Gitton broke with the PCF at the time of the German-Soviet pact and formed the French Workers and Peasants Party. All of them eventually joined the “National Revolution”.

Some parliamentarians or intellectuals who were pacifists, philosemites or even both before the war, most often on the left, former members or sympathizers of the LICA (International League against Anti-Semitism) in the 1920s and 1930s, also became involved in collaboration, considering the Jews to be responsible for the war against Nazi Germany.

Government organization

In the last government of the Third Republic, known as the Philippe Pétain government, Pétain was the President of the Council. While he became head of state, he retained “full governmental power” under the constitutional act of July 11, 1940. The title of President of the Council was no longer used in subsequent constitutional acts to designate Pétain, however “Pétain continued to hold the title and to exercise the related powers.

Starting with the first Laval government (July 16, 1940), cabinets were commonly referred to by the name of the vice-president of the Council, a title successively assumed by Pierre Laval, Pierre-Étienne Flandin, François Darlan, and then Pierre Laval again.

On April 18, 1942, Pierre Laval returned to power with the title of head of government, as Pétain relinquished to him, by Constitutional Act No. 11 of April 18, 1942, the “effective direction of France”s domestic and foreign policy. However, the head of government remained responsible to the head of state.

Four cabinets succeeded one another until 1944:

The four successive phases of the Vichy government

Pétain, Laval and Darlan were the three personalities who held the highest responsibilities in the “French State” from June 1940 to the Liberation. Around them, one can distinguish several successive waves in the political personnel of the Vichy regime. An authoritarian regime from its inception, Vichy underwent several political evolutions, with a clear radicalization at the end:

Even in the “collaborationist” press (the term was used by Jeantet in Je suis partout), it was noted in October 1943 (and deplored) that the supporters of collaboration were in the minority in public opinion, the majority of which was waiting for the Liberation by the Allies.

Economic collaboration

Economic collaboration, as understood by historians such as Paxton, stemmed first of all from the war debt theoretically fixed by the armistice of June 1940 (essentially the occupation indemnity, but not only), but practically fixed over the years in a unilateral manner by the Germans, who arbitrarily established the rate of the franc against the mark. Moreover, only the principle was fixed by the armistice agreement, but not the amount (art. 18), the execution being referred to a German armistice commission (in Wiesbaden) before which the French representation “received orders” (art. 22). The amount of the debt, in spite of General Huntzinger”s dismay and powerlessness in Wiesbaden, was out of all proportion to the real costs of the occupier. This debt, which was supposed to correspond to the maintenance of the occupying troops, averaged 400 million francs per day, the equivalent of four million workers” daily wages. The use of the term “economic collaboration” means that Germany”s predatory policy was carried out under French administration as a disastrous consequence of the 1940 armistice.

After the invasion of the southern zone in November 1942, the Germans demanded that the occupation debt be increased to 500 million francs per day. Overall, the sum paid for the maintenance of occupation troops amounted to 631.8 billion francs, or 31.6 billion marks at the imposed rate. By comparison, the Reich”s annual ordinary budgetary income in 1942 (including levies on the occupied countries) amounted to 49 billion marks, of which 35 billion were taxes. From the summer of 1940 to the summer of 1944, the Vichy regime therefore paid the occupier the equivalent of one year”s worth of German tax revenues.

We can also add the prisoners of war, who numbered about 1.8 million and worked for Germany during most of the war.

This economic contribution was very much part of a voluntarist policy of Vichy, which after Montoire wanted to obtain tangible benefits (return of prisoners, easing of the demarcation line) in exchange for economic integration into the new German Europe. These proposals met with a lack of interest from the German interlocutors, who at the beginning of the conflict only aimed to disarm and deindustrialize France in order to take away its power: the Germans dismantled factories and machine tools to transport them across the Rhine, and looted the stocks. After the fiasco of Laval”s dismissal, which strained relations, and the Flandin interlude, Darlan”s team returned to the fray in April 1941. It proposed a “plan for a new order” with a customs union between France and Germany. This plan concluded: “We want to save France. We ask Hitler to help us. The German authorities, showing a temporary interest, negotiated access to Syrian bases as the Mediterranean front developed. Vichy accepted German control over currency and an unfavorable “clearing” agreement in exchange for opening the demarcation line to economic exchanges. The end of the Syrian campaign and the opening of the Russian front with Operation Barbarossa marked the return of a broad German indifference. It was the arrival of Albert Speer in the Nazi government in February 1942 that changed the situation once again.

In addition, between 1942 and 1944, the Reich”s general commissioner for employment and manpower, Fritz Sauckel, demanded that France send two million workers under the STO. French workers were the only ones in Europe who were required by the laws of their own country and not by a German order (law of February 16, 1943). Only 600,000 actually left, in addition to the 700,000 voluntary workers. Volunteers and STO were more or less paid. Many STO refusers joined the maquis of the Resistance.

According to General von Senger und Utterlin of the German Armistice Commission:

“The French wartime arms industry was put into full swing for German armaments. Without the economic potential of France, Hitler would not have been able to keep the war going for so long. This was the great benefit Hitler derived from the conquest of France.”

Two authors, Fabrizio Calvi and Marc Masurovsky, show in a book, Le Festin du Reich (2006), that American banks in Paris “continued to trade with the Nazis throughout the war” (in spite of “laws and ordinances repressing trade with the enemy”) and that they were hardly worried by the Matteoli mission.

Collaboration also led to a significant loss of architectural heritage. On October 11, 1941, a decree was published in the Parisian press, announcing the removal of monuments, with the stated aim of reinjecting the metals into the circuit of industrial and agricultural production. The extent of the losses suffered by the national heritage was enormous: according to some curatorial estimates, approximately 1,700 statues were destroyed on the orders of the Vichy government, including more than a hundred in the Parisian capital alone.

Police cooperation

Independently of the collaboration with the occupier, the Vichy authorities implemented from 1940 onwards “a repressive policy in the name of order and the fight against ”Anti-France””. Vichy then strengthened its police organization by nationalizing the municipal police forces (April 1941) and by instituting countless specialized parallel police forces such as the Anti-Communist Police Service (SPAC) and the Police for Jewish Questions (PQJ). In 1941, the Minister of the Interior, Pierre Pucheu, created the Mobile Reserve Groups (GMR), which took part in the fight against the maquis alongside the Militia. In May 1944, there were more than 120,000 men involved in maintaining order.

In the occupied zone, relations between the French police and the occupying authorities were normally governed by article 3 of the armistice agreement, which specified, among other things, that: “In the occupied regions of France, the German Reich shall exercise all the rights of the occupying power. The French government shall immediately invite all the French authorities and administrative services in the occupied territory to comply with the regulations of the German military authorities and to collaborate with the latter in a proper manner.

As soon as the armistice was signed in June 1940, the Germans came to take the Spanish Republicans from the prisoner of war camps, without the “French State” (the Vichy regime) protesting. The latter were the only category sought by the Germans in the prison camps, and most of them were deported to the Mauthausen concentration camp. At that time, Hitler tried to drag Franco”s Spain into the war. Until the invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, the anti-communist struggle was not a priority for Nazi Germany. Nevertheless, Vichy continued the work begun by Daladier, before obtaining proper authorization from the occupation authorities in August 1940. Later, when the Communists began to carry out attacks against the Germans, and then to set up various forms of resistance, the Communists arrested by the French police were handed over to the occupation forces.

In February 1942, before taking up his duties as Militärbefehlshaber in Frankreich (de), i.e., military commander in France in replacement of his cousin Otto, General Carl-Heinrich von Stülpnagel had demanded “a clear separation of his military duties from all political matters. This demand was also in line with Himmler”s and Heydrich”s aims to extend their police and political control throughout the expanding Reich. On March 9, 1942, Hitler, for whom it was essential to have executors in key positions who shared his vision, signed a decree instituting a Höherer SS-und Polizeiführer within the jurisdiction of the Militärbefehlshaber. The newcomer had a right of authority and supervision over the French services that he shared with many others, and he decided on the use of French police forces in the occupied zone. The decree specified that: “Sanctions against criminals, Jews and Communists motivated by unsolved attacks on the German Reich or its citizens are also included among the police measures. SS General Carl Oberg was appointed to the new position created by Hitler. He was assisted by Helmut Knochen, head of the security police (SIPO) and the security service (SD) for France. Two months after the Wannsee conference, Heydrich made his first visit to France between May 5 and 12, 1942, to initiate police cooperation, which he called “police camaraderie”: he promised the French police independence in the occupied zone, on condition that they effectively pursue repression against the enemies of the occupying army, who were also the enemies of the National Revolution.

At that time, in all of occupied France, the regular German police had only three battalions at their disposal, that is, 3,000 men in all, whereas in Holland, the number was 5,000. The RSHA was able to rely on the Feldgendarmerie to guard the trains, but for arrests, the SS had to call on the French police, which had 47,000 men in the occupied zone.

René Bousquet was appointed to the General Secretariat for the Police by Pierre Laval in April 1942, and was motivated by the same desire as Pierre Pucheu to compete with the occupiers for the exercise of repression. He was led to adopt a policy of regaining control of repression against the Germans and against the parallel agencies set up by Pucheu in 1941. This attitude was in line with that of Oberg de Knochen and their chief, Heydrich, who decided, unlike their predecessors, to play the French police card. Entrusting it with more autonomy and responsibility, without entailing great risks, could have brought substantial advantages: greater efficiency, the avoidance of patriotic reactions that were always to be feared with the population, the hope of a clearer commitment of police officers who were now compromised.

The formalization of the collaboration resulting from this new situation was formalized by the so-called Bousquet-Oberg “agreements” of July 1942, which provided for the French police to take charge of the round-ups of Jews, the first stage of deportation to the extermination camps. The French gendarmes and the customs authorities were entrusted with the surveillance of the access roads and the surroundings of the Drancy camp. The “Tulard file”, listing the Jews of the Seine department, which had been compiled on German orders by the police prefecture from October 1941 onwards, was used to prepare the round-ups which were carried out jointly by the Germans and the French police from May 1941 onwards, and then from July 1942 onwards by the Paris police alone.

The French police normally had to hunt down all resistance fighters. However, the actions of the police in the southern zone remained relatively discreet until November 1942. Indeed, during this period, the hunt for dissidents was the business of the intelligence services of the Navy and the Armistice Army (which did not prevent some elements of the secret services of the Army and the Navy from secretly joining the Resistance).

On August 25, 1942, more than two hundred German police officers, equipped with false French papers, were authorized to enter the southern zone with gonio cars to hunt down clandestine radio stations. Made up of Franco-German units, they dismantled clandestine transmitters and arrested many resistance fighters. The police collaboration did not stop with the invasion of the free zone by the Germans in November 1942.

In December 1942, Hitler had the opportunity to deliver his views on police collaboration. When Jodl announced that the French police had arrested six members of a terrorist group, Hitler exclaimed, “Good! The police are good. We”ll give them the bit and work with them alone. Himmler knows his police. He uses condemnable means and in this way he manages to win over the people little by little. It will be an alliance with the police! Nothing is more hated in the country than the police, and they are looking for support from an authority stronger than their own state; that is us. The police will one day beg us not to leave the country. Eberhard Jäckel, who reported the remarks, concluded that rarely had Hitler so bluntly exposed one of the fundamental principles not only of his French policy, but also and above all of his policy in general. Voluntary and freely consented collaboration always seemed suspicious to him; but if it came from people who were thoroughly compromised, then he considered it trustworthy.

One of the last large-scale operations carried out by the French police was the roundup in Marseille on January 22, 23 and 24, 1943. On January 24, the Vieux-Port district was blown up, undermined by the French police who had nevertheless, writes Eberhard Jäckel, obtained a certain softening of the German orders.

Thereafter, from 1943 onwards, the responsibility for the fight against the Resistance was transferred to Darnand”s Militia, especially the fight against the maquis.

Military collaboration

Hitler did not want an institutional military collaboration between France and Germany: he distrusted the French, and even the declared collaborators. Moreover, after the crushing defeat of 1940, the French army looked very poor. On the other hand, Pétain and the various Vichy figures practiced state collaboration in various fields, precisely in the hope of obtaining for France a secondary role in the Europe of the “new order.

The French neutrality initially displayed allowed the Germans to rely on the French army to repel possible British attacks in metropolitan France or in the French Empire. The armistice army was limited to 100,000 men in metropolitan France, but included 450,000 men in the various colonies. In September 1940, after French Equatorial Africa (AEF) had been switched to the Free French side in Dakar, the army that had remained loyal to Vichy repelled the British and Free French naval forces.

Darlan tried to bargain for important military and political concessions by signing the Paris protocols, which were initialled on 28 May 1941. These protocols consisted of four documents, the first three of which concerned the use by the Germans of the bases at Bizerte (Tunisia), Dakar (Senegal) and Aleppo (Syria), and the commitment by the French to defend these bases against a possible British or American attack (while Germany itself was not yet at war with the United States). These concessions were aimed at obtaining a reinforcement of the armistice army. The real counterpart hoped for was a fourth document that contained all the political concessions requested from the Germans, but was never signed by a German authority higher than the German ambassador Otto Abetz.

Despite the opposition of Weygand, head of the armies in Africa, the Vichy government revived the Germans throughout the autumn of 1941, but never ratified these agreements. Darlan then agreed, in the manner of Laval, to concessions without compensation: supplies (trucks, fuel, artillery pieces) were delivered to Rommel via Tunisia. A few torpedo boats passed through the Rhône. As for the protocol on Syria, it was immediately applied, before any signature, and allowed the Luftwaffe to bomb the British forces in Iraq from Syria. It also led to a retaliation by the British and the Free French in the Levant, who were to recover the territories of Syria and Lebanon after more than a month of fratricidal fighting that claimed several thousand victims on both sides. It represents the most advanced case of military concessions on the part of Darlan and Pétain.

After the summer of 1941, it was outside the government that all the collaborationist movements joined forces, more or less with the blessing of ambassador Otto Abetz, to create the “Légion des volontaires français” (LVF), which was in fact an association under private law. From July 1941 to June 1944, 16,000 volunteers presented themselves, of which 7,000 men were selected to be engaged on the Russian front. The LVF was financed and maintained by the Germans; they fought in German units and wore German uniforms. After a first unconvincing confrontation with the Soviet forces, the 536th infantry regiment, in which the LVF troops were grouped, was brought back to the rear and confronted only by the partisans. All of the collaborators hired under the German uniform (LVF, Militia and French Waffen-SS) were then grouped together in the Charlemagne division

An attempt by the Vichy government to recuperate the LVF under the name of Légion tricolore was a bitter failure, largely because the government wanted to turn it into a French force in French uniform, which was not to the liking of the Germans.

On November 8, 1942, during Operation Torch, the Allies landed in North Africa at Casablanca, Algiers and Oran. In Casablanca the fighting was violent. The Vichy navy, which was outnumbered, engaged in a “last stand” ordered by General Noguès to resist the Americans. From November 11, Admiral Darlan and General Juin, as well as most of the French officers in North Africa, joined the Allies in Algeria and Morocco. However, in Tunisia, Admirals Derrien and Esteva remained loyal to the Marshal who ordered the French forces in Africa to resist and fight the Allies.

Following the Allied landings in North Africa, a military unit, the African Phalanx (sometimes called the “Frankonia Company”), consisting of no more than 300 men, was formed in Tunisia to fight alongside the Axis forces. It was crushed at the end of April 1943.

The practice of collaboration of the Vichy governments

The Hitler-Petain meeting in Montoire, whose aim was to demonstrate French goodwill in order to obtain concessions, did not lead to any concrete results: just after the meeting, on the orders of Gauleiter Bürckel, nearly 100,000 Moselle inhabitants were expelled from Lorraine to France. In addition, 6,500 German Jews, whom the Nazis did not want to intern in their own country, were rounded up in the Palatinate and Baden-Württemberg, to be handed over to the Vichy government. The latter interned them in the Gurs camp in the southern zone, while waiting to release them to the enemy when the latter had been able to set up its extermination camps in Poland.

From the autumn of 1940, Laval began to make unilateral concessions to the Germans, in the hope of being paid back in one way or another: he gave up the French interests in the Bor gold mines in Yugoslavia, as well as the gold reserves that the Belgians had entrusted to France in May 1940.

Darlan pushed the policy of collaboration a little further than Laval had done, by trying to practice a policy of give and take with Hitler. In fact, Hitler was never really in favor of collaboration with the French, and the military and police concessions made by Darlan did not obtain the desired political counterparts.

In April 1942, Laval returned to power and tried to promote the policy of “relief”, i.e. the departure of young French workers to Germany as part of the compulsory labor service (STO), in exchange for the repatriation of prisoners in the proportion of one prisoner for three workers. A few months later, in November 1942, following Operation Torch, the free zone was invaded, and France became entirely vassalized by Germany. To counter the growing number of resistance fighters in the maquis, the French police force was replaced by the Milice, which was in direct contact with the Waffen-SS.

In March 1944, the Milice took part in the assault against the Glières maquis (Haute-Savoie), alongside the German forces, and in the repression that followed.

In June 1944, at the time of the D-Day landings and during the liberation of the French territory by the Allies, none of the troops that remained in the Vichy government fought alongside the Germans.

Radio-Paris, placed at the disposal of the occupiers in July 1940 and directed by Dr. Bofinger, had no trouble recruiting French personnel, most often chosen from the ranks of the extreme right, such as Jean Hérold-Paquis, recruited in 1942, who punctuated his daily military chronicle with the slogan: “And England, like Carthage, will be destroyed.

France-Actualités-Pathé-Gaumont, which broadcast in cinemas in the free zone, and Les Actualités mondiales, the French version of the Deutsche Wochenschau broadcast in the occupied zone, intensified their exchange of filmed newsreels from January 1941. In May 1942, a unification took place under the title France-Actualités, placed under the authority of a board of directors made up of German and Vichy representatives whose influence gradually diminished, tending to become a fiction.

The press works with information from the French Information Office.

The German Embassy has its own publishing house, Éditions Le Pont.

The poster was a propaganda tool used by the regime to publicize the National Revolution. The Center for Anti-Bolshevik Studies, which indirectly depends on the Ministry of Information, produced the famous Red Poster in 1944.

The Jews in France from 1940 to mid-1942

In 1940, there were approximately 300,000 Jews in metropolitan France, including 150,000 French citizens and 150,000 foreigners. Two-thirds of the total, but the vast majority of foreign Jews lived in the Paris region. Of the 150,000 French Jews, 90,000 are of old stock, and of the naturalized or foreign Jews, often immigrants from Eastern Europe, half arrived in the 1930s. The latest arrivals were Jews sent from Germany by the Nazi government in the weeks following the armistice. French Jews, who were divided between Orthodox, liberal and agnostic religions, were more likely to call themselves “Israelites” than “Jews”. They do not necessarily recognize themselves in the central consistory which, since Napoleon, is supposed to govern their community life. They often belonged to well-to-do and cultured backgrounds, whereas the majority of foreign Jews living in Paris were at the bottom of the social ladder. These same foreign Jews are generally attached to Yiddishkeit, a symbol of fidelity to ancestral customs.

The Jews of France lived in a situation of oppression from July 1940 until mid-1942. From the spring of 1942, they had to face the policy of the “Final Solution” decided by the Nazis in occupied Europe. This attempt to exterminate the Jews throughout occupied Europe is now known as the Holocaust or Shoah. The Nazis wanted to deport all the Jews of Europe to extermination camps located mainly in eastern Germany and Poland. Until November 1942, when the free zone was occupied, the situation of Jews was not exactly the same in the free zone and in the occupied zone. French anti-Jewish laws applied throughout the territory, but in the occupied zone, German decrees were added.

The Vichy government pursued a policy of restricting the rights of Jews and Freemasons from the moment it was installed, even before the Germans expressed their express demand. In July 1940, the Minister of Justice Alibert created a commission to review the 500,000 naturalizations granted since 1927, in charge of applying the law of July 22, 1940. The withdrawal of nationality concerned 15,154 people.

On August 16, 1940, the Marchandeau decree-law of April 21, 1939, repressing racial insult and defamation, was repealed by a law of the Vichy government.

On September 23, 1940, the Militärbefehlshaber in Frankreich (de) (Head of the German military administration in France), promulgated an ordinance prohibiting Jews who had fled the occupied zone from returning to it, obliging Jewish businesses in the occupied zone to identify themselves by means of a special poster, and obliging Jews in the occupied zone to register with their sub-prefecture before October 20, 1940.

In October 1940, the Vichy Council of Ministers promulgated the first status of Jews (see Laws on the status of Jews under the Vichy regime): French Jewish citizens were excluded from the civil service, the army, teaching, the press, radio and cinema. Excessive numbers of Jews were excluded from the liberal professions. On October 7, 1940, the repeal of the Crémieux decree deprived 100,000 Algerian Jews of French citizenship.

A General Commissariat for Jewish Questions was created in March 1941, under the direction of Xavier Vallat. Its mission was to ensure the application of anti-Jewish legislation.

Finally, in July 1941, Jews had to give up their rights to businesses to “Aryans. The Germans had applied this measure in the occupied zone since October 1940.

In the words of Asher Cohen:

“Without this legislation, sanctioned by a French government that was respected because it was legitimate, the subsequent deportations were almost unthinkable, or at least much more complicated to carry out. Aryanization seems to be the area where some efficiency was achieved and where the results were impressive. The Jews were effectively removed from the economic life of the nation, apparently without much difficulty.

As for foreign Jews, who had come from Eastern Europe as a result of Nazi threats and persecution before the war, they were considered undesirable in France. The difficulties of the surrender also made the conditions of reception much more precarious. From October 4, 1940, the prefects could intern foreigners of the “Jewish race” in special camps or place them under house arrest. In February 1941, 40,000 foreign Jews were languishing in a series of camps: Les Milles, Gurs, Rivesaltes, etc. In July 1940, when the “final solution” was not yet on the agenda, the Germans expelled 20,000 Jews from Alsace and Lorraine to the non-occupied zone. Later, from 1942 on, when pressure began to be exerted to implement the “Final Solution”, the French government was always conciliatory in handing over foreign Jews to the Germans. The collaboration between the German and French police was reinforced by the so-called Bousquet-Oberg agreements, named after the French police chief and the German police representative in France. The Germans could count on the French police to round up foreign Jews, at least until the end of 1942. In November 1941, under German pressure, Xavier Vallat created the Union générale des israélites de France (UGIF) which was to integrate all Jewish social organizations. For the Nazis, the aim was to facilitate anti-Semitic persecutions, as they had done with the Judenrat in Eastern Europe. Xavier Vallat put French notables at the head of the UGIF who practiced a legalism that was often contested by immigrant Jewish organizations.

Implementation of the final solution

The Germans began to implement their policy of mass extermination of European Jews in France in March 1942, when a convoy of Jewish deportees left Compiègne, the hub of the extermination camps. Officially, it was a question of regrouping them in an ill-defined region (Poland) that the Germans had decided to make available to the Jews. Among them were French Jews, and the Vichy government did not protest. In the occupied zone, Jews were obliged to wear the yellow star from May 1942. This measure was never imposed in the southern zone, even after its occupation by the Germans. The deportation of Jews took on great proportions after the Vel”d”hiv round-up on July 16 and 17, 1942: 12,884 stateless Jews (3,031 men, 5,802 women and 4,051 children) were arrested by the French police, rounded up at the Vélodrome d”hiver in squalid conditions, and then taken to Drancy, from where they were transported to the extermination camps. At the end of August 1942, in the free zone, 7,000 foreign Jews were rounded up and handed over to the Germans.

Contrary to the first anti-Jewish laws, but as with Aryanization, the initiative for the deportation, which coincided with the imposition of the yellow star in Paris, was German. The Vel”d”hiv roundup had been preceded in May 1942 by a number of talks between Heydrich, Oberg, Knochen and Dannecker on the German side and Pierre Laval, Bousquet and Legay on the French side. The various French interlocutors did not accede to the German requests to deport French Jews, but did agree to extend the deportation of foreign Jews to the free zone. The organization of the roundups was entrusted to the French police under the terms of a sort of protocol signed on July 2, 1942, known as the Oberg-Bousquet agreements. At the Council of Ministers meeting of July 3, Pierre Laval was quoted as saying:

“A distinction must be made between French Jews and waste sent by the Germans themselves. The intention of the German government is to create a Jewish state in Eastern Europe. I would not be dishonored if I were to send the countless foreign Jews who are in France to this Jewish state one day.”

The two sets of anti-Jewish measures, those of October 1940 and June 1941, had hardly aroused any protests from the religious authorities, who remained the regime”s most loyal supporters. In September 1941, Cardinal Gerlier, Primate of the Gauls, submitted a note to the Head of State expressing reservations about the anti-Semitic policy. His Protestant counterpart, Pastor Boegner, had sent a personal letter to Admiral Darlan a little earlier, in March 1941. Similarly, the very harsh conditions of internment of foreign Jews had hardly moved public opinion. Only a few charitable organizations, either Jewish or Protestant (the CIMADE), joined by a few Catholics, were concerned with helping the internees in the camps of Gurs, Noë, Récébédou, etc.

From mid-1942, there was a reversal in public opinion. First, the wearing of the yellow star aroused the disapproval of many French people, as well as a new protest from Pastor Boegner. Finally, it was the round-ups of the summer of 1942 that caused a decisive turning point. Not only among the grassroots Christians, but also among the Catholic hierarchy. In addition to the confidential approaches, five Catholic prelates of the southern zone made their disapproval known publicly from the pulpit. The most famous protest was that of Archbishop Jules Saliège of Toulouse, whose letter was read from the pulpit on August 23.

From then on, Laval and Bousquet put forward the Church”s opposition in talks with Oberg to reduce the involvement of the French police in the process of deporting Jews. In the words of Serge Klarsfeld, “the end of this massive cooperation did not come in 1943, after the defeat of Stalingrad, but in September 1942, while Germany was still victorious. This turning point did not mean an end: the French police, still under the orders of Bousquet, arrested 700 people in the Paris region in October, 600 in November and 835 in December, most of whom were French.

In November 1942, the Germans invaded the southern zone. Immediately, the Höherer SS und Polizeiführer set up in all the prefectures to develop its anti-Jewish activities. The German police were probably less effective than the French police, but they hunted down French Jews as well as foreigners, and many French Jews in the southern zone, believing themselves to be protected or forgotten by the Vichy government, had not taken to hiding. From November 1942 to September 1943, the Italian occupation zone, i.e. the two departments of Savoie and especially the Alpes-Maritimes, became the last refuge for the Jews. In September 1943, nearly 30,000 Jews were found in what turned out to be a mousetrap when the Germans invaded the area after the capitulation of Italy. Under the leadership of Alois Brunner, the German police and a Waffen-SS unit combed the three departments, but due to a lack of support from the French authorities, the operation only resulted in the arrest of 2,000 Jews, who were deported to Drancy and then to Auschwitz.

For Laurent Joly, the Vichy leaders probably did not initially envisage a “systematic assassination” of the deported Jews, but their attitude since the summer of 1942 “can be clearly deciphered as a desire to conceal their participation in a crime. Pierre Laval lied in the Council of Ministers about the number of deported Jews. In September 1942, Laval no longer asked the Germans what would become of the Jews, but asked them what to say. Laval “calculated that if there was a crime, Germany”s military victory would make it forgotten, the victors always being right”.

Renaud Meltz mentions that on July 4, 1942, a meeting between Bousquet, Knochen and Dannecker resulted in the following: “The fact of ridding France of the Jews, despite the war, is more than a gesture on the part of Germany and testifies, without any possible ambiguity, to our desire to resolve the question on a European scale. R. Meltz and Bénédicte Vergez-Chaignon added that Bousquet announced to the French bishops who wanted to protest about the fate of the Jews after the round-up that they were “destined to disappear from the continent”. L. Joly considers that Bousquet, like Laval, “locked himself into the same logic of denial and camouflage of reality”.

Among the population, if the reality of the industrial extermination program was not known with precision in France, the fate of the Jews seemed fatal to many. Philippe Pétain”s chief of staff wrote in his diary on July 23, 1942: “They will be sent to Poland with 17 days” worth of food, fifty in a sealed wagon, without water. The Germans will see what is left alive when they arrive”. In October, no one in Vichy was unaware of the final fate of the Jewish deportees according to Paul Morand: gassing.

For public opinion, the public protests of the bishops in the summer of 1942 explicitly mention that the death of the deportees could be expected. Some leaflets of the Resistance movements are just as explicit. Laval and Bouquet were extremely upset by these protests, because they shed a harsh light on a reality that they refused to see: the fatal fate of the deportees.

In July 1942, at least one ultra-collaborationist newspaper, Au Pilori, published an article that announced, beyond Hitler”s declarations of intent, a “general and definitive plan” to exterminate European Jewry. According to Annick Durafour and Pierre-André Taguieff, this imprudent unveiling is undoubtedly what explains the dismissal a few weeks later of the sponsor and head of Le Pilori, Jean Lestandi.

Rescue of the Jews – Righteous of France

A large part of the 75,000 Jews deported to the death camps were deported with the participation of the Vichy government police. Some of the 225,000 Jews who escaped deportation benefited from the silence, complicity or active help of a very large number of French people, sometimes “Maréchalistes”, who have remained mostly anonymous. Religious institutions, whether Jewish, Protestant or Catholic, played a leading role in welcoming the refugees, producing false papers and organizing escape routes. The Protestants, who were in the minority in France, often showed great determination in this rescue. Under the leadership of Pastor André Trocmé and his wife Magda, Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, a village in the Haute-Loire region of France, took in a total of 2,500 Jews for varying lengths of time from 1941 to 1944. Similarly, certain Catholic prelates, such as Jean-Joseph Moussaron in Albi, publicly protested against the persecutions and organized the clandestine reception of Jewish refugees in a network of selected institutions, as well as the delivery of false baptismal certificates.

A specific Jewish resistance developed to oppose the Nazi policy of extermination and in particular to set up channels allowing Jewish children to be sheltered in “Aryan” foster families or in religious institutions.

The French population as a whole remained relatively passive in the face of the anti-Jewish laws in the years 1940-1941, but there was a reversal of opinion with the great roundups in the summer of 1942. From then on, a process of complicity, active or passive, of thousands of non-Jewish French people began to come to their aid, starting with children. A large number of religious establishments, convents, schools, boarding schools and orphanages opened their doors to the outcasts. Others were taken in by families.

During major roundups or arrests that required preparation and logistics, such as the Vel” d”Hiv, prefecture agents or French police officers were able to prevent arrests on an individual basis. Jews were thus saved. They also benefited from the protection of a part of the population. Locally, authors have highlighted cases of civil disobedience which, most of the time, remain anonymous.

From March to December 1942, 43,000 Jews were deported in 43 convoys to Auschwitz. Three quarters came from the northern zone and the remaining quarter from the southern zone.

In 1943, 17,000 Jews were deported in 17 convoys, 13 to Auschwitz, 2 to Majdanek and 2 to Sobibor.

In 1944 (first 7 months), 16,000 Jews were deported in 14 convoys to Auschwitz.

At the end of a book devoted to the persecution and rescue of Jews under the occupation and under Vichy, Israeli historian Asher Cohen concludes:

“The loss of a quarter of the Jewish population was therefore the result not only of the German decision, but also of French collaboration. The survival of three quarters was due as much to the inefficiency of the persecutors as to rescue actions. The pressure of public opinion, the public intervention of a few prelates and the reluctance of the government and the administration, from the end of 1942, limited the losses. The Jewish reaction, ineffective at first, then succeeded in gaining enough sympathy among the population to organize important rescue actions.”

November 1942 was a turning point in the Second World War, marking the moment when, for the first time since the Munich Agreement (1938), Hitler lost the initiative in the West. For Vichy France, this was a rupture that did not escape the notice of its contemporaries. By losing both its sovereignty over part of France and over the Empire, the specific situation that made it possible to justify the policy of neutrality and collaboration collapsed.

On November 8, 1942, the Americans and the British landed on the coast of North Africa, in Algeria and Morocco, as part of Operation Torch. Thanks to the action of the local resistance fighters, who, in agreement with the American consuls, occupied the strategic points of Algiers, and neutralized the Vichy general officers, starting with Juin and Darlan, for several hours, the Allies were able to land without opposition, then surround the city and obtain its surrender within the day, with its port intact. On the other hand, in Oran, and especially in Morocco, in Casablanca, General Noguès, the Resident General, and Vice-Admiral Michelier, who were loyal to Vichy, put up a heroic and useless resistance, which resulted in 1,346 French dead and 2,000 wounded on the one hand and 479 American dead and 720 wounded on the other. A complex political situation ensued in Algiers, where the Americans dealt with Darlan, who happened to be there, and took power in Africa on behalf of Marshal Pétain. Darlan retained all the Vichy laws and kept the political deportees in the concentration camps of North Africa. Admiral Darlan was assassinated on December 24, 1942 by Fernand Bonnier de La Chapelle, and replaced by Giraud. Giraud maintained the Vichy regime and had 27 leaders of the Resistance arrested and sent to various camps, from which they were only released during 1943. It was not until May 30, 1943 that de Gaulle moved to Algiers, but on tiptoe, and for several more months that, after having ousted Giraud in October 1943, he finally managed to re-establish Republican legislation.

For Vichy, the operation has a double consequence:

On the one hand, the complete loss of the Empire, because after AEF (French Equatorial Africa) had passed into the camp of Free France in August 1940, then Syria and Lebanon, after the intervention of the British, it was not only North Africa that escaped Vichy control, but also AOF (French West Africa), which rallied to Darlan on November 23. On November 30, Reunion Island rallied to fighting France.

On the other hand, the Wehrmacht”s invasion of the free zone on November 10, 1942, put an end to the very special status of occupied France. The armistice army, which had fought against the Allies in Morocco, surrendered the southern zone to the Axis forces without firing a shot, which did not prevent the occupiers from disbanding it. Laval then created the Militia, led by Darnand, to replace the dissolved army and repress the dissidents. As for the Toulon fleet, it scuttled itself in extremis on November 27, 1942, against Laval”s request, and after having allowed itself to be surrounded by the Germans and having refused to join the Allies, in spite of the order given on November 11 by Darlan to Admiral de Laborde, commander of the high seas maritime forces in Toulon, to rally to him.

The United Kingdom, on July 3, 1940, shortly after the armistice of June 22, 1940, attacked a French military squadron at anchor in Mers el-Kébir in Operation Catapult, killing 1,297 French sailors and sinking or severely damaging three ships of the line and a destroyer. The British feared that the French squadron would fall into the hands of the Kriegsmarine and could be used against its own naval forces, which were essential for maintaining free global maritime communications and for Allied maritime communications. As a result, Vichy immediately broke off diplomatic relations with the United Kingdom.

The terms of the armistice allowed France to retain the use of its national navy under very strict conditions. The Vichy regime, however, made a commitment to the Allies that it would not fall into the hands of Germany of the Third Reich, but refused to send it beyond the reach of Germany”s zone of influence, either to the United Kingdom or to the distant territories of the French colonial empire (such as the French Antilles). This refusal to put the French Navy out of reach was not reassuring for Winston Churchill. He therefore had the Royal Navy seize the French ships moored in British ports, by trickery or by force. Under the command of Admiral René-Émile Godfroy, a French squadron was anchored in the port of Alexandria. After the conclusion of an agreement with Admiral Andrew Cunningham (commander of the Royal Navy in the Mediterranean), it was immobilized until the summer of 1943, its ammunition unloaded and without fuel to sail.

The USSR maintained diplomatic relations with the Vichy regime until June 30, 1941, but broke them when Vichy announced its support for Operation Barbarossa.

The United States granted diplomatic recognition to the Vichy regime and sent Admiral William Leahy to France as U.S. ambassador until November 1942 (when the Free Zone was invaded by Third Reich troops). President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his Secretary of State Cordell Hull hoped to use American influence to encourage resistance from elements of the Vichy government opposed to military collaboration with Germany. They also wanted to encourage the Vichy regime to resist German military demands such as the use of French air bases in Syria, or the movement of war materials from the metropolitan territory to North Africa. The American position is that the Vichy regime should not take any action that is not explicitly required by the terms of the armistice and

Canada maintained diplomatic relations with the Vichy regime until the beginning of November 1942, both on its own initiative and at the request of the British government, which wished to maintain a channel of communication. It broke off relations with the entry of German troops into the free zone administered by the Vichy regime.

Australia maintained, until the end of World War II, its diplomatic relations with the Vichy regime and also maintained diplomatic relations with General de Gaulle”s Free France; quote from the French Embassy in Canberra: “From June 1940 to July 1944, the French diplomatic representation based in Sydney was dual, one representation officiating for the Vichy government and the other for General de Gaulle.

The period 1940-1944 saw some French people fighting against each other, in a form of “Franco-French” war. Two powers fought for legitimacy: the Vichy government and the authority in London were brought into direct confrontation to compete for the pieces of the French Empire. In Dakar, in September 1940, forces loyal to Pétain repelled the intervention of the Free French Forces and the British, and in Syria, Free French troops fought alongside the British against troops loyal to Vichy in deadly combat.

The Divided Empire

By the summer of 1940, French territories in the Pacific, Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa were in the Free French camp. In the autumn of 1940, the whole of French Equatorial Africa was in the Gaullist camp, with the exception of Gabon, which the Free French Forces and the British invaded in November. An attempted landing in Dakar was however repulsed in September: French West Africa remained in the Vichy camp. On December 24, 1941, a squadron of the Free French Forces, composed of three corvettes and the submarine cruiser Surcouf, commanded by Admiral Émile Muselier, left Halifax, Canada, and rallied the territory of Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon to the Allies.

Since the empire was the last vestige of France”s greatness, the Vichy regime intensified colonial propaganda in order to ensure the stability of the colonies and to win over metropolitan youth through flagship events such as the Colonial Week in 1941 and the Imperial Fortnight in 1942.

The Syria-Lebanon affair (June-July 1941)

Syria and Lebanon were territories placed under French trusteeship by a mandate from the League of Nations, which the French therefore considered to be part of their Empire. At the beginning of 1941, General Henri Dentz, the Vichy representative in Syria, commanded an army of 37,700 men, 28,000 of whom were natives. When General Edgard de Larminat escaped a few months earlier to join the Free French Forces in Palestine, he only managed to train 300 men.

On April 1, 1941, an anti-British coup d”état took place in Iraq (a country under British influence), supported by the German services. The oil issue was obviously of primary importance. While negotiating the Paris Protocols, one of which related to the Levant (the name given to the Middle East at the time), Darlan, with the personal agreement of Marshal Pétain, deepened his collaboration with the enemy by granting it technical support in Syria, as well as the possibility for Luftwaffe aircraft to use Syrian airfields to bomb the British in Iraq. Darlan met with Hitler on May 14, 1941, and then with ambassador Otto Abetz, with whom he signed the Paris agreements, which explicitly provided for the use of French bases in Syria.

This new situation only aggravated the anxiety of the British and the Americans. When the British had finished with Rachid Ali al-Gillani”s rebellion in Iraq, they attacked the French forces in Syria and Lebanon on June 8, 1941. 30,000 British soldiers, supported by a division of Free French, attacked General Dentz”s 37,700 men. Far from limiting themselves to a “baroud d”honneur”, the French of General Dentz resisted. The fighting lasted until July 14th and resulted in 1,066 killed and 5,400 wounded for General Dentz”s French, 650 killed and wounded for the Free French and 4,060 killed and wounded for the British. The bulk of the troops returned to France, but despite the harshness of the fighting that had just taken place, 5,500 men joined the Free French. However, the British, who perhaps did not want to maintain a large French force in the Middle East, had made it difficult for Free French officers to contact Vichy prisoners.

The liberated Empire

It was only after Operation Torch, the Allied landing in French North Africa in November 1942, that French West Africa and Togo rallied to the Allies. Admiral Darlan, who was kept in power in Algiers by the United States, claimed to govern French Africa “in the name of the prevented Marshal”, although he was repeatedly disowned by Vichy. The Vichy laws were retained. After Darlan”s assassination, they were maintained for several months by General Henri Giraud, head of the Allied French forces in North Africa, but were then gradually abandoned: the effigies of Pétain disappeared little by little in Algeria. With the merger in June 1943 of the forces of Charles de Gaulle and Henri Giraud – who brought West Africa with him – the entire Empire was reunited under the aegis of the resistance forces. Vichy no longer had a colonial empire, with the exception of French Indochina, led by Governor Jean Decoux and subject to occupation by the Japanese Empire.

The “Franco-French war” also took place in metropolitan France. It saw a confrontation between the domestic Resistance (generally rallied to General de Gaulle, but partly influenced by the Communist Party, and which grew considerably from 1943 onwards) and the Vichy authorities, in particular the French Militia, created in January 1943 to fight against “terrorism”, i.e. against the Resistance, and which operated under the orders of the occupiers.

Some of the first Resistance groups that developed in the free zone, such as Henri Frenay”s Combat movement, were not strictly speaking opposed to Marshal Pétain. On the other hand, police investigations remained discreet, while from 1940 onwards, the Vichy police mercilessly hunted down communist activists who had not yet clearly committed themselves to the Resistance. In the various internment camps controlled by the French government, historian Denis Peschanski does not note any appreciable presence of French political prisoners who were not communists: “Between 1940 and 1942, the repressive camp was largely anti-communist. Nevertheless, as the Resistance grew in strength, the Vichy government had to enforce its authority. The reversal of public opinion, which had been evident since the summer of 1942, became more and more pronounced and was even mentioned in the columns of the Vichy press.

The fight against the Resistance will be one of the main missions of the Militia, created on January 30, 1943 and whose leader will be Joseph Darnand. Its strength reached 30,000 men. But only 6,000 of them were active at any given time, also taking part, as auxiliary troops for the Germans, in operations against the maquis, in particular that of Les Glières. They also participated in all sorts of exactions and assassinations.

Until June 1944, according to the historian and Resistance fighter Marcel Baudot, 2,000 French people known to be collaborators were killed: they were members of collaborationist parties, such as the PPF or the Militia, but also Vichy officials or individuals accused of activities in favor of the occupier. 4,000 such cases were counted between June 6, 1944 and the liberation of the various departments concerned.

The archives of the Militia have been completely destroyed and are therefore not available for consultation.

The number of mental patients who died of malnutrition in psychiatric hospitals in France between 1940 and 1944 was 40,000 according to Max Lafont. According to Claude Quétel and Olivier Bonnet, it was closer to 50,000. Most of these deaths occurred between 1941 and 1943. This toll is explained by indifference and oblivion, against which only very rare and weak protests are raised. The artists Sylvain Fusco, Léona Delcourt, Séraphine de Senlis and Camille Claudel were among these victims.

For the French, 1944 was a year of new upheavals. Bombings, causing many civilian deaths, preceded and accompanied the two landings in Normandy (June 6) and Provence (August 15). In the south and north of the country, the Western Allies, including the French Liberation Army, gradually drove out the Nazi occupiers, who dragged the Vichy authorities into their retreat. During and after the Liberation, a judicial and extra-judicial purge hit the collaborators and executives of the Vichy government.

Landings and Liberation

The Allied forces, aided by the French interior Resistance, gradually pushed back the Germans, while the French Militia fought the Resistance. Created on June 3, 1944, a few days before the Allied landings, the Provisional Government of the French Republic (GPRF) established its authority over the liberated territory in the weeks following the Battle of Normandy, and gradually replaced the Vichy regime in practice. The latter, born of the defeat of France in 1940, pursued a repressive and reactionary policy while collaborating with the occupying forces, and gradually became discredited in the eyes of the civilian population.

In spite of this, the Vichy authorities, adopting a façade of neutrality, tried to divert the French from the resistance: “We are not in the war” declared Pétain, asking civil servants to remain at their posts. In his name, Admiral Auphan tried to make contact with the Allies and even with de Gaulle. He was rejected while Laval was looking for parliamentary solutions and invented political combinations in which Henri Queuille would be in the Élysée and Herriot in Matignon.

Ordinance of August 1944 and the departure of Pétain

By its ordinance of August 9, 1944, still in force, concerning the re-establishment of republican legality on the continental territory, the GPRF affirmed the permanence in law of the French Republic and denied any legitimacy to the Vichy government and its acts (constitutional or not).

Article 1 states:

“The form of government of France is and remains the Republic. In law, it has not ceased to exist.

From which article two follows:

“Consequently, all constitutional, legislative or regulatory acts, as well as the decrees issued for their execution, under any name whatsoever, promulgated on the continental territory after June 16, 1940 and until the re-establishment of the Provisional Government of the French Republic are null and void.

Article seven of the ordinance describes the Vichy regime as “the de facto authority calling itself the ”government of the French state””, denying it any form of legality.

On August 17, Laval held a mock council meeting in Paris with five ministers. He resigned and was taken to Belfort by the Germans. On the same day, the Germans, in the person of Cecil von Renthe-Fink, Minister Delegate, asked Pétain to allow himself to be transferred to the northern zone. He refused and asked for a written statement of this demand. Von Renthe-Fink renewed his request twice on the 18th, then returned to the Hôtel du Parc, the Marshal”s residence, on the 19th, at 11:30 a.m., accompanied by General von Neubroon, who indicated that he had “formal orders from Berlin”. The written text was submitted to Pétain: “The Reich government gives instructions to carry out the transfer of the head of state, even against his will”. Faced with the Marshal”s renewed refusal, the Germans threatened to have the Wehrmacht intervene to bomb Vichy. After taking the Swiss ambassador, Walter Stucki, as a witness to the blackmail he was being subjected to, Pétain submitted, and “when at 7:30 p.m. Renthe-Fink entered the Marshal”s office with General von Neubronn, the Head of State was in the process of supervising the packing of his suitcases and putting away his papers. The next day, he was taken against his will to the castle of Morvillars near Belfort, then to Germany. On September 8, he arrived at the castle of Sigmaringen (Baden-Württemberg) where a number of survivors of the Vichy regime and the collaboration, including Laval, were gathered. The departure of Pétain on August 20, followed by the liberation of Paris on August 25, completed the disappearance of the Vichy regime.

The Americans threatened to put France under military administration. De Gaulle managed to turn the situation around. When he arrived in Bayeux on June 14, he was greeted by a standing ovation from the crowd, made his first speech on liberated French soil and installed a commissioner of the Republic. Afterwards, de Gaulle went to Paris, which had been liberated by the Resistance and the Leclerc division, and received a triumphant standing ovation. His provisional government was finally recognized by all the Allies on October 23, and Roosevelt definitively renounced the installation in the liberated metropolis of an AMGOT military government – some historians even believe that the Americans had never really thought about it as seriously as they had long been believed. De Gaulle then visited the American president, who seemed to have abandoned his prejudices against him.

France, liberated and once again sovereign, took its place in the Allied camp, and since the Vichy prefects had no difficulty in handing over their powers to the new commissioners of the Republic, the administration rallied en bloc to the new provisional government without major upheaval.

When France was liberated in August 1944, General de Gaulle, President of the Provisional Government of the French Republic (GPRF), refused to accede to the demands of those, including Georges Bidault, then President of the National Council of the Resistance, who urged him to “re-establish the Republic,” telling them that it had never ceased to exist because he had always considered the “French State” to be illegitimate: “The Republic has never ceased to exist. Free France, Fighting France, the French Committee for National Liberation have in turn incorporated it. Vichy was always and remains null and void. I myself am the president of the government of the Republic. Why would I go and proclaim it?

A Vichy government in exile, the Sigmaringen Governmental Commission, headed by Fernand de Brinon and dominated by personalities who were very committed to the Collaboration, such as Marcel Déat, existed in Sigmaringen from September 1944 until April 1945, but without any real power to act. Pétain and Laval, who considered themselves prisoners of the Germans, did not participate. French troops entered Sigmaringen on April 23, 1945, putting an end to the existence of this government in exile.

A number of executives and political figures of the Vichy regime were convicted after the world conflict; several tens of thousands of people were convicted of the crime of national indignity, created by GPRF order. Pierre Laval was sentenced to death for high treason and shot on October 15, 1945. Philippe Pétain, also sentenced to death, had his sentence commuted to life imprisonment by General de Gaulle because of his advanced age.

Although the day after the liberation, the French Republic declared that “all constitutional, legislative or regulatory acts” drawn up under the Vichy regime were null and void, several measures taken during this period remained afterwards, as the ordinance of August 9, 1944, relating to the re-establishment of republican legality on the continental territory, stipulated that “this nullity must be expressly noted:

Several measures were repealed and then revalidated at the Liberation, as General de Gaulle considered that “the social doctrines of the National Revolution, corporative organization, labor charter, family privileges, included ideas that were not without interest”:

The question of the Vichy archives and, more broadly, of the Second World War may have given rise to some questions, controversies and a certain slowness on the part of the State to declassify certain documents (for example, the controversy over the Tulard file, a file listing the Jews of the Paris region). On December 24, 2015, a decree of the Valls II government “opening archives relating to the Second World War” instituted a general derogation concerning the Vichy archives, thus allowing any citizen (and no longer only researchers whose request for consultation is accepted by the administration) to consult classified archives, before the expiration of the legal time limits set at 75 years. This concerns in particular the archives of the various jurisdictions and the police. A circular dated October 2, 1997, concerning access to public archives from the period 1940-1945, initiated this policy of openness.


The database ” Écrits de Guerre et d”Occupation ” (EGO 1939-1945) is intended to make an exhaustive inventory of all the testimonies, accounts, diaries and memoirs, concerning France and the French during the Second World War, published from 1939 until today.



  1. Régime de Vichy
  2. Vichy France