Instead, he insisted upon being allowed to return to France as a private citizen. Indeed, the willingness of the French High Command to sacrifice the lives of their men in such a manner so soon after the trauma of Verdun astonished them especially when it was clear there would be no breakthrough. https://www.history.com/topics/world-war-i/henri-philippe-petain. The French Army appeared on the point of a collective meltdown and action had to be taken and swiftly. Promised a great victory that would bring an end to the war once and for all the French troops threw themselves repeatedly at the German trenches. As the war progressed, the Vichy Government sank deeper into collaboration with the German occupiers which finally took control of the totality of metropolitan France. Of the 75,000 French Jews who were transported to Auschwitz very few ever returned. Pétain had a significant influence over French forces in the interwar period, but his role has sometimes been exaggerated. Henri-Philippe Pétain (1856-1951) was a World War I French general who was later imprisoned for treason. Upright, dignified, ultra-conservative and calm, he was considered a saviour by most French opinion: an archbishop called him ‘the incarnation of suffering France’. Churchill declared that Petain had been a defeatist in World War One and was still one today. France pop. Harrison, who was born into a prominent Virginia family, joined the ...read more. In subsequent months, Pétain revived the French army by meting out a combination of rewards and punishments, including about fifty-five executions (not the hundreds that some critics have alleged). His tenure, from March 4, 1841, to April 4, 1841, is the shortest of any U.S. president. Despite Pétain’s success and his concern for his soldiers, General Robert Nivelle was chosen to replace General Marshal Joseph Joffre as commander of French forces; he then brought France to the edge of disaster with his ruinous offensive in April 1917. A new Cabinet with Pétain as head of government was formed, with Henry du Moulin de Labarthète as the Cabinet Secretary. In such a divisive and frenzied political atmosphere, only exacerbated by the World Economic Depression and mass unemployment, it proved impossible to adopt a coherent policy for national defence and despite being personally popular Petain was acknowledged as a man of the Right, and his political superiors were often not. Petain's acceptance of the "principle" of collaboration meant that he had put a finger into the machine. France between the wars was hopelessly politically divided and Governments came and went with alarming alacrity, Left and Right clashed on the streets of Paris and other major cities, and there appeared to be no middle-way. Is this what Petain meant by collaboration? In 1997, I interviewed a winegrower in his wine cellar near Saumur, on the Loire. For a lot of French people at the time Petain was also seen as the person who prevented the destruction of France. Those returning from leave often did so drunk, while many others did not return at all. July 2016; Authors: ... Pétain as he was portrayed in a similar light to Hitler and Mussolini as being a man who had . He was the heroic defender of Verdun, a recipient of the Legion d’honneur, and a Marshal of France, a man respected by his troops and admired by his countrymen. He immediately set about putting France right, as he saw it. The so-called Phoney War was taking its toll on French morale. The French president himself has advanced the recognition of France’s complicity in the Holocaust – but his desire to honor Petain demonstrates the fragility of that process. Subscribe for fascinating stories connecting the past to the present. On 30 October 1940, Pétain made state collaboration official, declaring on the radio: "I enter today on the path of collaboration." The grim struggle for Verdun would continue for a further eight months and though Petain’s presence as Commander of the Second Army remained throughout the laurels of final victory would go to General Nivelle but any sense of triumphalism was muted for it had been bought at a terrible cost with due to the rotation system implemented by Petain more the three-quarters of the French Army passing through Verdun some 400,0000 of whom became casualties. Marshal Henri-Philippe Pétain endeared himself to the French nation during World War I. His success and his careful methods convinced French soldiers that he would not needlessly waste their lives. Arrested upon his return he was tried for treason on 25 July 1945. His desire to ...read more, Henry Hudson made his first voyage west from England in 1607, when he was hired to find a shorter route to Asia from Europe through the Arctic Ocean. In 1903, he established the Ford Motor Company, and five years later the company ...read more, The West Point-educated Henry Slocum was made a lieutenant colonel in the 27th New York Volunteer Regiment when the Civil War broke out in April 1861. His portrayal in three of ...read more, King Henry VIII (1491-1547) ruled England for 36 years, presiding over sweeping changes that brought his nation into the Protestant Reformation. Pétain, a veteran of the first world war who took the helm of the collaborationist French state in his mid-80s, was tried by Charles de Gaulle's provisional postwar … Copyright © 1996 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. The senseless slaughter of Nivelle’s offensive proved the final straw, the French soldier had simply had enough and they refused to leave their trenches. Subsequently naming himself the head of state in Vichy France, he headed a curious government that adopted “Work, Family, Country” as its slogan and sought a “National Revival.” In April 1942, at the age of eighty-five, he passed real power to Pierre Laval, who pursued an openly collaborationist policy with the Germans. The country was ill-prepared for another conflict with years of under-funding, social division, and political in-fighting denuding the French Army of its martial spirit. Your email address will not be published. Unlike so many of Hitler’s other Quislings, Petain was not a fascist who had a craving for power for its own sake, but he was a bigoted Right-Wing Reactionary, set in his ways, who misguidedly believed that by collaborating with Hitler he could maintain the dignity of France. Petain's actions during World War II resulted in a conviction and death sentence for treason, which was commuted to life imprisonment by Charles de Gaulle. Later, during the mid-1930s, he served as minister of war for a brief period. He was to the French people the Saviour of Verdun who had prevented a humiliating and morale sapping defeat but to the French High Command he was an over-cautious and pessimistic man whose constant demands for more men and more munitions were made regardless of events elsewhere on the Western Front. However, Darlan was going to adopt a tactic image caption Petain (L) accepted a Nazi collaboration deal with Hitler in October 1940 Previously only researchers and journalists could see some archives, with special permission. Severely wounded in the First Battle of Bull Run (Manassas), he recovered in time to lead Union troops in 1862’s Peninsula ...read more, One of the most renowned kings in English history, Henry V (1387-1422) led two successful invasions of France, cheering his outnumbered troops to victory at the 1415 Battle of Agincourt and eventually securing full control of the French throne. They ruthlessly hunted down, tortured, and executed members of the Resistance. This period began on June 26, 1944, with approximately 120,000 people sentenced to various punishments. On 15 August, he was found guilty of treason and sentenced to death. The ageing and increasingly truculent Marshal of France appeared to agree. It was not "collaborating." He famously married a series of six wives in his search for political alliance, marital bliss and a healthy male heir. But Laval's successors were unacceptable to the Germans and Laval was restored. Placed upon the Reserve List his retirement proved short-lived and upon the outbreak of war with Germany he was recalled to the colours where following a purge of the higher-echelons of the French Army by its Commander-in-Chief Joseph Joffre the promotion he had so long yearned for at last materialised and by early 1916 he was General of the Second Army stationed near the fortress town of Verdun – he proved to be a competent and respected if cautious and unimaginative commander. France was divided into two zones: one under German military occupation and one left to the French in … Absolutely -- but he was not explicitly calling for collaboration at that point. The Liberal Republicanism and the socialism it spawned had been responsible for the dilution of the French fighting spirit. When the General Election of 1936 returned a Left-Wing Popular Government, Petain believed it meant the death of France. So when the Germans began rounding up French Jews for transportation to the Concentration Camps in August 1941, French Officials were enthusiastic participants. The Reader’s Companion to Military History. Because he had little choice. Vichy France (July 1940–September 1944), France under the regime of Marshal Philippe Petain, from France’s defeat by Nazi Germany to its liberation by the Allies in World War II. What did Hitler promise Pétain? Why did so many Europeans collaborate with the Nazi occupiers? Churchill was able to stiffen his resolve but the situation remained perilous indeed. of 65 million- Nazis send in 30,000 troops to rule over France, French collaboration needed for Nazis to maintain control over France Peasants fearful of dem. A. Pétain — who was in his mid-80s when he took the top Vichy post — was tried and sentenced to death for collaboration after the war. All rights reserved. Indeed, many within the Government were eager to facilitate the Germans in any way they possibly could. Anything he proposed was judged not on its merits but on his politics. Charles de Gaulle, the Head of the Provisional Government, and still formally a member of Petain’s Staff, commuted the sentence to life imprisonment on the grounds of his advanced old age and previous services to France. Their time would come he told his men but for now they would hold what they had as he set about reorganising the defence; the one narrow road to Verdun from the town of Bar-le-Duc fifty miles away he kept open and in constant use as troops were rotated in and out of the front line every two weeks as the endless columns of trucks carrying ammunition, supplies, and the wounded to and from Verdun soon earned it the title the Voie Sacree, or Sacred Road. It was mutiny, Officer’s orders were ignored and some were even shot at and many taken prisoner. In 1876, he joined the French Army attending the St Cyr Military Academy where he controversially refused to adopt the accepted French military philosophy of elan, or the furious full-frontal assault, insisting instead that – ‘firepower kills.’ It was perhaps an indication of a difficult character for his career in the army was steady rather than spectacular and his rise through its ranks painfully slow; in the spring of 1914 at the age of 58 having at last made the rank of Colonel and with little prospect of further promotion he bought a house and decided to retire. Petain, a stubborn, phlegmatic, essentially humourless, reactionary set in his ways blamed the Third Republic for the moral decay of France and feared a Communist takeover. Robert Nivelle was brash, outspoken, and confident that despite the exhaustion of the French Army following the prolonged struggle at Verdun his planned assault on the German held Chemin des Dames Ridge would succeed where all others had failed. The Right-Wing press agreed and began to openly declare for a dictatorship, and their preferred candidate for the role was, Philippe Petain. Throughout their initial meeting Petain, as was his way, remained largely silent making Hitler ponder on the issue of whether or not he was actually senile, but when he did speak he was to prove himself a tough and wily negotiator. M ost French people ‘did nothing’ because that was the safest course of action. He had long blamed the Third Republic for the corruption and moral decay that had blighted French society. Liberal values and secularism were disavowed in favour of an authoritarian Catholic social hierarchy. Despite the increasingly frantic efforts to stem the German tide by the end of May 1940, the British Expeditionary Force was being evacuated from the beaches at Dunkirk. Southern France was to remain nominally independent. Soon, Pétain assumed plenipotentiary powers as Head of State. From the start, he distinguished himself by his meticulous attention to detail, his careful preparation, and his reliance on artillery. Prior to the outbreak of the war France had been a hotbed of fascist propaganda, and Far-Right organisations such as Action Francaise and the Croix de Feu had been prominent, active, and responsible for much of the violence on the streets. Petain did little to rein them in, if indeed he ever wanted to. So France would no longer be a Republic but a State. In October Pétain launched an attack on the fortress of La Malmaison in the Chemin des Dames, near where Nivelle’s offensive had failed, and successfully seized this dominating piece of terrain. It worked and the obdurate Petain, despite his popularity with the army, was forced to step down to be replaced by Ferdinand Foch who became the Commander-in-Chief of all Allied armies on the Western Front. On 14 June, Paris was occupied. We will look into it. Pétain and his entourage saw the defeat of France and the collapse of the Third Republic as a chance to wipe out the legacy of permissiveness and decadence represented by the left-wing Popular Front government of the 1930s and the French Revolution. Petain was appointed in his place. Pétain meeting Hitler in October 1940. Petain’s stoicism and calm determination soon began to filter through to the troops and confidence restored as living up to his own maxim that ‘firepower kills’ he emphasised the use of artillery subjecting the German positions to a constant and intensive barrage whilst restricting infantry assaults to specifically targeted weak points with limited objectives. His request that he be buried at the site of his greatest triumph Verdun was denied, however. Pétain’s job was to get France out of the war and he did. Nine years later, he was elected mayor of Aubervilliers and did not relinquish that role until shortly before his arrest in 1944 by the Nazis. Reynaud wanted to continue the fight even if this meant abandoning France altogether and doing so from their colonies overseas. Petain established a Fascist-oriented government that became notorious for its collaboration with the Third Reich. Laval was born in the Auvergne region of France and never forgot his roots in the working-class region or as mayor of Aubervilliers, a north-eastern Paris suburb. Indeed, the French SS Charlemagne Division was amongst the last troops defending Hitler’s Bunker in Berlin in April 1945. Barring an opening statement when he questioned the validity of the Court to try him, he did nothing to defend himself and remained silent throughout the rest of the trial. Your report has been successfully sent. Now many on the Far-Right believed they had carte-blanche to impose their views on the population as a whole. All Rights Reserved. Upon gaining power, Pétain's regime rapidly dismantled liberal institutions and adopted an authoritarian course. In December 1940, Pétain dismissed his vice-premier, Pierre Laval, for his policy of close Franco-German collaboration. He was a gifted orator and major figure in the American Revolution. In October 1940, Pétain's collaboration took an overt turn, when a photograph of … Why Did Macron Say France Should 'Offer Homage' to Nazi Collaborator Petain? The very idea of equality of man was dismissed as an absurdity – the Conservative Revolution was underway. In February 1916, Pétain became commander of French forces at Verdun. Three days later, broadcasting from Bordeaux where the French Government had been forced to flee, Petain announced to the French people that he would be seeking armistice terms. He offered to grant full British citizenship to all Frenchmen and absorb both countries into one if only they would continue to fight. Also, by the end of WWII Petain was rather old, turning 84 in 1940, further diminishing the need to punish him for collaboration (in this context "punishment" would typically mean execution for a functionary of his calibre). Delayed by bad weather the assault finally began on 21 February 1916 with a ferocious artillery barrage that not only obliterated the French outer-defences but appears to have caught them totally unawares causing confusion, bewilderment, and no little panic. Hindsight is great 75 years after the fact, but in June 1940, there weren’t too many options. Others made greater contributions in structuring and preparing French forces for the next war. Even so, the Vichy Government remained responsible for Civil Administration. Q. Nivelle, however, refused to cancel the offensive or significantly scale it down but with the intensity of the attacks flagging and sometimes not being carried out at all on 9 May having endured 187,000 casualties for very little gain and under intense political pressure he had no choice but to do so. Frankly, it’s hard to not pity him. He set about his task with vigour, the series of counter-attacks which had stalled the German advance but achieved little else at very great cost he ordered to cease and the French positions consolidated. Nevertheless, he played an important part in the design and placement of the Maginot line; he himself chose the best sites for its major fortresses. Despite Haig’s protestations however, Petain refused to budge. The Army High Command and Petain in particular, insisted that all was lost. He told the Kaiser he would ‘bleed the French white’ by attacking an iconic symbol of Gallic resistance that for reasons of morale and national prestige they could not permit to fall – the place chosen was Verdun, a fortress town since the time of Louis XIV on the Meuse River in North-East France. When in March 1918, the Germans launched Operation Michael, their big push to win the war, they adopted new tactics that included short but intensive artillery barrages, the extensive use of poison gas, and specially trained storm-troopers some armed with flamethrowers – they quickly broke through the British front-line. Disinclined to engage in the high-flown rhetoric of patriotism and sacrifice to exhort every last effort from his troops so favoured by others (for example the phrase ‘They Shall not Pass’ with which he is so closely associated was in fact coined by his successor Robert Nivelle who had no such qualms) he was viewed by those under his command as a soldier’s soldier, someone who cared for his men, shared their hardships, and would not squander their lives. Between the wars he was to hold a number of prominent posts including Inspector-General of the Army, Minister of War, and Minister of State. (The noria system was named after a device used to raise water from a well, which consisted of a revolving chain of buckets that filled at the bottom of the well and emptied at the top.) 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