World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Vichy France

French State
État français
German-affiliated neutral state (1940–42)

Puppet government in the French territories under German military administration
(northern France only 1940–44, southern part also, 1942–44)


Flag Emblem
"Travail, Famille, Patrie"
"Work, Family, Fatherland"
La Marseillaise
The Song of Marseille  (official)
Maréchal, nous voilà! [1]
Marshal, we are here!  (unofficial)
The gradual loss of all Vichy territory to Free France and the Axis. Click on map for color legend
The gradual loss of all Vichy territory to Free France and the Axis powers. Legend.
Evolution of the occupation zones. Vichy France was set up as a rump state in the non-occupied zone libre (purple on the map).
Capital Vichy (de facto)
Parisa (de jure)
Capital-in-exile Sigmaringen 1944–45
Languages French
Religion Roman Catholicism
Government Authoritarian state
Chief of the French State
 -  1940–1944 Philippe Pétain
President of the Council of Ministers
 -  1940–1942 Philippe Pétain
 -  1942–1944 Pierre Laval
Legislature National Assembly
Historical era World War II
 -  Second Compiègne 22 June 1940
 -  Pétain given full powers 10 July 1940
 -  operation Torch 8 November 1942
 -  Case Anton 11 November 1942
 -  German retreat summer 1944
 -  capture of the Sigmaringen enclave 22 April 1945
 -  Disestablished 1944
Currency French franc
a. Paris remained the formal capital of the French State, though the Vichy regime never operated from it.
b. Although the French Republic's institutions were officially maintained, the word "Republic" never occurred in any official document of the Vichy government.
Part of a series on the
National EmblemNational EmblemNational Emblem
France portal

Vichy France, officially the French State (État français), was the government of Marshal Philippe Pétain's regime 1940–44, during World War II. From 1940 to 1942, while nominally the government of France as a whole, Vichy only fully controlled the unoccupied zone in southern France, while Germany occupied northern France. Following the Allied landings in French North Africa on 8 November 1942, southern France was also occupied by the Axis on 11 November 1942 through the enactment of Case Anton. The Vichy regime remained in existence, but was reduced to a puppet government.

After being appointed Premier of France by President Albert Lebrun, Marshal Pétain ordered his men to sign the Second Armistice at Compiègne on 22 June 1940 with Germany. He then established an authoritarian regime by gaining full powers on 10 July 1940 to replace the French Third Republic that was dissolving due to the fall of France earlier in 1940.

The newly formed French State maintained nominal sovereignty over the whole of French territory as defined by the armistice, per standard international law, and full sovereignty only in the unoccupied southern zone libre ("free zone"). It had limited authority in the northern zones under military occupation. The occupation was to be a provisional state of affairs pending the conclusion of the war, which at the time appeared imminent, and presented advantages such as keeping the French Navy and the colonial empire, and avoiding full occupation of the country, thus maintaining a meaningful degree of independence and neutrality.

Germany kept two million French soldiers in Germany as forced labourers to enforce its terms, which included a drastic reduction of the French army and air force, a heavy tribute, and numerous other economically and militarily favourable conditions for the Axis. Vichy authorities were brought in to round up Jews and other "undesirables" such as communists and political refugees. Much of the French public initially supported the new government despite its undemocratic and pro-Axis policies, often seeing it as necessary to maintain a degree of French autonomy and territorial integrity. In November 1942 however, the zone libre was also occupied, leading to the disbandment or scuttling of what remained of Vichy military forces and ending any semblance of independence, with Germany now closely supervising all French officials.

The greater part of the overseas French colonies were originally under Vichy control, but it lost one after another to Charles de Gaulle's Free France by the time of the invasion of North Africa. Public opinion turned against the Vichy regime and the occupying German forces over time and resistance to them increased. Following the Allied invasion of France in June 1944 and the subsequent Liberation of France in summer 1944, the Free French Provisional Government of the French Republic (GPRF) succeeded Vichy as France's government. Led by de Gaulle under a "national unanimity" cabinet uniting the many factions of the French Resistance, the GPRF re-established a provisional French Republic thus restoring continuity with the Third Republic. Most of the Vichy regime's leaders fled or were put on trial by the GPRF, and a number were executed for treason in legal purges (épuration légale). Thousands of collaborators were summarily executed by local Resistance forces in so-called "savage purges" (épuration sauvage).

The last Vichy exiles were captured in the Sigmaringen enclave by the French 1st Armoured Division in April 1945. Pétain was sentenced to death for treason, but this was commuted to life imprisonment. Only four senior Vichy officials were tried for crimes against humanity, although many more had participated in the deportation of Jews for extermination in concentration camps, abuses of prisoners and severe acts against members of the Resistance.


In 1940, Marshal Pétain was known as a First World War hero, the victor of the battle of Verdun. As the last premier of the Third Republic, being a reactionary by inclination, he blamed the Third Republic's democracy for France's sudden defeat. He set up a paternalistic, semi-fascist regime that actively collaborated with Germany, its official neutrality notwithstanding. The Vichy government cooperated with the Nazis' racial policies.

France under German occupation (Nazis occupied the southern zone starting in November 1942—Operation Case Anton). The green zone was under Italian administration.
Personal flag of Philippe Pétain, Chief of State of Vichy France (Chef de l'État Français)

In theory, the civil jurisdiction of the Vichy government extended over most of metropolitan France; only the disputed border territory of Alsace-Lorraine was placed under direct German administration.[2] Similarly, a sliver of French territory in the Alps was under direct Italian administration from June 1940 to September 1943. Throughout the rest of the country, civil servants were under the formal authority of French ministers in Vichy. René Bousquet, the head of French police nominated by Vichy, exercised his power directly in Paris through his second-in-command, Jean Leguay, who coordinated raids with the Nazis. German laws, however, took precedence over French ones in the occupied territories, and the Germans often rode roughshod over the sensibilities of Vichy administrators.

On 11 November 1942, following the landing of the Allies in North Africa (operation Torch), the Axis launched Operation Anton, occupying southern France and disbanding the strictly limited "Armistice Army" that Vichy had been allowed by the armistice.

The Vichy Regime was acknowledged as the official government of France by the USA until 23 October 1944,[3] and several other Allied countries, including Canada.

Vichy's claim to be the legitimate French government has been denied by Free France and all subsequent French governments after the war. They maintain the Vichy Regime was an illegal government run by traitors, having come to power through an unconstitutional putsch. Historians have particularly debated the circumstances of the vote granting full powers to Pétain on 10 July 1940. The main arguments advanced against Vichy's right to incarnate the continuity of the French state were based on the pressure exerted by Laval on deputies in Vichy, and on the absence of 27 deputies and senators who had fled on the ship Massilia, and could thus not take part in the vote.


Vichy sought an anti-modern counter-revolution. The Right in France, with strength in the aristocracy and among Catholics, had never accepted the republican traditions of the French Revolution. It demanded a return to traditional lines of culture and religion and embraced authoritarianism while dismissing democracy.[4] The Communist element, strongest in labour unions, turned against the regime in June 1941, when Germany invaded the Soviet Union. Vichy was intensely anti-Communist and generally pro-Nazi; Payne finds that it, "was distinctly rightist and authoritarian but never fascist."[5] Paxton analyzes the entire range of Vichy supporters, from reactionaries to moderate liberal modernizers, and concludes that genuine fascist elements had but minor roles in most sectors.[6]

The regime tried to assert its legitimacy by symbolically connecting itself to the Gallo-Roman period of France's history, and celebrated the Gaul chieftain Vercingetorix as the "founder" of the nation.[7] It was maintained that as the defeat of the Gauls in the Battle of Alesia had been the moment in French history when a sense of common nationhood was born, the defeat of 1940 would again unify the nation.[7] The regime's "Francisque" insignia featured two symbols from the Gallic period: the baton and the double-headed hatchet (labrys) arranged so as to resemble the fasces, symbol of the Italian Fascists.[7]

Fall of France and establishment of the Vichy Regime

France declared war on Germany on 3 September 1939 following the German invasion of Poland, which took place two days prior. After the eight-month Phoney War, the Germans launched their offensive in the west on 10 May 1940. Within days, it became clear that French forces were overwhelmed and that military collapse was imminent.[8] Government and military leaders, deeply shocked by the débâcle, debated how to proceed. Many officials, including Prime Minister Paul Reynaud, wanted to move the government to French territories in North Africa, and continue the war with the French Navy and colonial resources. Others, particularly the Vice-Premier Philippe Pétain and the Commander-in-Chief, General Maxime Weygand, insisted that the responsibility of the government was to remain in France and share the misfortune of its people. The latter view called for an immediate cessation of hostilities.[9]:121–126

While this debate continued, the government was forced to relocate several times, finally reaching Bordeaux, to avoid capture by advancing German forces. Communications were poor and thousands of civilian refugees clogged the roads. In these chaotic conditions, advocates of an armistice gained the upper hand. The Cabinet agreed on a proposal to seek armistice terms from Germany, with the understanding that, should Germany set forth dishonourable or excessively harsh terms, France would retain the option to continue to fight. General Charles Huntziger, who headed the French armistice delegation, was told to break off negotiations if the Germans demanded the occupation of all metropolitan France, the French fleet or any of the French overseas territories. They did not.[10]

French prisoners of war are marched off under German guard, 1940

Prime Minister Paul Reynaud was in favor of continuing the war, from North Africa if necessary; however, he was soon outvoted by those who advocated surrender. Facing an untenable situation, Reynaud resigned and, on his recommendation, President Albert Lebrun appointed the 84-year-old Pétain as his replacement on 16 June. The Armistice with France (Second Compiègne) agreement was signed on 22 June. A separate agreement was reached with Italy, which had entered the war against France on 10 June, well after the outcome of the battle was decided.

Adolf Hitler had a number of reasons for agreeing to an armistice. He wanted to ensure that France did not continue to fight from North Africa, and he wanted to ensure that the French Navy was taken out of the war. In addition, leaving a French government in place would relieve Germany of the considerable burden of administering French territory, particularly as he turned his attentions toward Britain. Finally, as Germany lacked a navy sufficient to occupy France's overseas territories, Hitler's only practical recourse to deny the British use of them was to maintain France's status as a de jure independent and neutral nation.

Conditions of armistice and 10 July 1940 vote of full powers

The armistice divided France into occupied and unoccupied zones: northern and western France including the entire Atlantic coast were occupied by Germany, and the remaining two-fifths of the country were under the control of the French government with the capital at Vichy under Pétain. Ostensibly, the French government administered the entire territory.


Germany took two million French soldiers as prisoners of war and sent them to camps in Germany. About one third were released on various terms by 1944. Of the remainder, the officers and NCOs (corporals and sergeants) were kept in camps and did not work. The privates were sent first to "Stalag" camps for processing and then were put out to work. About half of them worked in German agriculture, where food supplies were adequate and controls were lenient. The others worked in factories or mines, where conditions were much harsher.[11]

Army of the Armistice

French colonial prisoner in German captivity, 1940. Black troops were treated worse than their white compatriots, and some of them were used for anthropological and medical experiments.[12]

The Germans preferred to occupy northern France themselves. The French had to pay costs for the 300,000-strong German occupation army, amounting to 20 million Reichmarks per day, paid at the artificial rate of twenty francs to the Mark. This was 50 times the actual costs of the occupation garrison. The French government also had responsibility for preventing citizens from escaping into exile.

Article IV of the Armistice allowed for a small French army—the Army of the Armistice (Armée de l'Armistice)—stationed in the unoccupied zone, and for the military provision of the French colonial empire overseas. The function of these forces was to keep internal order and to defend French territories from Allied assault. The French forces were to remain under the overall direction of the German armed forces.

The exact strength of the Vichy French Metropolitan Army was set at 3,768 officers, 15,072 non-commissioned officers, and 75,360 men. All members had to be volunteers. In addition to the army, the size of the Gendarmerie was fixed at 60,000 men plus an anti-aircraft force of 10,000 men. Despite the influx of trained soldiers from the colonial forces (reduced in size in accordance with the Armistice), there was a shortage of volunteers. As a result, 30,000 men of the "class of 1939" were retained to fill the quota. At the beginning of 1942 these conscripts were released, but there was still an insufficient number of men. This shortage would remain until the dissolution, despite Vichy appeals to the Germans for a regular form of conscription.

The Vichy French Metropolitan Army was deprived of tanks and other armored vehicles, and was desperately short of motorized transport, a particular problem for cavalry units. Surviving recruiting posters stress the opportunities for athletic activities, including horsemanship – which reflects both the general emphasis placed by the Vichy regime on rural virtues and outdoor activities, and the realities of service in a small and technologically backward military force. Traditional features characteristic of the pre-1940 French Army, such as kepis and heavy capotes (buttoned-back greatcoats) were replaced by berets and simplified uniforms.

The Vichy authorities did not deploy the Army of the Armistice against resistance groups active in the south of France, reserving this role to the Vichy Milice (militia).[13] Members of the regular army were therefore able to defect in significant numbers to the Maquis, following the German occupation of southern France and the disbandment of the Army of the Armistice in November 1942. By contrast, the Milice continued to collaborate and its members became subject to reprisals after the Liberation.

Vichy French colonial forces were reduced in accordance with the terms of the Armistice; still, in the Mediterranean area alone, the Vichy French had nearly 150,000 men in arms. There were approximately 55,000 in French Morocco, 50,000 in Algeria, and almost 40,000 in the "Army of the Levant" (Armée du Levant), in Lebanon and Syria. Colonial forces were allowed to keep some armored vehicles, though these were mostly "vintage" tanks as old as the World War I-era Renault FT.

German custody

France was required to turn over any German citizens within the country whom the Germans demanded custody of. The French thought this to be a "dishonourable" term, since it would require France to hand over persons who had entered France seeking refuge from Germany. Attempts to negotiate the point with Germany were unsuccessful, and the French decided not to press the issue to the point of refusing the Armistice, though they may have hoped to ameliorate the requirement in future negotiations with Germany after the signing.

Vichy government

On 10 July 1940, the Parliament and the government gathered in the quiet Édouard Daladier, then aboard the ship Massilia on their way to North Africa and exile. On 10 July the National Assembly, comprising both the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies, voted by 569 votes to 80, with 20 voluntary abstentions, to grant full and extraordinary powers to Marshal Pétain. By the same vote, they also granted him the power to write a new constitution.[14]

Most legislators believed that democracy would continue, albeit with a new constitution. Although Laval said on 6 July that "parliamentary democracy has lost the war; it must disappear, ceding its place to an authoritarian, hierarchical, national and social regime", the majority trusted in Pétain. Léon Blum, who voted no, wrote three months later that Laval's "obvious objective was to cut all the roots that bound France to its republican and revolutionary past. His 'national revolution' was to be a counterrevolution eliminating all the progress and human rights won in the last one hundred and fifty years".[15] The minority of mostly Radicals and Socialists who opposed Laval became known as the Vichy 80. Deputies and senators who voted to grant full powers to Pétain were condemned on an individual basis after the liberation.

The majority of French historians and all post-war French governments contend this vote was illegal. Three main arguments are put forward:

  • Abrogation of legal procedure
  • The impossibility for parliament to delegate its constitutional powers without controlling its use a posteriori
  • The 1884 constitutional amendment making it impossible to put into question the "republican form" of the regime

Julian T. Jackson wrote, however, that "There seems little doubt, therefore, that at the beginning Vichy was both legal and legitimate." He stated that if legitimacy comes from popular support, Pétain's massive popularity in France until 1942 made his government legitimate; if legitimacy comes from diplomatic recognition, over 40 countries including the United States, Canada, and China recognized the Vichy government. According to Jackson, de Gaulle's Free French acknowledged the weakness of its case against Vichy's illegality by citing multiple dates (16 June 23 June, and 10 July) for the start of its illegitimate rule.[9]:134 Nations recognized the Vichy government despite de Gaulle's attempts in London to dissuade them; only the German occupation of all of France in November 1942 ended diplomatic recognition. Partisans of the Vichy point out that the revision was voted by the two chambers (the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies), in conformity with the law.

The argument concerning the abrogation of procedure is based on the absence and non-voluntary abstention of 176 representatives of the people – the 27 on board the Massilia, and an additional 92 deputies and 57 senators, some of whom were in Vichy, but not present for the vote. In total, the parliament was composed of 846 members, 544 Deputies and 302 Senators. One Senator and 26 Deputies were on the Massilia. One Senator did not vote. 8 Senators and 12 Deputies voluntarily abstained. 57 Senators and 92 Deputies involuntarily abstained. Thus, out of a total of 544 Deputies, only 414 voted; and out of a total of 302 Senators, only 235 voted. Of these, 357 Deputies voted in favor of Pétain and 57 against, while 212 Senators voted for Pétain, and 23 against. Although Pétain could claim for himself legality – particularly in comparison with the essentially self-appointed leadership of Charles de Gaulle – the dubious circumstances of the vote explain why a majority of French historians do not consider Vichy a complete continuity of the French state.[16]

The text voted by the Congress stated:

The National Assembly gives full powers to the government of the Republic, under the authority and the signature of Marshall Pétain, to the effect of promulgating by one or several acts a new constitution of the French state. This constitution must guarantee the rights of labor, of family and of the fatherland. It will be ratified by the nation and applied by the assemblies which it has created.[17]
1943 1 Franc coin. Front: "French State". Back: "Work Family Homeland".

The Constitutional Acts of 11 and 12 July 1940[18] granted to Pétain all powers (legislative, judicial, administrative, executive – and diplomatic) and the title of "head of the French state" (chef de l'État français), as well as the right to nominate his successor. On 12 July Pétain designated Laval as Vice-President and his designated successor, and appointed Fernand de Brinon as representative to the German High Command in Paris. Pétain remained the head of the Vichy regime until 20 August 1944. The French national motto, Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité (Freedom, Equality, Brotherhood), was replaced by Travail, Famille, Patrie (Work, Family, Fatherland); it was noted at the time that TFP also stood for the criminal punishment of "travaux forcés à perpetuité" ("forced labor in perpetuity").[19] Reynaud was arrested in September 1940 by the Vichy government and sentenced to life imprisonment in 1941 before the opening of the Riom Trial.

Pétain was reactionary by nature, his status as a hero of the Third Republic notwithstanding. Almost as soon as he was granted full powers, Pétain began blaming the Third Republic's democracy and endemic corruption for France's humiliating defeat. Accordingly, his regime soon began taking on authoritarian—and in some cases, overtly fascist—characteristics. Democratic liberties and guarantees were immediately suspended.[15] The crime of "felony of opinion" (délit d'opinion) was re-established, effectively repealing freedom of thought and of expression; critics were frequently arrested. Elective bodies were replaced by nominated ones. The "municipalities" and the departmental commissions were thus placed under the authority of the administration and of the prefects (nominated by and dependent on the executive power). In January 1941 the National Council (Conseil National), composed of notables from the countryside and the provinces, was instituted under the same conditions. Despite the clear authoritarian cast of Pétain's regime, he did not formally institute a one-party state, maintained the Tricolor and other symbols of republican France, and unlike many far rightists was not an anti-Dreyfusard.

Foreign relations of Vichy France

Vichy France was recognized by most Axis and neutral powers, including the USA and the USSR.

During the course of the war, Vichy France had to conduct military actions against armed incursions from both Axis and Allied belligerents, an example of armed neutrality. The most important such action was the scuttling of the French fleet in Toulon on 27 November 1942, preventing its capture by the Axis.

  • The Soviet Union maintained full diplomatic relations with the Vichy Regime until 30 June 1941. These were broken after Vichy expressed support for Operation Barbarossa.
  • The United States granted Vichy full diplomatic recognition, sending Admiral William D. Leahy to France as American ambassador. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Secretary of State Cordell Hull hoped to use American influence to encourage those elements in the Vichy government opposed to military collaboration with Germany. The Americans also hoped to encourage Vichy to resist German war demands, such as for air bases in French-mandated Syria or to move war supplies through French territories in North Africa. The essential American position was that France should take no action not explicitly required by the armistice terms that could adversely affect Allied efforts in the war.
    The US position towards Vichy France and De Gaulle was especially hesitant and inconsistent. President Roosevelt disliked Charles de Gaulle, whom he regarded as an "apprentice dictator."[20] Robert Murphy, Roosevelt's representative in North Africa, started preparing the landing in North Africa from December 1940 (i.e. a year before the US entered the war). The US first tried to support General Maxime Weygand, general delegate of Vichy for Africa until December 1941. This first choice having failed, they turned to Henri Giraud shortly before the landing in North Africa on 8 November 1942. Finally, after François Darlan's turn towards the Free Forces – Darlan had been president of Council of Vichy from February 1941 to April 1942 – they played him against de Gaulle. US General Mark W. Clark of the combined Allied command made Admiral Darlan sign on 22 November 1942 a treaty putting "North Africa at the disposition of the Americans" and making France "a vassal country."[20] Washington then imagined, between 1941 and 1942, a protectorate status for France, which would be submitted after the Liberation to an Allied Military Government of Occupied Territories (AMGOT) like Germany. After the assassination of Darlan on 24 December 1942, Washington turned again towards Henri Giraud, to whom had rallied Maurice Couve de Murville, who had financial responsibilities in Vichy, and Lemaigre-Dubreuil, a former member of La Cagoule and entrepreneur, as well as Alfred Pose, general director of the Banque nationale pour le commerce et l'industrie (National Bank for Trade and Industry).[20]
  • Due to British requests and the sensitivities of its French Canadian population, Canada maintained full diplomatic relations with the Vichy Regime until the beginning of November 1942 and Case Anton – the complete occupation of Vichy France by the Nazis.[21]
  • Australia maintained full diplomatic relations with the Vichy Regime until the end of the war, and also entered into full diplomatic relations with the Free French.[22]
  • The United Kingdom, shortly after the Armistice (22 June 1940), attacked a large French naval contingent in Mers-el-Kebir, killing 1,297 French military personnel. Vichy severed diplomatic relations. Britain feared that the French naval fleet could wind up in German hands and be used against its own naval forces, which were so vital to maintaining north Atlantic shipping and communications. Under the armistice, France had been allowed to retain the French Navy, the Marine Nationale, under strict conditions. Vichy pledged that the fleet would never fall into the hands of Germany, but refused to send the fleet beyond Germany's reach by sending it to Britain or to far away territories of the French empire such as the West Indies. This did not satisfy Winston Churchill, who ordered French ships in British ports to be seized by the Royal Navy. The French squadron at Alexandria, under Admiral René-Emile Godfroy, was effectively interned until 1943 after an agreement was reached with Admiral Andrew Browne Cunningham, commander of the Mediterranean Fleet.
Memorial to the 1,297 French seamen who died during the British bombardment of their ships at Mers El Kebir.

Relations between the United Kingdom and the Vichy government were difficult. The Vichy government broke off diplomatic relations with the United Kingdom on 5 July 1940, after the Royal Navy attacked the French fleet in port at Mers-el-Kebir, Algeria in order to deny the possibility of their use by Germany. The destruction of the fleet followed a standoff during which the British insisted that the French either scuttle their vessels, sail to a neutral port or join them in the war against Germany. These options were refused and the fleet was attacked. This move by Britain hardened relations between the two former allies and caused more of the French population to side with Vichy against the British-supported Free French.[23]

However, there were still French naval ships under Vichy French control. A large squadron was in port at Mers El Kébir harbour near Oran. Vice Admiral Somerville, with Force H under his command, was instructed to deal with the situation in July 1940. Various terms were offered to the French squadron, but all were rejected. Consequently, Force H opened fire on the French ships. Nearly 1,000 French sailors died when the Bretagne blew up in the attack. Less than two weeks after the armistice, Britain had fired upon forces of its former ally. The result was shock and resentment towards the UK within the French Navy, and to a lesser extent in the general French public.

After Mers el Kebir, the United Kingdom recognized Free France as the legitimate government of France.

Japanese invasion of French Indochina and Franco-Thai War

Japanese troops entering Saigon in 1941.

In June 1940 the Fall of France made the French hold on Indochina tenuous. The isolated colonial administration was cut off from outside help and outside supplies. After negotiations with Japan the French allowed the Japanese to set up military bases in Indochina.[24]

This seemingly subservient behavior convinced the regime of Major-General Plaek Pibulsonggram, the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand, that Vichy France would not seriously resist a confrontation with Thailand. In October 1940, the military forces of Thailand attacked across the border with Indochina and launched the Franco-Thai War. Though the French won an important naval victory over the Thais, the Japanese forced the French to accept their mediation of a peace treaty that returned parts of Cambodia and Laos that had been taken from Thailand around the start of the 20th century to Thai control. This territorial loss was a major blow to French pride, especially since the ruins of Angkor Wat, of which the French were especially proud, were located in the region of Cambodia returned to Thailand.

The French were left in place to administer the rump colony until 9 March 1945, when the Japanese staged a coup d'état in French Indochina and took control of Indochina establishing their own colony, the Empire of Vietnam, as a double puppet state.

Colonial struggle with Free France

To counter the Vichy regime, General Charles de Gaulle created the Free French Forces (FFL) after his Appeal of 18 June 1940 radio speech. Initially, Winston Churchill was ambivalent about de Gaulle and he dropped ties with Vichy only when it became clear they would not fight.

India and Oceania

Until 1962, France possessed four small non-contiguous but politically united colonies across India, the largest being located in Southeast India, Pondicherry. Immediately after the fall of France, the Governor General of French India, Louis Alexis Étienne Bonvin, declared the French colonies in India would continue to fight with its British allies. Free French forces participated in the Western Desert campaign, although news of the death of French-Indian soldiers caused some disturbances in Pondicherry.

The French possessions in Oceania joined the Free French side in 1940, or in one case in 1942. They then served as bases for the Allied effort in the Pacific and contributed troops to the Free French Forces.[25]

Following the Bora Bora.[27] This first experience was valuable in later Seabee efforts in the Pacific, and the Bora Bora base supplied the Allied ships and planes that fought the Battle of the Coral Sea. Troops from French Polynesia and New Caledonia formed a Bataillon du Pacifique in 1940; became part of the 1st Free French Division in 1942, distinguishing themselves during the Battle of Bir Hakeim and subsequently combining with another unit to form the Bataillon d'infanterie de marine et du Pacifique; fought in the Italian Campaign, distinguishing itself at the Garigliano during the Battle of Monte Cassino and on to Tuscany; and participated in the Provence landings and onwards to the liberation of France.[28][29]

In New Caledonia Henri Sautot again led prompt allegiance to the Free French side, effective 19 September 1940.[30] Due to its location on the edge of the Coral Sea and on the flank of Australia, New Caledonia became strategically critical in the effort to combat the Japanese advance in the Pacific in 1941–1942 and to protect the sea lanes between North America and Australia. Nouméa served as a headquarters of the United States Navy and Army in the South Pacific,[31] and as a repair base for Allied vessels. New Caledonia contributed personnel both to the Bataillon du Pacifique and to the Free French Naval Forces that saw action in the Pacific and Indian Ocean.

In the New Hebrides (now Vanuatu), then a French-British condominium, Resident Commissioner Henri Sautot quickly led the French community to join the Free French side. The outcome was decided by a combination of patriotism and economic opportunism in the expectation independence would result.[32][33]

In Wallis and Futuna the local administrator and bishop sided with Vichy, but faced opposition from some of the population and clergy; their attempts at naming a local king in 1941 (to buffer the territory from their opponents) backfired as the newly elected king refused to declare allegiance to Pétain. The situation stagnated for a long while, due to the great remoteness of the islands and the fact that no overseas ship visited the islands for 17 months after January 1941. An aviso sent from Nouméa took over Wallis on behalf of the Free French on 27 May 1942, and Futuna on 29 May 1942. This allowed American forces to build an airbase and seaplane base on Wallis (Navy 207) that served the Allied Pacific operations.[34]

Equatorial and West Africa

In Central Africa, three of the four colonies in French Equatorial Africa went over to the Free French almost immediately, Chad on 26 August 1940, French Congo on 29 August 1940, and Ubangi-Shari on 30 August 1940. They were joined by the separate colony of Cameroon on 27 August 1940. The final colony in French Equatorial Africa, Gabon, had to be occupied by military force between 27 October and 12 November 1940.[35] In time, the majority of the colonies tended to switch to the Allied side peacefully in response to persuasion and to changing events. This did not, however, happen overnight: Guadeloupe and Martinique in the West Indies, as well as French Guiana on the northern coast of South America, did not join the Free French until 1943. Meanwhile, France's Arab colonies (Syria, Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco) generally remained under Vichy control until captured by Allied forces. This was chiefly because their proximity to Europe made them easier to maintain without Allied interference; this same proximity also gave them strategic importance for the European theater of the war. Conversely, more remote French possessions sided with the Free French Forces early, whether upon Free French action such as in Saint Pierre and Miquelon (despite U.S. wishes to the contrary) or spontaneously such as in French Polynesia.

On 23 September 1940, the British Royal Navy and Free French forces under General De Gaulle launched Operation Menace, an attempt to seize the strategic, Vichy-held port of Dakar in French West Africa (modern Senegal). After attempts to encourage them to join the allies were rebuffed by the defenders, a sharp fight erupted between Vichy and Allied forces. HMS Resolution was heavily damaged by torpedoes, and Free French troops landing at a beach south of the port were driven off by heavy fire. Even worse from a strategic point of view, bombers of the Vichy French Air Force (Armée de l'Air de Vichy) based in North Africa began bombing the British base at Gibraltar in response to the attack on Dakar. Shaken by the resolute Vichy defense, and not wanting to further escalate the conflict, British and Free French forces withdrew on 25 September, bringing the battle to an end.

On 8 November 1940, Free French forces under the command of Charles de Gaulle and Pierre Koenig, along with the assistance of the British Royal Navy, invaded Vichy held Gabon. Gabon, which was the only territory of French Equatorial Africa that was unwilling to join the Free French Forces, fell into allied hands on 12 November 1940, after the capital Libreville was bombed and captured. The final Vichy troops in Gabon surrendered without any military confrontation with the allies at Port-Gentil. The capture of Gabon by the Allies was crucial for ensuring that the entire French Equatorial Africa was out of Axis reach.

French Somaliland

During the Italian invasion and occupation of Ethiopia in the mid-1930s and during the early stages of World War II, constant border skirmishes occurred between the forces in French Somaliland and the forces in Italian East Africa. After the Fall of France in 1940, French Somaliland declared loyalty to Vichy France. The colony remained loyal to Vichy France during the East African Campaign but stayed out of that conflict. This lasted until December 1942. By that time, the Italians had been defeated and the French colony was isolated by a British blockade. Free French and Allied forces recaptured the colony's capital of Djibouti at the end of 1942. A local battalion from Djibouti participated in the liberation of France in 1944.

Syria and Madagascar

The next flashpoint between Britain and Vichy France came when a revolt in Iraq was put down by British forces in June 1941. German Air Force (Luftwaffe) and Italian Air Force (Regia Aeronautica) aircraft, staging through the French possession of Syria, intervened in the fighting in small numbers. That highlighted Syria as a threat to British interests in the Middle East. Consequently, on 8 June, British and Commonwealth forces invaded Syria and Lebanon. This was known as the Syria-Lebanon campaign or Operation Exporter. The Syrian capital, Damascus, was captured on 17 June and the five-week campaign ended with the fall of Beirut and the Convention of Acre (Armistice of Saint Jean d'Acre) on 14 July 1941.

The additional participation of Free French forces in the Syrian operation was controversial within Allied circles. It raised the prospect of Frenchmen shooting at Frenchmen, raising fears of a civil war. Additionally, it was believed that the Free French were widely reviled within Vichy military circles, and that Vichy forces in Syria were less likely to resist the British if they were not accompanied by elements of the Free French. Nevertheless, de Gaulle convinced Churchill to allow his forces to participate, although de Gaulle was forced to agree to a joint British and Free French proclamation promising that Syria and Lebanon would become fully independent at the end of the war.

From 5 May to 6 November 1942 British and Commonwealth forces conducted Operation Ironclad, known as the Battle of Madagascar the seizure of the large, Vichy French-controlled island of Madagascar, which the British feared Japanese forces might use as a base to disrupt trade and communications in the Indian Ocean. The initial landing at Diégo-Suarez was relatively quick, though it took British forces a further six months to gain control of the entire island.

French North Africa

Operation Torch was the American and British invasion of French North Africa, Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia, started on 8 November 1942, with landings in Morocco and Algeria. The long-term goal was to clear Germany and Italy from North Africa, enhance naval control of the Mediterranean, and prepare an invasion of Italy in 1943. The Vichy forces resisted briefly, then under the leadership of Vichy Admiral Darlan (who happened to be on the scene), cooperated with the Allies. The Allies recognized Darlan's self-nomination as High Commissioner of France (head of civil government) for North and West Africa. He ordered Vichy forces there to cease resisting and cooperate with the Allies, and they did so. By the time the Tunisia Campaign was fought, the French forces in North Africa had gone over to the Allied side, joining the Free French Forces.[36][37]

Henri Giraud and de Gaulle during the Casablanca Conference in January 1943.

In North Africa, after 8 November 1942 putsch by the French resistance, most Vichy figures were arrested (including General Alphonse Juin, chief commander in North Africa, and Admiral François Darlan). However, Darlan was released and U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower finally accepted his self-nomination as high commissioner of North Africa and French West Africa (Afrique occidentale française, AOF), a move that enraged de Gaulle, who refused to recognize Darlan's status. After Darlan signed an armistice with the Allies and took power in North Africa, Germany violated the 1940 armistice and invaded Vichy France on 10 November 1942 (operation code-named Case Anton), triggering the scuttling of the French fleet in Toulon.

Giraud arrived in Algiers on 10 November, and agreed to subordinate himself to Admiral Darlan as the French African army commander. Even though he was now in the Allied camp, Darlan maintained the repressive Vichy system in North Africa, including concentration camps in southern Algeria and racist laws. Detainees were also forced to work on the Transsaharien railroad. Jewish goods were "aryanized" (i.e., stolen), and a special Jewish Affair service was created, directed by Pierre Gazagne. Numerous Jewish children were prohibited from going to school, something which not even Vichy had implemented in metropolitan France.[38] The admiral was killed on 24 December 1942, in Algiers by the young monarchist Bonnier de La Chapelle. Although de la Chapelle had been a member of the resistance group led by Henri d'Astier de La Vigerie, it is believed he was acting as an individual.

After Admiral Darlan's assassination, Giraud became his de facto successor in French Africa with Allied support. This occurred through a series of consultations between Giraud and de Gaulle. The latter wanted to pursue a political position in France and agreed to have Giraud as commander in chief, as the more qualified military person of the two. It is questionable that he ordered that many French resistance leaders who had helped Eisenhower's troops be arrested, without any protest by Roosevelt's representative, Robert Murphy. Later, the Americans sent Jean Monnet to counsel Giraud and to press him into repeal the Vichy laws. After difficult negotiations, Giraud agreed to suppress the racist laws, and to liberate Vichy prisoners of the South Algerian concentration camps. The Cremieux decree, which granted French citizenship to Jews in Algeria and which had been repealed by Vichy, was immediately restored by General de Gaulle.

Giraud took part in the Casablanca conference, with Roosevelt, Churchill and de Gaulle, in January 1943. The Allies discussed their general strategy for the war, and recognized joint leadership of North Africa by Giraud and de Gaulle. Henri Giraud and Charles de Gaulle then became co-presidents of the Comité français de la Libération Nationale, which unified the Free French Forces and territories controlled by them and had been founded at the end of 1943. Democratic rule was restored in French Algeria, and the Communists and Jews liberated from the concentration camps.[38]

At the end of April 1945 Pierre Gazagne, secretary of the general government headed by Yves Chataigneau, took advantage of his absence to exile anti-imperialist leader Messali Hadj and arrest the leaders of his party, the Algerian People's Party (PPA).[38] On the day of the Liberation of France, the GPRF would harshly repress a rebellion in Algeria during the Sétif massacre of 8 May 1945, which has been qualified by some historians as the "real beginning of the Algerian War".[38]

State collaboration with Germany

Philippe Pétain (left) shaking hands with Hitler.

Historians distinguish between state collaboration followed by the Vichy regime, and "collaborationists", private French citizens eager to collaborate with Germany and who pushed towards a radicalization of the regime. "Pétainistes", on the other hand, refers to direct supporters of Marshal Pétain rather than Germany (although accepting Pétain's state collaboration). State collaboration was illustrated by the Simon Kitson's recent research has demonstrated.[40]

The composition and policies of the Vichy cabinet were mixed. Many Vichy officials, such as Pétain, were reactionaries who felt that France's unfortunate fate was a result of its republican character and the actions of its left-wing governments of the 1930s, in particular of the Popular Front (1936–1938) led by Léon Blum. Charles Maurras, a monarchist writer and founder of the Action Française movement, judged that Pétain's accession to power was, in that respect, a "divine surprise", and many people of his persuasion believed it preferable to have an authoritarian government similar to that of Francisco Franco's Spain, even if under Germany's yoke, than to have a republican government. Others, like Joseph Darnand, were strong anti-Semites and overt Nazi sympathizers. A number of these joined the units of the Légion des Volontaires Français contre le Bolchévisme (Legion of French Volunteers Against Bolshevism) fighting on the Eastern Front, later becoming the SS Charlemagne Division.[41]

On the other hand, René Bousquet, who created the groupes mobiles de réserve (GMR, Reserve Mobile Groups), is another example of Vichy policy reform and restructuring maintained by subsequent governments. A national paramilitary police force, the GMR was occasionally used in actions against the French Resistance, but its main purpose was to enforce Vichy authority through intimidation and repression of the civilian population. After Liberation, some of its units would be merged with the Free French Army to form the Compagnies Républicaines de Sécurité (CRS, Republican Security Companies), France's main anti-riot force.

Created in 1941, the Drancy internment camp, on the outskirts of Paris, was under control of the French police until 3 July 1943. The Nazis then took day-to-day control as part of the major stepping up at all facilities for the mass exterminations. SS-Hauptsturmführer Alois Brunner (born 1912) directed it until August 1944. He was condemned in absentia in France in 2001 on charges of crimes against humanity.[42]

Vichy's racial policies and collaboration

French Police registering new inmates at the Pithiviers camp.
French Milice guarding detainees.

Germany interfered little in internal French affairs for the first two years after the armistice, as long as public order was maintained.[9]:139 As soon as it was established, Pétain's government voluntarily took measures against the undesirables: Jews, métèques (immigrants from Mediterranean countries), Freemasons, Communists, Gypsies, homosexuals, and left-wing activists. Inspired by Charles Maurras' conception of the "Anti-France" (which he defined as the "four confederate states of Protestants, Jews, Freemasons and foreigners"), Vichy persecuted these supposed enemies.

In July 1940, Vichy set up a special Commission charged with reviewing naturalizations granted since the 1927 reform of the nationality law. Between June 1940 and August 1944, 15,000 persons, mostly Jews, were denaturalized.[43] This bureaucratic decision was instrumental in their subsequent internment.

The internment camps already opened by the Third Republic were immediately put to new use, ultimately becoming transit camps for the implementation of the Holocaust and the extermination of all "undesirables", including the Romani people (who refer to the extermination of Gypsies as Porrajmos). A law of 4 October 1940 authorized internments of foreign Jews on the sole basis of a prefectoral order,[44] and the first raids took place in May 1941. Vichy imposed no restrictions on black people in the Unoccupied Zone; the regime even had a mulatto cabinet minister, the Martinique-born lawyer Henry Lemery.[45]

The Third Republic had first opened concentration camps during World War I for the internment of enemy aliens, and later used them for other purposes. Camp Gurs, for example, had been set up in southwestern France after the fall of Spanish Catalonia, in the first months of 1939, during the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939), to receive the Republican refugees, including Brigadists from all nations, fleeing the Francists. After Édouard Daladier's government (April 1938 – March 1940) took the decision to outlaw the French Communist Party (PCF) following the German-Soviet non-aggression pact (aka Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact) signed in August 1939, these camps were also used to intern French communists. Drancy internment camp was founded in 1939 for this use; it later became the central transit camp through which all deportees passed on their way to concentration and extermination camps in the Third Reich and in Eastern Europe. When the Phoney War started with France's declaration of war against Germany on 3 September 1939, these camps were used to intern enemy aliens. These included German Jews and anti-fascists, but any German citizen (or Italian, Austrian, Polish, etc.) could also be interned in Camp Gurs and others. As the Wehrmacht advanced into Northern France, common prisoners evacuated from prisons were also interned in these camps. Camp Gurs received its first contingent of political prisoners in June 1940. It included left-wing activists (communists, anarchists, trade-unionists, anti-militarists, etc.) and pacifists, but also French fascists who supported the victory of Italy and Germany. Finally, after Pétain's proclamation of the "French state" and the beginning of the implementation of the "Révolution nationale" ("National Revolution"), the French administration opened up many concentration camps, to the point that, as historian Maurice Rajsfus wrote: "The quick opening of new camps created employment, and the Gendarmerie never ceased to hire during this period."[46]

Besides the political prisoners already detained there, Gurs was then used to intern foreign Jews, stateless persons, Gypsies, homosexuals, and prostitutes. Vichy opened its first internment camp in the northern zone on 5 October 1940, in Aincourt, in the Seine-et-Oise department, which it quickly filled with PCF members.[47] The Royal Saltworks at Arc-et-Senans, in the Doubs, was used to intern Gypsies.[48] The Camp des Milles, near Aix-en-Provence, was the largest internment camp in the Southeast of France; 2,500 Jews were deported from there following the August 1942 raids.[49] Exiled Republican, antifascist Spaniards who had sought refuge in France after the recent victory in Spain of Franco's nationalist side, were then deported, and 5,000 of them died in Mauthausen concentration camp.[50] In contrast, the French colonial soldiers were interned by the Germans on French territory instead of being deported.[50]

Besides the concentration camps opened by Vichy, the Germans also opened some Ilags (Internierungslager), for the detainment of enemy aliens, on French territory; in Alsace, which was under the direct administration of the Reich, they opened the Natzweiler camp, which was the only concentration camp created by the Nazis on French territory. Natzweiler included a gas chamber which was used to exterminate at least 86 detainees (mostly Jewish) with the aim of obtaining a collection of undamaged skeletons (as this mode of execution did no damage to the skeletons themselves) for the use of Nazi professor August Hirt.

The Vichy government enacted a number of racial laws. In August 1940, laws against antisemitism in the media (the Marchandeau Act) were repealed, while the decree n°1775 of September 5, 1943, denaturalized a number of French citizen], in particular Jews from Eastern Europe.[50] Foreigners were rounded-up in "Foreign Workers Groups" (groupements de travailleurs étrangers) and, as with the colonial troops, used by the Germans as manpower.[50] The Statute on Jews excluded them from the civil administration.

Vichy also enacted racial laws in its French territories in North Africa (Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia). "The history of the Holocaust in France's three North African colonies (Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia) is intrinsically tied to France's fate during this period."[51][52][53][54][55]

With regard to economic contribution to the German economy it is estimated that France provided 42% of the total foreign aid.[56]

Eugenics policies

In 1941, Nobel Prize winner Alexis Carrel, an early proponent of eugenics and euthanasia, and a member of Jacques Doriot's French Popular Party (PPF), advocated for the creation of the Fondation Française pour l'Étude des Problèmes Humains (French Foundation for the Study of Human Problems), using connections to the Pétain cabinet. Charged with the "study, in all of its aspects, of measures aimed at safeguarding, improving and developing the French population in all of its activities", the Foundation was created by decree of the collaborationist Vichy regime in 1941, and Carrel appointed as 'regent'.[57] The Foundation also had for some time as general secretary François Perroux.

The Foundation was behind the 16 December 1942 Act mandating the "prenuptial certificate", which required all couples seeking marriage to submit to a biological examination, to ensure the "good health" of the spouses, in particular with regard to sexually transmitted diseases (STD) and "life hygiene". Carrel's institute also conceived the "scholar booklet" ("livret scolaire"), which could be used to record students' grades in French secondary schools, and thus classify and select them according to scholastic performance. Besides these eugenic activities aimed at classifying the population and improving its health, the Foundation also supported an 11 October 1946 law instituting occupational medicine, enacted by the Provisional Government of the French Republic (GPRF) after the Liberation.

The Foundation initiated studies on demographics (Robert Gessain, Paul Vincent, Jean Bourgeois), nutrition (Jean Sutter), and housing (Jean Merlet), as well as the first polls (Jean Stoetzel). The foundation, which after the war became the INED demographics institute, employed 300 researchers from the summer of 1942 to the end of the autumn of 1944.[58] "The foundation was chartered as a public institution under the joint supervision of the ministries of finance and public health. It was given financial autonomy and a budget of forty million francs, roughly one franc per inhabitant: a true luxury considering the burdens imposed by the German Occupation on the nation's resources. By way of comparison, the whole Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) was given a budget of fifty million francs."[57]

Alexis Carrel had previously published in 1935 the best-selling book L'Homme, cet inconnu ("Man, This Unknown"). Since the early 1930s, Carrel had advocated the use of gas chambers to rid humanity of its "inferior stock", endorsing the scientific racism discourse. One of the founders of these pseudoscientifical theories had been Arthur de Gobineau in his 1853–1855 essay titled An Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races. In the 1936 preface to the German edition of his book, Alexis Carrel had added a praise to the eugenics policies of the Third Reich, writing that:

(t)he German government has taken energetic measures against the propagation of the defective, the mentally diseased, and the criminal. The ideal solution would be the suppression of each of these individuals as soon as he has proven himself to be dangerous.[59]

Carrel also wrote in his book that:

(t)he conditioning of petty criminals with the whip, or some more scientific procedure, followed by a short stay in hospital, would probably suffice to ensure order. Those who have murdered, robbed while armed with automatic pistol or machine gun, kidnapped children, despoiled the poor of their savings, misled the public in important matters, should be humanely and economically disposed of in small euthanasic institutions supplied with proper gasses. A similar treatment could be advantageously applied to the insane, guilty of criminal acts.[60]

Alexis Carrel had also taken an active part to a symposium in Pontigny organized by Jean Coutrot, the "Entretiens de Pontigny". Scholars such as Lucien Bonnafé, Patrick Tort and Max Lafont have accused Carrel of responsibility for the execution of thousands of mentally ill or impaired patients under Vichy.

Statute on Jews

Poster above the entrance of an anti-semitic exposition called "The Jew and France".

A Nazi ordinance dated 21 September 1940, forced Jews of the "occupied zone" to declare themselves as such at a police station or sub-prefectures (sous-préfectures). Under the responsibility of André Tulard, head of the Service on Foreign Persons and Jewish Questions at the Prefecture of Police of Paris, a filing system registering Jewish people was created. Tulard had previously created such a filing system under the Third Republic, registering members of the Communist Party (PCF). In the department of the Seine, encompassing Paris and its immediate suburbs, nearly 150,000 persons, unaware of the upcoming danger and assisted by the police, presented themselves at police stations in accordance with the military order. The registered information was then centralized by the French police, who constructed, under the direction of inspector Tulard, a central filing system. According to the Dannecker report, "this filing system is subdivided into files alphabetically classed, Jewish with French nationality and foreign Jewish having files of different colours, and the files were also classed, according to profession, nationality and street [of residency]"[61]). These files were then handed over to Theodor Dannecker, head of the Gestapo in France, under the orders of Adolf Eichmann, head of the RSHA IV-D. They were used by the Gestapo on various raids, among them the August 1941 raid in the 11th arrondissement of Paris, which resulted in 3,200 foreign and 1,000 French Jews being interned in various camps, including Drancy.

On 3 October 1940, the Vichy government voluntarily promulgated the first Statute on Jews, which created a special underclass of French Jewish citizens, and enforced, for the first time in France, racial segregation.[62] The October 1940 Statute excluded Jews from the administration, the armed forces, entertainment, arts, media, and certain professions, such as teaching, law, and medicine. A Commissariat-General for Jewish Affairs (CGQJ, Commissariat Général aux Questions Juives) was created on 29 March 1941. It was directed by Xavier Vallat until May 1942, and then by Darquier de Pellepoix until February 1944. Mirroring the Reich Association of Jews, the Union Générale des Israélites de France was founded.

The police oversaw the confiscation of telephones and radios from Jewish homes and enforced a curfew on Jews starting in February 1942. They also enforced requirements that Jews not appear in public places, and ride only on the last car of the Parisian metro.

Along with many French police officials, André Tulard was present on the day of the inauguration of Drancy internment camp in 1941, which was used largely by French police as the central transit camp for detainees captured in France. All Jews and others "undesirables" passed through Drancy before heading to Auschwitz and other camps.

July 1942 Vel' d'Hiv Roundup

In July 1942, under German orders, the French police organized the Vel' d'Hiv Roundup (Rafle du Vel' d'Hiv) under orders by René Bousquet and his second in Paris, Jean Leguay with cooperation from authorities of the SNCF, the state railway company. The police arrested 13,152 Jews, including 4,051 children—which the Gestapo had not asked for—and 5,082 women on 16 and 17 July, and imprisoned them in the Winter Velodrome in unhygienic conditions. They were led to Drancy internment camp (run by Nazi Alois Brunner, who is still wanted for crimes against humanity, and French constabulary police), then crammed into box cars and shipped by rail to Auschwitz. Most of the victims died en route due to lack of food or water. The remaining survivors were sent to the gas chambers. This action alone represented more than a quarter of the 42,000 French Jews sent to concentration camps in 1942, of which only 811 would return after the end of the war. Although the Nazi VT (Verfügungstruppe) had initially directed the action, French police authorities vigorously participated. On 16 July 1995, President Jacques Chirac officially apologized for the participation of French police forces in the July 1942 raid. "There was no effective police resistance until the end of Spring of 1944", wrote historians Jean-Luc Einaudi and Maurice Rajsfus.[63]

August 1942 and January 1943 raids

The French police, headed by Bousquet, arrested 7,000 Jews in the southern zone in August 1942. 2,500 of them transited through the identity documents of 40,000 people, and the operation succeeded in sending 2,000 Marseillese people in the death trains, leading to the extermination camps. The operation also encompassed the expulsion of an entire neighborhood (30,000 persons) in the Old Port before its destruction. For this occasion, SS-Gruppenführer Karl Oberg, in charge of the German Police in France, made the trip from Paris, and transmitted to Bousquet orders directly received from Heinrich Himmler. It is another notable case of the French police's willful collaboration with the Nazis.[64]

Jewish death toll

In 1940 approximately 350,000 Jews lived in metropolitan France, less than half of them with French citizenship (and the others foreigners, mostly exiles from Germany during the 1930s).[65] About 200,000 of them, and the large majority of foreign Jews, resided in Paris and its outskirts. Among the 150,000 French Jews, about 30,000, generally native from Central Europe, had been naturalized French during the 1930s. Of the total, approximately 25,000 French Jews and 50,000 foreign Jews were deported.[66] According to historian Robert Paxton, 76,000 Jews were deported and died in concentration and extermination camps. Including the Jews who died in concentration camps in France, this would have made for a total figure of 90,000 Jewish deaths (a quarter of the total Jewish population before the war, by his estimate).[67] Paxton's numbers imply that 14,000 Jews died in French concentration camps. However, the systematic census of Jewish deportees from France (citizens or not) drawn under Serge Klarsfeld concluded that 3,000 had died in French concentration camps and 1,000 more had been shot. Of the approximately 76,000 deported, 2,566 survived. The total thus reported is slightly below 77,500 dead (somewhat less than a quarter of the Jewish population in France in 1940).[68]

Proportionally, either number makes for a lower death toll than in some other countries (in the Netherlands, 75% of the Jewish population was murdered).[67] This fact has been used as arguments by supporters of Vichy. However, according to Paxton, the figure would have been greatly lower if the "French state" had not willfully collaborated with Germany, which lacked staff for police activities. During the Vel' d'Hiv Roundup of July 1942, Laval ordered the deportation of the children, against explicit German orders. Paxton pointed out that if the total number of victims had not been higher, it was due to the shortage in wagons, the resistance of the civilian population and deportation in other countries (notably in Italy).[67]

French collaborationnistes and collaborators

Légion des Volontaires fighting with the Axis on the Russian front.

Stanley Hoffmann in 1974,[69] and after him, other historians such as Robert Paxton and Jean-Pierre Azéma have used the term collaborationnistes to refer to fascists and Nazi sympathisers who, for ideological reasons, wished a reinforced collaboration with Hitler's Germany. Examples of these are Parti Populaire Français (PPF) leader Jacques Doriot, writer Robert Brasillach or Marcel Déat. A principal motivation and ideological foundation among collaborationnistes was anticommunism.[69]

Organizations such as La Cagoule opposed the Third Republic, particularly when the left-wing Popular Front was in power.

Collaborationists may have influenced the Vichy government's policies, but ultra-collaborationists never comprised the majority of the government before 1944.[70]

In order to enforce the régime's will, some paramilitary organizations were created. A notable example was the "Légion Française des Combattants" (LFC) (French Legion of Fighters), including at first only former combatants, but quickly adding "Amis de la Légion" and cadets of the Légion, who had never seen battle, but who supported Pétain's régime. The name was then quickly changed to "Légion Française des Combattants et des volontaires de la Révolution Nationale" (French Legion of Fighters and Volunteers of the National Revolution). Joseph Darnand created a "Service d'Ordre Légionnaire" (SOL), which consisted mostly of French supporters of the Nazis, of which Pétain fully approved.

Social and economic history

Vichy French zinc and aluminum coins made during the war. These coins circulated in both Vichy France and German-occupied France.

Vichy authorities were strongly opposed to "modern" social trends and tried through "national regeneration" to restore behavior more in line with traditional Catholicism.


Vichy rhetoric exalted the skilled laborer and small businessman. In practice, however, the needs of artisans for raw materials was neglected in favor of large businesses.[71] The General Committee for the Organization of Commerce (CGOC) was a national program to modernize and professionalize small business.[72]

In 1940 the government took direct control of all production, which was synchronized with the demands of the Germans. It replaced free trade unions with compulsory state unions that dictated labor policy without regard to the voice or needs of the workers. The centralized, bureaucratic control of the French economy was not a success, as German demands grew heavier and more unrealistic, passive resistance and inefficiencies multiplied, and Allied bombers hit the rail yards; however, Vichy made the first comprehensive long-range plans for the French economy. The government had never before attempted a comprehensive overview. De Gaulle's Provisional Government in 1944–45, quietly used the Vichy plans as a base for its own reconstruction program. The Monnet Plan of 1946 was closely based on Vichy plans.[73] Thus both teams of wartime and early postwar planners repudiated prewar laissez-faire practices and embraced the cause of drastic economic overhaul and a planned economy.[74]

Forced labour

Nazi Germany kept the French POWs as forced labourers throughout the war. They added compulsory (and volunteer) workers from occupied nations, especially in metal factories. The shortage of volunteers led the Vichy government to pass a law in September 1942 that effectively deported workers to Germany, where, they constituted 15% of the labor force by August 1944. The largest number worked in the giant Krupp steel works in Essen. Low pay, long hours, frequent bombings, and crowded air raid shelters added to the unpleasantness of poor housing, inadequate heating, limited food, and poor medical care, all compounded by harsh Nazi discipline. They finally returned home in the summer of 1945.[75] The forced labour draft encouraged the French Resistance and undermined the Vichy government.[76]

Food shortages

Civilians suffered shortages of all varieties of consumer goods.[77] The rationing system was stringent but badly mismanaged, leading to produced malnourishment, black markets, and hostility to state management of the food supply. The Germans seized about 20% of the French food production, which caused severe disruption to the household economy of the French people.[78] French farm production fell by half because of lack of fuel, fertilizer and workers; even so the Germans seized half the meat, 20 percent of the produce, and 2 percent of the champagne.[79] Supply problems quickly affected French stores which lacked most items. The government answered by rationing, but German officials set the policies and hunger prevailed, especially affecting youth in urban areas. The queues lengthened in front of shops. Some people—including German soldiers—benefited from the black market, where food was sold without tickets at very high prices. Farmers especially diverted meat to the black market, which meant that much less for the open market. Counterfeit food tickets were also in circulation. Direct buying from farmers in the countryside and barter against cigarettes became common. These activities were strictly forbidden, however, and thus carried out at the risk of confiscation and fines. Food shortages were most acute in the large cities. In the more remote country villages, however, clandestine slaughtering, vegetable gardens and the availability of milk products permitted better survival. The official ration provided starvation level diets of 1300 or fewer calories a day, supplemented by home gardens and, especially, black market purchases.[80]


The 2 million French soldiers held as POWs and forced laborers in Germany throughout the war were not at risk of death in combat but the anxieties of separation for their 800,000 wives were high. The government provided a modest allowance, but one in ten became prostitutes to support their families.[81]

Meanwhile the Vichy regime promoted a highly traditional model of female roles.[82] The Révolution Nationale official ideology fostered the patriarchal family, headed by a man with a subservient wife who was devoted to her many children. It gave women a key symbolic role to carry out the national regeneration. It used propaganda, women's organizations, and legislation to promote maternity, patriotic duty, and female submission to marriage, home, and children's education.[77] The falling birthrate appeared to be a grave problem to Vichy. It introduced family allowances and opposed birth control and abortion. Conditions were very difficult for housewives, as food was short as well as most necessities.[83] Mother's Day became a major date in the Vichy calendar, with festivities in the towns and schools featuring the award of medals to mothers of numerous children. Divorce laws were made much more stringent, and restrictions were placed on the employment of married women. Family allowances that had begun in the 1930s were continued, and became a vital lifeline for many families; it was a monthly cash bonus for having more children. In 1942 the birth rate started to rise, and by 1945 it was higher than it had been for a century.[9]:331–332

On the other side women of the Resistance, many of whom were associated with combat groups linked to the French Communist Party (PCF), broke the gender barrier by fighting side by side with men. After the war, their services were ignored, but France did give women the vote in 1944.[84]

German invasion, November 1942

Hitler ordered Case Anton to occupy Corsica and then the rest of the unoccupied southern zone in immediate reaction to the landing of the Allies in North Africa (Operation Torch) on 8 November 1942. Following the conclusion of the operation on 12 November, Vichy's remaining military forces were disbanded. Vichy continued to exercise its remaining jurisdiction over almost all of metropolitan France, with the residual power devolved into the hands of Laval, until the gradual collapse of the regime following the Allied invasion in June 1944. On 7 September 1944, following the Allied invasion of France, the remainders of the Vichy government cabinet fled to Germany and established a puppet government in exile in the so-called Sigmaringen enclave. That rump government finally fell when the city was taken by the Allied French army in April 1945.

Part of the residual legitimacy of the Vichy regime resulted from the continued ambivalence of U.S. and British leaders. President Roosevelt continued to cultivate Vichy, and promoted General Henri Giraud as a preferable alternative to de Gaulle, despite the poor performance of Vichy forces in North Africa—Admiral François Darlan had landed in Algiers the day before Operation Torch. Algiers was headquarters of the Vichy French XIX Army Corps, which controlled Vichy military units in North Africa. Darlan was neutralized within 15 hours by a 400-strong French resistance force. Roosevelt and Churchill accepted Darlan, rather than de Gaulle, as the French leader in North Africa. De Gaulle had not even been informed of the landing in North Africa.[38] The United States also resented the Free French taking control of St Pierre and Miquelon on 24 December 1941, because, Secretary of State Hull believed, it interfered with a U.S.-Vichy agreement to maintain the status quo with respect to French territorial possessions in the western hemisphere.

Following the invasion of France via Normandy and Provence (Operation Overlord and Operation Dragoon) and the departure of the Vichy leaders, the U.S., Britain and the Soviet Union finally recognized the Provisional Government of the French Republic (GPRF), headed by de Gaulle, as the legitimate government of France on 23 October 1944. Before that, the first return of democracy to mainland France since 1940 had occurred with the declaration of the Free Republic of Vercors on 3 July 1944, at the behest of the Free French government—but that act of resistance was quashed by an overwhelming German attack by the end of July.

Decline of the Vichy regime and exile

A recruitment poster for the Milice. The text says "Against Communism / French Militia / Secretary-General Joseph Darnand".

Independence of the SOL

In 1943 the Service d'ordre légionnaire (SOL) collaborationist militia, headed by Joseph Darnand, became independent and was transformed into the "Milice française" (French Militia). Officially directed by Pierre Laval himself, the SOL was led by Darnand, who held an SS rank and pledged an oath of loyalty to Adolf Hitler. Under Darnand and his sub-commanders, such as Paul Touvier and Jacques de Bernonville, the Milice was responsible for helping the German forces and police in the repression of the French Resistance and Maquis.

Sigmaringen commission

The Sigmaringen operation was based in the city's ancient castle.
Liberation of France, 1944.

Following the Liberation of Paris on 25 August 1944, Pétain and his ministers were taken to Germany by the German forces. There, Fernand de Brinon established a pseudo-government in exile at Sigmaringen. Pétain refused to participate and the Sigmaringen operation had little or no authority. The offices used the official title French Delegation (French: Délégation française) or the French Government Commission for the Protection of National Interests (French: Commission gouvernementale française pour la défense des intérêts nationaux). Sigmaringen had its own radio (Radio-patrie, Ici la France), press (La France, Le Petit Parisien) and hosted the embassies of the Axis powers, Germany, Italy and Japan. The population of the enclave was about 6,000 citizens including known collaborationist journalists, writers (Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Lucien Rebatet), actors (Le Vigan) and their families plus 500 soldiers, 700 French SS, POWs and French civilian forced laborers.[9]:567–568

Actions of the French provisional government

The Free French, fearing that the Allies could decide to put France under the rule of AMGOT, strove to establish quickly the Provisional Government of the French Republic. The first action of that government was to re-establish republican legality throughout metropolitan France.

The provisional government considered that the Vichy government had been unconstitutional and thus that all its actions had been illegal. All statutes, laws, regulations and decisions by the Vichy government were thus made null and devoid of effects. However, since mass cancellation of all decisions taken by Vichy, including many that could have been taken as well by Republican governments, was impractical, it was decided that cancellation was to be expressly acknowledged by the government. A number of laws and acts were however explicitly repealed, including all constitutional acts, all laws discriminating against Jews, all acts against "secret societies" (e.g., Freemasons), and all acts creating special tribunals.[85]

Collaborationist paramilitary and political organizations, such as the Milice and the Service d'ordre légionnaire, were also disbanded.[85]

The provisional government also took steps to replace local governments, including governments that had been suppressed by the Vichy regime, through new elections or by extending the terms of those who had been elected no later than 1939.[86]


After the liberation, France was swept for a short period with a wave of executions of Collaborationists. Collaborationists were brought to the Vélodrome d'hiver, Fresnes prison or the Drancy internment camp. Women who were suspected of having romantic liaisons with Germans, or more often of being prostitutes who had entertained German customers, were publicly humiliated by having their heads shaved. Those who had engaged in the black market were also stigmatized as "war profiteers" (profiteurs de guerre), and popularly called "BOF" (Beurre Oeuf Fromage, or Butter Eggs Cheese, because of the products sold at outrageous prices during the Occupation). However, the Provisional Government of the French Republic (GPRF, 1944–46) quickly reestablished order, and brought Collaborationists before the courts. Many convicted Collaborationists were then given amnesty under the Fourth Republic (1946–54).

Four different periods are distinguished by historians:

  • the first phase of popular convictions (épuration sauvage – wild purge): executions without judgments and shaving of women's heads. Estimations by police prefects made in 1948 and 1952 counted as many as 6,000 executions before the Liberation, and 4,000 afterward.
  • the second phase (épuration légale or legal purge), which began with Charles de Gaulle's 26 and 27 June 1944 purge ordonnances (de Gaulle's first ordonnance instituting purge Commissions was enacted on 18 August 1943) : judgments of Collaborationists by the Commissions d'épuration, who condemned approximately 120,000 persons (e.g.! Charles Maurras, leader of the royalist Action Française, was thus condemned to a life sentence on 25 January 1945), including 1,500 death sentences (Joseph Darnand, head of the Milice, and Pierre Laval, head of the French state, were executed after trial on 4 October 1945, Robert Brasillach, executed on 6 February 1945, etc.)—many of those who survived this phase were later given amnesty.
  • the third phase, more lenient towards Collaborationists (the trial of Philippe Pétain or of writer Louis-Ferdinand Céline).
  • finally came the period for amnesty and graces (e.g.,. Jean-Pierre Esteva, Xavier Vallat, creator of the General Commission for Jewish Affairs, René Bousquet, head of French police, etc.)

Other historians have distinguished the purges against intellectuals (Brasillach, Céline, etc.), industrialists, fighters (LVF, etc.) and civil servants (Papon, etc.).

Paris 1944: Women accused of collaboration with Nazis are paraded through the streets; they often had their hair cut off as a form of humiliation.

Philippe Pétain was charged with treason in July 1945. He was convicted and sentenced to death by firing squad, but Charles de Gaulle commuted the sentence to life imprisonment. In the police, some collaborators soon resumed official responsibilities. This continuity of the administration was pointed out, in particular concerning the events of the Paris massacre of 1961, executed under the orders of head of the Parisian police Maurice Papon when Charles de Gaulle was head of state. Papon was tried and convicted for crimes against humanity in 1998.

The French members of the Waffen-SS Charlemagne Division who survived the war were regarded as traitors. Some of the more prominent officers were executed, while the rank-and-file were given prison terms; some of them were given the option of doing time in Indochina (1946–54) with the Foreign Legion instead of prison.

Among artists, singer Tino Rossi was detained in Fresnes prison, where, according to Combat newspaper, prison guards asked him for autographs. Pierre Benoit and Arletty were also detained.

Executions without trials and other forms of "popular justice" were harshly criticized immediately after the war, with circles close to Pétainists advancing the figures of 100,000, and denouncing the "Red Terror", "anarchy", or "blind vengeance". The writer and Jewish internee Robert Aron estimated the popular executions to a number of 40,000 in 1960. This surprised de Gaulle, who estimated the number to be around 10,000, which is also the figure accepted today by mainstream historians. Approximately 9,000 of these 10,000 refer to summary executions in the whole of the country, which occurred during battle.

Some imply that France did too little to deal with collaborators at this stage, by selectively pointing out that in absolute value (numbers), there were fewer legal executions in France than in its smaller neighbor Belgium, and fewer internments than in Norway or the Netherlands. However, the situation in Belgium was not comparable as it mixed collaboration with elements of a war of secession: The 1940 invasion prompted the Flemish population to generally side with the Germans in the hope of gaining national recognition, and relative to national population a much higher proportion of Belgians than French thus ended up collaborating with the Nazis or volunteering to fight alongside them;[87][88] the Walloon population in turn led massive anti-Flemish retribution after the war, some of which, such as the execution of Irma Swertvaeger Laplasse, remained controversial.[89]

The proportion of collaborators was also higher in Norway, and collaboration occurred on a larger scale in the Netherlands (as in Flanders) based partly on linguistic and cultural commonality with Germany. The internments in Norway and Netherlands, meanwhile, were highly temporary and were rather indiscriminate; there was a brief internment peak in these countries as internment was used partly for the purpose of separating Collaborationists from non-Collaborationists.[90] Norway ended up executing only 37 Collaborationists.

1980s trials

Some accused war criminals were judged, some for a second time, from the 1980s onwards: OAS terrorist movement during the Algerian War (1954–62). Jacques de Bernonville escaped to Quebec, then Brazil. Jacques Ploncard d'Assac became counsellor to the dictator António de Oliveira Salazar in Portugal.[91]

In 1993, former Vichy official René Bousquet was assassinated while he awaited prosecution in Paris following a 1991 inculpation for crimes against humanity; he had been prosecuted but partially acquitted and immediately amnestied in 1949.[92] In 1994 former Vichy official Paul Touvier (1915–1996) was convicted of crimes against humanity. Maurice Papon was likewise convicted in 1998, released three years later due to ill health, and died in 2007.[93]

Historiographical debates and France's responsibility: the "Vichy Syndrome"

Up to Jacques Chirac's presidency, the official point of view of the French government was that the Vichy regime was an illegal government distinct from the French Republic, established by traitors under foreign influence. Indeed, Vichy France eschewed the formal name of France ("French Republic") and styled itself the "French State", replacing the Republican motto of Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité (liberty, equality, fraternity) inherited from the 1789 French Revolution, with the reactionary motto Travail, Famille, Patrie (work, family, fatherland).

While the criminal behavior of Vichy France was consistently acknowledged, this point of view denied any responsibility of the state of France, alleging that acts committed between 1940 and 1944 were unconstitutional acts devoid of legitimacy.[94] The main proponent of this view was Charles de Gaulle himself, who insisted, as did other historians afterwards, on the unclear conditions of the June 1940 vote granting full powers to Pétain, which was refused by the minority of Vichy 80. In particular, coercive measures used by Pierre Laval have been denounced by those historians who hold that the vote did not, therefore, have Constitutional legality (See subsection: Conditions of armistice and 10 July 1940 vote of full powers).

Nevertheless, on 16 July 1995, President Jacques Chirac, in a speech, recognized the responsibility of the French State for seconding the "criminal folly of the occupying country", in particular the help of the French police, headed by René Bousquet, which assisted the Nazis in the enactment of the so-called "Final Solution". The July 1942 Vel' d'Hiv Roundup is a tragic example of how the French police did the Nazi work, going even further than what military orders demanded (by sending children to Drancy internment camp, last stop before the extermination camps).[95]

As historian Henry Rousso has put it in The Vichy Syndrome (1987), Vichy and the state collaboration of France remains a "past that doesn't pass." Historiographical debates are still, today, passionate, opposing conflictual views on the nature and legitimacy of Vichy's collaborationism with Germany in the implementation of the Holocaust. Three main periods have been distinguished in the historiography of Vichy: first the Gaullist period, which aimed at national reconciliation and unity under the figure of Charles de Gaulle, who conceived himself above political parties and divisions; then the 1960s, with Marcel Ophüls's film The Sorrow and the Pity (1971); finally the 1990s, with the trial of Maurice Papon, civil servant in Bordeaux in charge of the "Jewish Questions" during the war, who was convicted after a very long trial (1981–1998) for crimes against humanity. The trial of Papon did not only concern an individual itinerary, but the French administration's collective responsibility in the deportation of the Jews. Furthermore, his career after the war, which led him to be successively prefect of the Paris police during the Algerian War (1954–1962) and then treasurer of the Gaullist Union des Démocrates pour la République party from 1968 to 1971, and finally Budget Minister under president Valéry Giscard d'Estaing and prime minister Raymond Barre from 1978 to 1981, was symptomatic of the quick rehabilitation of former Collaborationists after the war. Critics contend that this itinerary, shared by others (although few had such public roles), demonstrates France's collective amnesia, while others point out that the perception of the war and of the state collaboration has evolved during these years. Papon's career was considered more scandalous as he had been responsible, during his function as prefect of police of Paris, for the 1961 Paris massacre of Algerians during the war, and was forced to resign from this position after the "disappearance", in Paris in 1965, of the Moroccan anti-colonialist leader Mehdi Ben Barka.

While it is certain that the Vichy government and a large number of its high administration collaborated in the implementation of the Holocaust, the exact level of such cooperation is still debated. Compared with the Jewish communities established in other countries invaded by Germany, French Jews suffered proportionately lighter losses (see Jewish death toll section above); although, starting in 1942, repression and deportations struck French Jews as well as foreign Jews.[50] Former Vichy officials later claimed that they did as much as they could to minimize the impact of the Nazi policies, although mainstream French historians contend that the Vichy regime went beyond the Nazi expectations.

The regional newspaper Nice Matin revealed on 28 February 2007, that in more than 1,000 condominium properties on the Côte d'Azur, rules dating to Vichy were still "in force", or at least existed on paper. One of these rules, for example, stated that:

The contractors shall make the following statements: they are of French nationality, are not Jewish, nor married to Jewish in the sense of the laws and ordinances in force [under Vichy, NDLR]

The president of the Conseil Représentatif des Institutions juives de France-Côte d'Azur, a Jewish association group, issued a strong condemnation labeling it "the utmost horror" when one of the inhabitants of such a condominium qualified this as an "anachronism" with "no consequences."[96] Jewish inhabitants were able and willing to live in the buildings, and to explain this the Nice Matin reporter surmised that some tenants may have not read the condominium contracts in detail, while others deemed the rules obsolete.[97] A reason for the latter is that any racially discriminatory condominium or other local rule that may have existed "on paper", Vichy-era or otherwise, was invalidated by the constitutions of the French Fourth Republic (1946) and French Fifth Republic (1958) and was inapplicable under French antidiscrimination law. Thus, even if the tenants or coowners had signed or otherwise agreed to these rules after 1946, any such agreement would be null and void (caduque) under French law, as were the rules. Rewriting or eliminating the obsolete rules would have had to be done at the occupants' expense, including notary fees of 900 to 7000 EUR per building.[97]

"Sword and shield" argument

Today, the few Vichy supporters continue to maintain the official argument advanced by Pétain and Laval: the state collaboration was supposed to protect the French civilian population from the hardships of the Occupation. After the war, former Collaborationists and "pétainistes" (supporters of Pétain) claimed that while Charles de Gaulle had represented the "sword" of France, Pétain had been the "shield" which protected France.


Munholland reports a widespread consensus among historians regarding the authoritarian character of the Vichy regime and its:

broadly stated desire to regenerate a "decadent" state and society that had become corrupted by an ambient lassitude, secularism, and hedonism under the Third Republic by returning to earlier and purer values and imposing a greater discipline and dynamism upon the industrial order.[98]

"French Jews vs. foreign Jews": myth or reality?

Although this claim is rejected the rest of the French population and by the state itself, another myth remains more widespread than this one. This other myth refers to the alleged "protection" by Vichy of French Jews by "accepting" to collaborate in the deportation—and, ultimately, in the extermination—of foreign Jews.

However, this argument has been rejected by several historians who are specialists of the subject, among them US historian Robert Paxton, who is widely recognized, and historian of the French police Maurice Rajsfus. Both were called on as experts during the Papon trial in the 1990s.

Robert Paxton thus declared, before the court, on 31 October 1997, that "Vichy took initiatives... The armistice let it a breathing space."[99] Henceforth, on its own Vichy decided, on the domestic plan, to implement the "National Revolution" ("Révolution nationale"). After having designated the alleged responsibles of the defeat ("democracy, parliamentarism, cosmopolitanism, left-wing, foreigners, Jews...") Vichy put in place, as soon as 3 October 1940, the first "Statute on Jews." From then on, Jewish people were considered "second-zone citizens[99] ".

On the international plan, France "believed the war to be finished". Thus, as soon as July 1940, Vichy eagerly negotiated with the German authorities in an attempt to gain a place for France in the Third Reich's "New Order". But "Hitler never forgot the 1918 defeat. He always said no." Vichy's ambition was doomed from the start.[99]

"Antisemitism was a constant theme", recalled Robert Paxton. It even opposed itself, at first, to German plans. "At this period, the Nazis had not yet decided to exterminate the Jews, but to expel them. Their idea was not to make of France an antisemitic country. To the contrary, they wanted to send there the Jews that they expelled" from the Reich.[99]

The historical turn took place in 1941–1942, with the pending German defeat on the Eastern Front. The war then became "total", and in August 1941, Hitler decided on the "global extermination of all European Jews." This new policy was officially formulated during the January 1942 Wannsee Conference, and implemented in all European occupied countries as soon as spring 1942. France, which praised itself for having remained an independent state (as opposed to other occupied countries) "decided to cooperate. This is the second Vichy."[99] The first train of deportees left Drancy on 27 March 1942, for Poland—the first in a long series.

"The Nazis needed the French administration... They always complained about the lack of staff." recalled Paxton,[99] something which Maurice Rajsfus has also underlined. Although the American historian recognized during the trial that the "civil behavior of certain individuals" had permitted many Jews to escape deportation, he stated that:

The French state, itself, has participated to the policy of extermination of the Jews... How can one pretend the reverse when such technical and administrative means have been put to this aim?[99]

Evoking the French police's registering of the Jews, as well as Laval's decision, taken in August 1942 in all independence, to deport children along with their parents, Paxton added:

Contrary to preconceived ideas, Vichy did not sacrifice foreign Jews in the hope of protecting French Jews. At the summit of the hierarchy, it knew, from the start, that the departure of these last ones was unavoidable.[99]

Despite Paxton's assertion about Vichy knowledge "from the start", deportations from France did not start until summer 1942, several months after mass deportation from other countries started. Part of the population housed at the Dachau concentration camp, which had been opened since 1933, was Jewish, and major death camps in Poland and Germany were opened in 1941 and early 1942.

Paxton then evoked the case of Italy, where deportation of Jewish people had only started after the German occupation—Italy surrendered to the Allies in mid-1943 but was then invaded by Germany and fighting there continued through 1944. In particular, in Nice, "Italians had protected the Jews. And the French authorities complained about it to the Germans."[99] In this instance, deportations from Italy started immediately upon its invasion by Germany. In fact, the rise of Benito Mussolini and Italian fascism had drastically curtailed Jewish immigration during the inter-war period, and Italy had passed drastic anti-Semitic laws in 1938 that stripped Jews of their citizenship. Ultimately, a similar proportion of Jews from Italy as from France were deported.

More recent work by the historian Susan Zuccotti finds that the Vichy government facilitated the deportation of foreign Jews rather than French ones, all else equal, until at least 1943:
Vichy officials [had] hoped to deport foreign Jews throughout France in order to ease pressure on native Jews. Pierre Laval himself expressed the official Vichy position... In the early months of 1943, the terror [Adam] Munz and [Alfred] Feldman described in German-occupied France still was experienced by foreign Jews like themselves. It is difficult to know exactly how many French Jews were arrested, usually for specific or alleged offenses, but on 21 January 1943, Helmut Knochen informed Eichmann in Berlin that there were 2,159 French citizens among the 3,811 prisoners at Drancy. Many had been at Drancy for several months. They had not been deported because, until January 1943, there had usually been enough foreigners and their children to fill the forty-three trains that had carried about 41,591 people to the east... By January 1943, however, foreign Jews were increasingly aware of the danger and difficult to find. Nazi pressure for the arrest of French Jews and the deportation of those already at Drancy increased accordingly. Thus, when Knochen reported that there were 2,159 French citizens among the 3,811 prisoners at Drancy on 21 January 1943, he also asked Eichmann for permission to deport them. There had been no convoy from Drancy in December and January, and [SS Lieutenant Heinz] Röthke was pressuring Knochen to resume them. Röthke also wanted to empty Drancy in order to refill it. Despite Vichy officials' past disapproval and Eichmann's own prior discouragement of such a step, permission for the deportation of the French Jews at Drancy, except for those in mixed marriages, was granted from Berlin on 25 January.[100]

Whatever the Vichy government's intent initially or subsequently, the numerical outcome was that less than 15% of French Jews, vs. nearly twice that proportion of non-citizen Jews residing in France, died. More Jews lived in France at the end of the Vichy regime than had approximately ten years earlier.[101]

Notable figures in the Vichy regime

Notable collaborationists or pétainists not linked to the Vichy regime

See also




  • Atkin, Nicholas, Pétain, (Longman, 1997)
  • Azema, Jean-Pierre. From Munich to Liberation 1938–1944 (The Cambridge History of Modern France) (1985)
  • Azema, Jean-Pierre, ed. Collaboration and Resistance: Images of Life in Vichy France 1940–1944 (2000) 220pp; photographs
  • Burrin, Philippe. France Under the Germans: Collaboration and Compromise (1998)
  • Carmen Callil Bad Faith. A Forgotten History of Family, Fatherland and Vichy France. New York: Knopf. 2006. ISBN 0-375-41131-3; Biography of Louis Darquier de Pellepoix, the Commissioner for Jewish Affairs
  • Christofferson, Thomas R., and Michael S. Christofferson. France during World War II: From Defeat to Liberation (2nd ed. 2006) 206pp; brief introduction online edition
  • Davies, Peter. France and the Second World War: Resistance, Occupation and Liberation (Introduction to History) (2000) 128pp excerpt and text search
  • Diamond, Hanna. Women and the Second World War in France, 1939–1948: Choices and Constraints (1999)
  • Diamond, Hanna, and Simon Kitson, eds. Vichy, Resistance, Liberation: New Perspectives on Wartime France (2005) online
  • Fogg, Shannon Lee. The Politics of Everyday Life in Vichy France: Foreigners, Undesirables, and Strangers (2009), 226pp excerpt and text search
  • Gildea, Robert. Marianne in Chains: Daily Life in the Heart of France During the German Occupation (2004) excerpt and text search
  • Glass, Charles, Americans in Paris: Life and Death Under Nazi Occupation (2009) excerpt and text search
  • Gordon, B. Historical Dictionary of World War Two France: The Occupation, Vichy and the Resistance, 1938–1946 (Westport, Conn., 1998)
  • Halls, W. D. Politics, Society and Christianity in Vichy France (1995) online edition
  • Jackson, Julian. France: The Dark Years, 1940–1944 (2003) excerpt and text search; online edition
  • Kedward, H. R. Occupied France: Collaboration and Resistance (Oxford, 1985), short survey
  • Kitson, Simon, The Hunt for Nazi Spies: Fighting Espionage in Vichy France, (University of Chicago Press, 2008). ISBN 978-0-226-43893-1.
  • Kooreman, Megan. The Expectation of Justice: France, 1944–1946. (Duke University Press. 1999)
  • Lackerstein, Debbie. National Regeneration in Vichy France: Ideas and Policies, 1930–1944 (2012) excerpt and text search
  • Langer, William, Our Vichy gamble, (1947); U.S. policy 1940–42
  • Larkin, Maurice. France since the Popular Front: Government and People 1936–1996 (Oxford U P 1997). ISBN 0-19-873151-5
  • Lemmes, Fabian. "Collaboration in wartime France, 1940–1944," European Review of History (2008), 15#2 pp 157–177
  • Marrus, Michael R. and Robert Paxton. Vichy France and the Jews. (Basic Books: 1981). online edition
  • Melton, George E. Darlan: Admiral and Statesman of France, 1881–1942. (Praeger, 1998). ISBN 0-275-95973-2.
  • Nord, Philip. France's New Deal: From the Thirties to the Postwar Era (Princeton U.P., 2010) 457 pages
  • Paxton, Robert O. Vichy France: Old Guard and New Order, 1940–1944 (2nd ed. 2001) excerpt and text search; influential survey
  • Pollard, Miranda. Reign of virtue: mobilizing gender in Vichy France (University of Chicago Press, 2012)
  • Smith, Colin. England's Last War Against France: Fighting Vichy, 1940–1942, London, Weidenfeld, 2009. ISBN 978-0-297-85218-6
  • Sutherland, Jonathan, and Diane Canwell. Vichy Air Force at War: The French Air Force that Fought the Allies in World War II (Pen & Sword Aviation, 2011)
  • Sweets, John F., Choices in Vichy France: The French Under Nazi Occupation (New York, 1986) excerpt and text search, focus on city of Clermont-Ferrand
  • Thomas, Martin, The French Empire at War, 1940–45, Manchester University Press, 1998, paperback 2007.
  • Vinen, Richard. The Unfree French: Life Under the Occupation (2007)
  • Weisberg, Richard H.. Vichy Law and the Holocaust in France. New York University Press. 1998. ISBN 0-8147-9336-3


  • Conan, Eric, and Henry Rousso. Vichy: An ever-present past (UP of New England, 1998)
  • Fishman, Sarah, et al. France at War: Vichy and the Historians (2000) online edition
  • Golsan, Richard J. Vichy's Afterlife: History & Counterhistory in Postwar France (2000)
  • Gordon, Bertram M. "The 'Vichy Syndrome' problem in history," French Historical Studies (1995) 19#2 pp 495–518, on the denial of the realities of Vichy in JSTOR
  • Munholland, Kim. "Wartime France: Remembering Vichy," French Historical Studies (1994) 18#3 pp. 801–820 in JSTOR
  • Poznanski, Renée. "Rescue of the Jews and the Resistance in France: From History to Historiography," French Politics, Culture and Society (2012) 30#2 pp 8–32.
  • Rousso, Henry. The Vichy Syndrome: History and Memory in France since 1944. (2nd ed. 2006). ISBN 0-674-93539-X
  • Singer, Barnett. "The Changing Image of Vichy in France," Contemporary Review Summer 2009 online edition


  • Henri Amouroux, La grande histoire des Français sous l'Occupation, 8 volumes, Laffont, 1976
  • Jean-Pierre Azéma & François Bedarida, Vichy et les Français, Paris, Fayard, 1996.
    • Le régime de Vichy et les Français (dir. Jean-Pierre Azéma & François Bédarida, Institut d'histoire du temps présent), Fayard, 1992, ISBN 2-213-02683-1
  • Michèle Cointet. Dictionnaire historique de la France sous l'Occupation (2nd ed. 2000) 732pp
  • Michèle Cointet. L'Eglise sous Vichy. 1940–1945. La repentance en question., Perrin, Paris, 1998. ISBN 2-262-01231-8
  • Eric Conan et Henry Rousso. Vichy, un passé qui ne passe pas, Fayard, Paris, 1994, ISBN 2-213-59237-3
  • Yves Maxime Danan, La vie politique à Alger, de 1940 à 1944, L.G.D.J., Paris 1963.
  • André Kaspi. Les Juifs pendant l'Occupation, Seuil, Paris, 1991, ISBN 2-02-013509-4
  • Serge Klarsfeld. Vichy-Auschwitz. Le rôle de Vichy dans la solution finale de la question juive en France. 1943–1944., Fayard, Paris, 1985, ISBN 2-213-01573-2
  • Launay, Jacques de. Le Dossier de Vichy, in series, Collection Archives, [Éditions] Julliard, [Paris], 1967. N.B.: A documentary history.
  • Herbert R. Lottman. Pétain. Seuil, 1984, ISBN 2-02-006763-3
  • Jacques Sabille. "Les Juifs de Tunisie sous Vichy et l'Occupation". Paris: Edition du Centre de Documentation Juive Contemporaine, 1954


  • Eberhard Jäckel: Frankreich in Hitlers Europa: die deutsche Frankreichpolitik im 2. Weltkrieg, Stuttgart 1966.
  • Martin Jungius: Der verwaltete Raub. Die "Arisierung" der Wirtschaft in Frankreich 1940–1944. Thorbecke, Ostfildern 2008, Beiheft der Francia Nr. 67, hrsg. von Deutschen Historischen Institut Paris.
  • Henry Rousso, Vichy. Frankreich unter deutscher Besatzung 1940–1944 (München, C.H.Beck, 2009) (beck'sche reihe; 1910).
  • Michael Mayer Staaten als Täter. Ministerialbürokratie und 'Judenpolitik' in NS-Deutschland und Vichy-Frankreich. Ein Vergleich. Preface by Horst Möller and Georges-Henri Soutou München, Oldenbourg, 2010 (Studien zur Zeitgeschichte; 80). ISBN 978-3-486-58945-0. (Comparative study of anti-Jewish policy implemented by the government in Nazi-Germany, by German occupational forces in France and by the semi-autonomic French government in Vichy)


External links

  • Simon Kitson's Vichy web-page
  • Original "Establishment of the Vichy government" constitutional act
  • Map of the "free" and "occupied" French zones
  • coverage of the armisticeNational Geographic (French)
  • Obituary of a Republic Time Magazine, 22 July 1940
  • Vica Nazi Propaganda Comics – Duke University Libraries Digital Collections—Pro-Nazi comics produced in Vichy France
  • NAZI diplomacy: Vichy, 1940
  • The Holocaust in France, at Yad Vashem website
  • Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, But Not for All: France and the "Alien" Jews, 1933–1942

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.