Announcement

Collapse
No announcement yet.

Marshal Petain - hero or traitor?

Collapse
X
 
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • #46
    Originally posted by AdityaMookerjee View Post
    Petain was the most celebrated French soldier of WW1. He had his views, and I guess Vichy France had no German troops stationed there, after the French surrender. I could be wrong.
    He was only a figurehead, Aditya - by 1940, semi senile at that!

    The thing about the right wing Vichy cabinet was that it went further than needed in dealing with the Germans. Many of the Nazis' disgraceful policies rather than those of the Third Republic were applied internally because the government agreed with them.

    Comment


    • #47
      Originally posted by clackers View Post
      He was only a figurehead, Aditya - by 1940, semi senile at that!
      Clackers, I'm inclined to disagree. He was old and no great intellect. but from what I've read, he was in charge and playing politics most all the way through the war.


      The thing about the right wing Vichy cabinet was that it went further than needed in dealing with the Germans. Many of the Nazis' disgraceful policies rather than those of the Third Republic were applied internally because the government agreed with them.
      That's probably true, but for most part Vichy's motivation after the armistice was to keep the free zone free of German occupation. Not terribly noble perhaps, but not entirely because they agreed with Nazi policies. True, there were some prominent pro-Nazi voices who supported the deportation of Jews and its rightist policies. It's a fascinating period with all sorts of intrigue going on between French and Nazi power brokers. I think Petain started out with good intentions and then found himself in an untenable position. For one, he didn't expect the Germans to divide the country into 2 zones (3 counting the little piece Italy occupied) and once they did, he didn't anticipate the degree to which Germany would impose itself on Vichy policies. He had hoped to 'save' France by ushering her thought the war as a neutral, He wanted to preserve France's colonies, its fleet and its African-based land forces for a later day. He became a whore for his goal. That may be why De Gaulle commuted his sentence of death handed down after his trial for treason.
      To be Truly ignorant, Man requires an Education - Plato

      Comment


      • #48
        Originally posted by JAD_333 View Post
        That may be why De Gaulle commuted his sentence of death handed down after his trial for treason.
        More likely DeGualle did not want to execute his former commander and a Marshal of France the sole honor he retained. Plus Petain did have a large following and really was in an untenable position. Hundreds of thousands of French men were in Germany as forced labor plus the threat of German invasion. So while he was a traitor, he was not one who betrayed for ideals or power.

        Comment


        • #49
          Originally posted by zraver View Post
          More likely DeGualle did not want to execute his former commander and a Marshal of France the sole honor he retained. Plus Petain did have a large following and really was in an untenable position. Hundreds of thousands of French men were in Germany as forced labor plus the threat of German invasion. So while he was a traitor, he was not one who betrayed for ideals or power.
          Ironically, De Gaulle was the one who was branded a traitor for not honoring the armistice signed by the legitimate French government.
          To be Truly ignorant, Man requires an Education - Plato

          Comment


          • #50
            Originally posted by JAD_333 View Post
            Clackers, I'm inclined to disagree. He was old and no great intellect. but from what I've read, he was in charge and playing politics most all the way through the war.
            I think it's revealing that even before the Blitzkrieg, JAD, Pierre Laval responded to a journalist who thought Petain too old to contribute to the upcoming conflict with: "That is without importance. What would we ask of him? To be a mantlepiece, a statue on a pedestal. His name! Nothing more!"

            He was extremely useful to all the factions of Vichy, since the 83 year old could 'carry the can' instead of one of them.

            As Julian Jackson has written in The Dark Years: France 1940-1944,

            Although Petain was in remarkable condition for his age, his short-term memory was unreliable, and he tired easily. Visitors took away different impressions depending on the time of day they saw him. Politics was new to Petain, and he was often unsure what policy to pursue. He frequently took a decision, and was then persuaded to reverse it a few hours later .... Petain tended to listen to the last person he spoke to.

            Petain's doctor had an office adjoining the head of state, and he screened visitors, as Laval was later to complain: "I had predicted everything ... except that France would be governed by a doctor."

            Petain's erratic management style would include sacking arch-collaborator Laval (which alarmed the Germans, who got him restored in 1942) and shortly before the Torch landings having to be talked out of going to a wavering North Africa to encourage the armed forces to steadfastly open fire on the British and Americans.

            Originally posted by JAD_333 View Post
            That's probably true, but for most part Vichy's motivation after the armistice was to keep the free zone free of German occupation.
            I don't envy the job of having to liaise with an occupier, and someone has to do it!

            Better your own people do as much of the civil administration as possible, rather than let it be done by foreign soldiers. Denmark had a similar arrangement.

            There were many mistaken beliefs the various Vichy figures had, Gerhard Weinberg has noted:

            Some of those running the Vichy system believed ... they could spare their people a worse fate; some hoped to use the defeat for a reorganization of French society; some genuinely believed in the possibility of a reconciliation with the Germans; most were convinced that after the defeat of France, Britain would quickly succumb also. All were in error.

            The Germans did not want the French colonies to continue to fight on, and wanted to stop the French navy in the Med and the West Indies from joining Britain. Before Barbarossa the OKW also wanted France, Italy and Spain to come to a mutual agreement and make possible a cohesive German Mediterranean strategy against the UK (the big holdups were Franco and Mussolini).

            But Jews were rounded up, the prisoners were not repatriated, the 3% of the population forced to work in Germany was not much different from the percentages of occupied Belgium or Holland, an anti-partisan unit was formed whose commander was rewarded with being made an SS major.

            It was of course unlikely that Petain and Laval would receive trials after the war without prejudice, but the fact is that no one believed that all their actions and legislation had been necessary, and claims that they had secretly been working with the Allies were rejected.

            Petain was indeed spared due to personal action by De Gaulle. IIRC, Laval took cyanide, but the determined prison staff saved his life and then dragged him half unconscious to face the court-ordered firing squad.
            Last edited by clackers; 04 Jul 12,, 02:47.

            Comment


            • #51
              Originally posted by clackers View Post
              I think it's revealing that even before the Blitzkrieg, JAD, Pierre Laval responded to a journalist who thought Petain too old to contribute to the upcoming conflict with: "That is without importance. What would we ask of him? To be a mantlepiece, a statue on a pedestal. His name! Nothing more!"
              At that point, the topic was who should lead the army. Petain was summoned, but to join the government. When told that the army could hold out for only a few more days, he initiated armistice talks with the Germans.

              He was extremely useful to all the factions of Vichy, since the 83 year old could 'carry the can' instead of one of them.
              Yet he engineered it so the new government was totally under his command.


              Petain's erratic management style would include sacking arch-collaborator Laval (which alarmed the Germans, who got him restored in 1942) and shortly before the Torch landings having to be talked out of going to a wavering North Africa to encourage the armed forces to steadfastly open fire on the British and Americans.
              My memory is poor on this phase. Firing Laval did disturb the Germans and they tried to get him reinstated later on. But it was influential French contacts who actually persuaded to bring Laval back. He was fired because Petain wanted bring in a senior general who would accept no other post. IIRC, it had to do with keeping France's forces in N.Africa neutral.



              I don't envy the job of having to liaise with an occupier, and someone has to do it!

              Better your own people do as much of the civil administration as possible, rather than let it be done by foreign soldiers. Denmark had a similar arrangement.

              There were many mistaken beliefs the various Vichy figures had, Gerhard Weinberg has noted:

              Some of those running the Vichy system believed ... they could spare their people a worse fate; some hoped to use the defeat for a reorganization of French society; some genuinely believed in the possibility of a reconciliation with the Germans; most were convinced that after the defeat of France, Britain would quickly succumb also. All were in error.
              Yes, there were many factions, all with their own agendas. Petain himself, perhaps misguidedly, thought he could 'save' France until the end of the war. John Keegan writes in his book, [I]The Second World War[i], that Petain deflected from Hitler, who wanted France (and Spain) to throw in with him in the upcoming Battle of Britain.


              But Jews were rounded up, the prisoners were not repatriated, the 3% of the population forced to work in Germany was not much different from the percentages of occupied Belgium or Holland, an anti-partisan unit was formed whose commander was rewarded with being made an SS major.
              Considerable pressure was brought to bear on Vichy and most of the roundups and the anti-partisan police units came into being after Petain and Vichy had been effectively shunted aside when Germany occupied all of France in 1942. Petain's last 2 years in office were virtually as a potted plant, although as late as March 1944 most Frenchmen still regarded him as a hero. I don't recall whether he took part in the abortive effort to create a new government under the lone Deputy who resisted him in 1940, but the effort failed on the verge of success and Petain was forced to go into exile in Germany in 1944.

              It was of course unlikely that Petain and Laval would receive trials after the war without prejudice, but the fact is that no one believed that all their actions and legislation had been necessary, and claims that they had secretly been working with the Allies were rejected.
              But some close to him did communicate with the Allies, probably without his knowledge.

              Petain was indeed spared due to personal action by De Gaulle. IIRC, Laval took cyanide, but the determined prison staff saved his life and then dragged him half unconscious to face the court-ordered firing squad.
              I think sparing Petain made it seem he was not responsible for his actions, and that he was used by others. In his book Americans in Paris, Phillip Glass, paints Petain as a cold, self-centered man who despite his age, called the shots without any great political skill, but with the mien of a old commander.
              To be Truly ignorant, Man requires an Education - Plato

              Comment

              Working...
              X