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. (April 2013)
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 by Germany. He set up a paternalistic, authoritarian regime that actively collaborated with Germany, Vichy's 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 yellow zone was under Italian
Personal flag of Philippe Pétain, Chief of State
of Vichy France (Chef de l'État Français)
After the National Assembly under the Third Republic voted to give full powers to Philippe Pétain on 10 July 1940, the name République Française (French Republic) disappeared from all official documents. From that point on, the regime was referred to officially as the État Français (French State). Because of its unique situation in the history of France, its contested legitimacy, and the generic nature of its official name, the "French State" is most often represented in English by the synonyms "Vichy France", "Vichy regime", "government of Vichy", or in context, simply "Vichy".
The territory under the control of the Vichy government was the unoccupied, southern portion of France south of the Line of Demarcation, as established by the Armistice of 22 June 1940, and the overseas French territories, such as French North Africa, which was "an integral part of Vichy", and where all antisemitic Vichy's laws were also implemented. This was called the Unbesetztes Gebiet (Unoccupied zone) by the Germans, and known as the Zone libre (Free Zone) in France, or less formally as the "southern zone" (zone du sud) especially after Operation Anton, the invasion of the Zone libre by German forces in November 1942. Other contemporary colloquial terms for the Zone libre were based on abbreviation and wordplay, such as the "zone nono", for the non-occupied Zone.
In theory, the civil jurisdiction of the Vichy government extended over most of metropolitan France, French Algeria, the French protectorate in Morocco, the French protectorate of Tunisia, and the rest of the French colonial empire that accepted the authority of Vichy; only the disputed border territory of Alsace-Lorraine was placed under direct German administration. Alsace-Lorraine was officially still part of France, as the Reich never annexed the region. The Reich government at the time was not interested in attempting to enforce piecemeal annexations in the West (although it later did annex Luxembourg) – it operated under the assumption that Germany's new western border would be determined in peace negotiations that would be attended by all of the Western Allies, thus producing a frontier that would be recognised by all of the major powers. Since Adolf Hitler's overall territorial ambitions were not limited to recovering Alsace-Lorraine, and since Britain was never brought to terms, these peace negotiations never took place.
The Nazis had some intention of annexing a large swath of northeastern France and replacing that region's inhabitants with German settlers, and initially forbade French refugees from returning to this region. These restrictions, which were never thoroughly enforced, were basically abandoned following the invasion of the Soviet Union, which had the effect of turning the Nazis' territorial ambitions almost exclusively to the East. German troops guarding the boundary line of the northeastern Zone interdite were withdrawn on the night of 17–18 December 1941 although the line remained in place on paper for the remainder of the occupation.
Nevertheless, effectively Alsace-Lorraine was annexed: German law applied to the region, its inhabitants were conscripted into the Wehrmacht and pointedly the customs posts separating France from Germany were placed back where they had been between 1871–1918. 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 in Paris through his second-in-command, Jean Leguay, who coordinated raids with the Nazis. German laws 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.
Vichy's claim to be the legitimate French government was denied by Free France and by all subsequent French governments after the war. They maintain that Vichy was an illegal government run by traitors, having come to power through an unconstitutional coup d'état. Pétain was constitutionally appointed the Premier by President Lebrun on 16 June 1940, and he was legally within his rights to sign the armistice with Germany; yet, his decision to ask the National Assembly to dissolve itself while granting him dictatorial powers has been more controversial. Historians have particularly debated the circumstances of the vote by the National Assembly of the Third Republic, 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 Pierre Laval, former Premier in the Third Republic, on the deputies in Vichy, and on the absence of 27 deputies and senators who had fled on the ship Massilia, and thus could not take part in the vote. The legitimacy of the Vichy government was recognised by the United Kingdom, the United States, and other nations, which extended diplomatic recognition to Petain's government.