Vichy France

French State

État Français
1940–1944[1]
Motto: "Travail, Famille, Patrie"
"Work, Family, Fatherland"
Anthem: 
The French State in 1942: *   French State *   French State, German military occupation zone *   French protectorates
The French State in 1942:
  •   French State
  •   French State, German military occupation zone
  •   French protectorates
The gradual loss of all Vichy territory to Free France and the Allies.
The gradual loss of all Vichy territory to Free France and the Allied powers. Legend.
Status
Capital
Capital-in-exileSigmaringen
Common languagesFrench
GovernmentFascist one-party totalitarian dictatorship
Chief of State 
• 1940–1944
Philippe Pétain
Prime Minister 
• 1940–1942
Philippe Pétain
• 1942–1944
Pierre Laval
LegislatureNational Assembly
Historical eraWorld War II
22 June 1940
• Pétain given full powers
10 July 1940
8 November 1942
11 November 1942
Summer 1944
• Disestablished
9 August 1944[1]
• Capture of the Sigmaringen enclave
22 April 1945
CurrencyFrench franc
ISO 3166 codeFR
Preceded by
Succeeded by
French Third Republic
Provisional Government of the French Republic
  1. Paris remained the formal capital of the French State, although the Vichy government never operated from there.
  2. Although the French Republic's institutions were officially maintained, the word "Republic" never occurred in any official document of the Vichy government.
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Vichy France (French: Régime de Vichy) is the common name of the French State (État français) headed by Marshal Philippe Pétain during World War II. Evacuated from Paris to Vichy in the unoccupied "Free Zone" (zone libre) in the southern part of metropolitan France which included French Algeria, it remained responsible for the civil administration of France as well as the French colonial empire.

From 1940 to 1942, while the Vichy regime was the nominal government of all of France except for Alsace-Lorraine, the Germans and Italians militarily occupied northern and south-eastern France. While Paris remained the de jure capital of France, the government chose to relocate to the town of Vichy, 360 km (220 mi) to the south in the zone libre, which thus became the de facto capital of the French State. Following the Allied landings in French North Africa in November 1942, southern France was also militarily occupied by Germany and Italy to protect the Mediterranean coastline. Petain's government remained in Vichy as the nominal government of France, albeit one that collaborated with Nazi Germany from November 1942 onwards. The government at Vichy remained there until late 1944, when it lost its de facto authority due to the Allied invasion of France and the government was compelled to relocate to the Sigmaringen enclave in Germany, where it continued to exist on paper until the end of hostilities in Europe.

After being appointed Premier by President Albert Lebrun, Marshal Pétain's cabinet agreed to end the war and signed an Armistice with Germany on 22 June 1940. On 10 July, the Third Republic was effectively dissolved as Pétain was granted full powers by the National Assembly. At Vichy, Pétain established an authoritarian government that reversed many liberal policies and began tight supervision of the economy, calling for "National Regeneration", with central planning a key feature. Labour unions came under tight government control. Conservative Catholics became prominent and clerical input in schools resumed. Paris lost its avant-garde status in European art and culture. The media were tightly controlled and stressed virulent anti-Semitism, and, after June 1941, anti-Bolshevism.[3]

The French State maintained nominal sovereignty over the whole of French territory but had effective full sovereignty only in the unoccupied southern zone libre ("free zone"). It had limited and only civil 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 (1940) appeared imminent. The occupation also presented certain advantages, such as keeping the French Navy and French colonial empire under French control, and avoiding full occupation of the country by Germany, thus maintaining a degree of French independence and neutrality. Despite heavy pressure, the French government at Vichy never joined the Axis alliance and even remained formally at war with Germany.

Germany kept two million French soldiers prisoner, carrying out forced labour. They were hostages to ensure that Vichy would reduce its military forces and pay a heavy tribute in gold, food, and supplies to Germany. French police were ordered to round up Jews and other "undesirables" such as communists and political refugees. Much of the French public initially supported the government, despite its undemocratic nature and its difficult position vis-à-vis the Germans, often seeing it as necessary to maintain a degree of French autonomy and territorial integrity. In November 1942, the zone libre was also occupied by Axis forces, leading to the disbandment of the remaining army and the sinking of France's remaining fleet and ending any semblance of independence, with Germany now closely supervising all French officials.

Most of the overseas French colonies were originally under Vichy control, though a few rallied to Charles de Gaulle's Allied-oriented Free France. Following the Allied invasion of North Africa in November 1942, Vichy progressively lost control of the colonies to Free France. Public opinion gradually turned against the French government and the occupying German forces over time, when it became clear that Germany was losing the war, and living conditions in France became increasingly difficult. A resistance movement, working largely in concert with de Gaulle's movement outside the country, increased in strength over the course of the occupation. Following the Allied invasion of Normandy in June 1944 and the liberation of France later that year, the Free French Provisional government of the French Republic (GPRF) was installed by the Allies as the new national 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 apparently restoring continuity with the Third Republic. Most of the legal French government's leaders at Vichy fled or were subject to show trials by the GPRF, and a number were quickly executed for "treason" in a series of purges (épuration légale). Thousands of collaborators were summarily executed by local communists and the Resistance in so-called "savage purges" (épuration sauvage).[citation needed]

The last of the French state exiles were captured in the Sigmaringen enclave by de Gaulle's French 1st Armoured Division in April 1945. Pétain, who had voluntarily made his way back to France via Switzerland, was also put on trial for treason by the new Provisional government, and received a death sentence, but this was commuted to life imprisonment by de Gaulle. Only four senior Vichy officials were tried for crimes against humanity, although many more had participated in the deportation of Jews for internment in Nazi concentration camps, abuses of prisoners, and severe acts against members of the Resistance.

Overview

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.

Terminology

France under German occupation (Nazis occupied the southern zone starting in November 1942—Operation Case Anton). The yellow zone was under Italian administration.
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,[1] 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.[4]

Jurisdiction

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.[5] 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.[6]

Nevertheless, effectively Alsace-Lorraine was annexed: German law applied to the region, its inhabitants were conscripted into the Wehrmacht[citation needed] 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.[citation needed] 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.

Legitimacy

Vichy's claim to be the legitimate French government was denied by Free France and by all subsequent French governments[1] 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.