Entering the French Army in , he later attended the St. Later promoted to colonel, he commanded the 11th Infantry Regiment at Arras in and began contemplating retirement. These plans were accelerated when he was informed that he would not be promoted to brigadier general. With the outbreak of World War I in August , all thoughts of retirement were banished.
In this role, he led the corps in the failed Artois Offensive the following May. Opening the Battle of Verdun on February 21, German forces bore down on the city and made initial gains. On May 1, he was promoted to command the Centre Army Group and oversaw the defense of the entire Verdun sector. The following April, Nivelle launched a massive offense at Chemin des Dames.
While ordering selective punishment for the leaders, he also improved living conditions and leave policies. Through these initiatives and refraining from large-scale, bloody offensives, he succeeded in rebuilding the fighting spirit of the French Army.
Ultimately stabilizing the lines, he dispatched reserves to aid the British. Advocating a policy of defense in depth, the French progressively fared better and first held, then pushed back the Germans at the Second Battle of the Marne that summer. For his service, he was made Marshal of France on December 8, After a failed presidential bid in , he served in a variety of high administrative posts and clashed with the government over military downsizing and personnel issues.
This came to fruition in the form of the Maginot Line. I arrive to hear train announcements in French, English and German - even though the Germans left in and English aristocracy is notably absent. My taxi driver complains of too few tourists and too much unemployment. But Vichy's problems are little to do with Aubry. They are frozen in the town's war history.
Philippe Pétain | French general | thistmanmatucma.gq
On June 22, , occupied France signed an armistice with Hitler's Germany. France, bled of fathers, brothers and husbands in , was in no mood to fight. He saw himself as the country's grieving father, proclaiming, "France is a wounded child. I hold her in my arms. On July 9, , at Vichy's opera house, in a national mood of self-flagellation, parliament voted to 80 to abandon the Third Republic: social benefits gained during the popular front were eliminated and a new French fascism controlled all forms of life.
The constitution was dissolved and the French Republic was no more. American historian Robert Paxton, in his book Vichy France, writes of the many who repudiated the liberalisation of the Third Republic that had supposedly weakened France: "Each had his own diagnosis of the rot Enjoyment itself was blamed for softening the nation. Free sexuality was rife in Vichy.
Yet he married a divorcee, was a faithless husband and had no children. Anti-semitism had been a strain in French society since the Dreyfus affair of the s and beyond; xenophobia was prevalent. Arthur Koestler's autobiographical Scum Of The Earth reveals how foreigners were rounded up and imprisoned in camps before the Nazi jackboot arrived on French soil.
The artist Max Ernst and writer Walter Benjamin were arrested. Benjamin committed suicide in September because Vichy France, eager to please Hitler, refused German refugees an exit visa. In , a majority of politicians of the right and left agreed with the new French fascism. As Paxton says, "Never had so many Frenchmen been ready to accept discipline and authority.
From Verdun to Vichy: Maréchal Petain and his Social Revolution
Those judged responsible were the Jew, the communist, the socialist and the freemason. For France to be regenerated after the freedom of the Third Republic, the "guilty" had to be stripped of their possessions and civil rights. This regime of vengeance operated on every level: employment, the legal system, education and the persecution of foreigners and French nationals.
Mail and phone calls were intercepted.
This was a police state that affected every single life. Yet, until the mids, this was erased from the collective memory in an amnesia that French historian Henri Rousso calls the "Vichy Syndrome". Successive French leaders have had their own reasons for perpetuating the illusion that the Vichy regime was a victim of the Nazis and not an active participant in a Germano-Franco fascism.
It was not until , the year he became president, that Jacques Chirac broke the taboo of silence, admitting, "the French government had given support to the criminal madness of the occupiers".
Emmanuel Macron under fire for calling Nazi collaborator Philippe Pétain a 'great soldier'
Even now, in the inquests into Le Pen's unexpectedly strong showing in the presidential election, the link with the Vichy regime is rarely explored, nor its context in the ebb and flow of extreme French nationalism that has been present for more than a century. Few French people today are aware of how this small town absorbed the massive power abdicated by the French parliament. In , more than 30, civil servants migrated there. Locals complained, "We have been invaded - by the French.
There was even an American embassy from , during the US's period of neutrality. In his autobiography, I Was There, William Leahy, the newly appointed ambassador, describes the strained diplomatic relations between the US and Vichy. Defiantly, in July last year, Klarsfeld organised a solid stone memorial facing Le Parc. This time he informed the municipality, who dared not refuse. Klarsfeld's memorial bears witness to the 75, Jews deported from France. This cenotaph, too, is regularly attacked. The desecrators are never pursued. Vichy suffers from a mixture of bruised honour and humiliation.
He played the wronged victim. He died in I keep hearing the complaint, "We are not responsible for what happened. We didn't ask the government to come here. It is Friday evening and I decide to find the local Jews. He is eager to tell me about his trips to London and wants to talk about Ronnie Scott's, but I want to talk about Vichy. The conversation goes nowhere, so I make for the small synagogue hidden away down a back alley.
I am the only woman at the service and, as this is an orthodox synagogue, I must go upstairs where I watch the 10, mainly elderly, men pray. On the wall is a plaque to the deported Jews from this community: I count names. France's Catholics are scandalised by the poster depicting a cross and a swastika as symbiotically linked. Costa-Gavras, under fire, tells the Vatican, "If you'd behaved better during the war, then I wouldn't need to make this film. After the service, I join the old men for a drink.
Only Rabbi Cohen, who does not live in Vichy, wants to talk about history.
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We discuss France's revisionists and I mention the most notorious, Robert Faurisson, academic and Holocaust-denier, who is reputed to live in Vichy. The Rabbi from Lyon is amazed at this news. What do Vichy residents at large think of their town's past? In a smart dress shop, Les Enfants d'Edouard, the year-old proprietor tells me, "Vichy. It's like a lead weight pressing on us.
They whisper as if there is some terrible secret. Over breakfast in my hotel in rue Callou, the owner, Jean Paul Belabed, tells me, "When visitors come to my hotel, they are amazed there is no museum on the Vichy years. The town wants to wipe out the past, but I say history is history. I say you shouldn't forget that, among 40m French people, only 2 per cent were in the Resistance.
I came here when I was From Algeria. That's another story of amnesia. He is a graphic artist who also runs a poetry cafe in Vichy. The talk was of how Vichy was for the jet-setters, for kings and queens. It always had a reputation for sexual freedom. Vichy was rich; its taxes were low. To many, it was known as Little Paris. Today, it is known as an old people's town. People come here to retire.
What of the younger generation? Leca's year-old son, Alexandre, believes a war museum can exorcise "the bad ghosts" from the town. Whenever he meets people from other towns, "They always say, 'Ah, you come from Vichy, you must have some pretty extreme ideas. Alexandre says his generation can't identify with Vichy and wants to get out as soon as possible. His school history lessons "neglected" to detail occupied France, but he is only too aware of the town stigma.
Alexandre came here as a seven-month-old baby, but insists, "I am not from Vichy.
The question of a museum has been a matter of debate in the town for the past decade. Visitors to Vichy expect to find one, but the municipality, which is rightwing dominated and fears encroachment from Le Pen's FN, opposes the idea. He wants to separate the town Vichy from the period "Vichy".
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