On This Day: July 11th

On July 11th 1940 the Vichy regime in France was formally established, and Phillipe Petain became Prime Minister of France. Vichy sought an anti-modern counter-revolution. The traditionalist 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. The key component of Vichy’s ideology was Anglophobia. In part, Vichy’s virulent Anglophobia was due to its leaders’ personal dislike of the British, as Marshal Petain, Laval and Admiral Darlan were all Anglophobes.

Historians distinguish between state collaboration followed by the Vichy regime, and “collaborationists”, who were private French citizens eager to collaborate with Germany and who pushed towards a radicalization of the regime. Petainistes, on the other hand, were direct supporters of Marshal Petain rather than of Germany (although they accepted Petain’s state collaboration). State collaboration was sealed by the Montoire interview in Hitler’s train on 24 October 1940, during which Pétain and Hitler shook hands and agreed on cooperation between the two states. Organized by Pierre Laval, a strong proponent of collaboration, the interview and the handshake were photographed and exploited by Nazi propaganda to gain the support of the civilian population. On 30 October 1940, Pétain made state collaboration official, declaring on the radio: “I enter today on the path of collaboration.”

From 1940 to 1942, while the Vichy regime was the nominal government of France as a whole, Germany militarily occupied northern France. Following the Allied landings in French North Africa in November 1942, southern France was also militarily occupied by Germany and Italy. The Vichy government remained in existence, but was very aware that it had to please Germany. It vanished in late 1944 when the Allies occupied all of France.


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