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Vichy France

Vichy France (French: État français) was the Nazi-cooperating French government of 1940-1944 established after the country had surrendered to Germany during World War II. It is named after the government's capital in Vichy, south-east of Paris. French people call it Gouvernement de Vichy.

The Germans had occupied Paris in mid-June 1940. The French leaders considered retreating to French territories in North Africa but the vice-premier, Henri Philippe Pétain, and the commander-in-chief, General Maxime Weygand insisted that the government should both remain in France and seek an armistice with the Germans.

Prime Minister Paul Reynaud[?] resigned over the decision and President Albert Lebrun appointed the 84-year-old Pétain to replace him on June 16. Pétain began negotiations and on June 22 signed the surrender agreement with Germany. The key section of the agreement divided France into two zones - occupied and unoccupied. The Germans would control northern and western France and the entire Atlantic coast. The remaining two-fifths of the country would be administered by the French government with the capital at Vichy under Pétain. Further all Jews in France would be handed over to the Germans. The French Army was reduced to 100,000 men and the French prisoners of war would remain in captivity. The French had to pay the occupation costs of the German troops, and prevent any French people leaving the country. The United Kingdom and the Vichy France government then broke off diplomatic relations on July 5.

The Third Republic was voted out of existence by the National Assembly on July 10, and the Vichy regime established the following day, with Petain as head of state. He remained in this position until August 20, 1944. Liberté, egalité, fraternité (Freedom, equality, brotherhood), the French national motto, was replaced by travail, famille, patrie (Labour, family and country). Petain's vice-presidents were Pierre Laval[?] and Jean-François Darlan. Despite the cooperation of the Vichy government the German forces took control of southern France in November 1942 and the real power came into the hands of Laval. Joseph Darnand[?] was head of the Vichy Milice[?], the wartime police, he had an SS rank and took a oath of loyalty to Hitler. The Milice was responsible for the suppression of the French Resistance and the Maquis as well as promulgating German race laws.

To counter the Vichy regime General Charles de Gaulle created France libre (Free France), after his famous radio speech of June 18, 1940. Initially Winston Churchill was ambivalent about de Gaulle and he dropped links with Vichy only when it became clear they would not fight. Even so the Free France headquarters in London was riven with internal divisions and jealousies. The remaining French naval vessels were destroyed in Mers El Kébir[?] harbour near Oran in July 1940 by the Royal Navy after Churchill found that the Vichy regime was prepared to hand them over to the Germans. In June 1941 the Australian Army and allied forces invaded Syria and Lebanon, capturing Damascus on June 17.

Roosevelt continued to cultivate Vichy and promoted General Henri Giraud[?] in place of de Gaulle. Even after the invasion of North Africa in 'Operation Torch' Admiral Darlan, who had arrived in Algiers a few days before 'Torch', became the French leader in North Africa rather than de Gaulle. On December 24 1942, Darlan was assassinated and replace by Giraud, but he commanded very little loyalty. It took until 1944 for Roosevelt to agree to de Gaulle as the leader of the French.

Following the Allied invasion of France Pétain and his ministers fled to Germany and established an government in exile at Sigmaringen.

In 1945, many members of the Vichy government were arrested and some, including Laval and Darnand, were executed. Pétain was sentenced to death but the sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. Others fled or went into hiding, as late as 1993 René Bousquet[?] was murdered and in 1994 Paul Touvier was convicted of crimes against humanity. The Vichy regime deported over 70,000 Jews to Germany and sent 650,000 workers to Germany to help their war effort.

See also: History of France, World War II

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