Politics, Society and Christianity in Vichy France

By W. D. Halls | Go to book overview

19
Christians and the Collaborationists

For many Frenchmen, Christians or not, some contact with the Germans was unavoidable. Cardinals Liénart and Suhard, apart from the irritating obligation to obtain travel or curfew passes from the Occupation authorities, had often to deal directly with them when their priests were arrested. Such collaboration, should be distinguished from 'collaborationism'. (Recently the term 'collaborationiste' has come to designate those who had embraced Nazi doctrines and staked everything on a German victory.) Collaborationists were the most critical of Catholic and Protestant attitudes. Some, including others who were themselves Christians, tried to win over the Church. In this chapter an analysis is made of collaborationist institutions, in some of which Christians were active participants, and their attitude to the Church; finally a few individual cases of clerics and Christian laity are considered.

In Paris the chief criticism of the Church, as will be seen, came from the collaborationist journals. Their strictures intensified from mid-1942 onwards, when it was apparent that Vichy was losing credibility, and German demands on the French, including Christians, were increasing. Meanwhile the regime was condemned for its clericalism. In Révolution Combelle, wrote: 'Official France seems to wish to find once more its beauty by swallowing the youth potion of Abbé Soury [a popular 'rejuvenating' remedy at the time] and by caring for its wounds with holy water. Post mortem, 'Abbé Bethléhem' is gradually becoming its spiritual director. Here, hair to be shaven, there sex to be cut down'. 1

The political parties tolerated by the Germans operated from Paris. Failing to promote their totalitarian ideas at Vichy, Déat and Doriot, the heads of the two main collaborationist parties, had installed themselves in the capital. Whereas Déat's Rassemblement National Populaire (RNP) was hostile to the Church, but prepared to tolerate it if it co-operated in the new 'European order', Doriot's Parti Populaire Français (PPF), after 1942 actively courted bishops and clergy in an effort to win them over. Doriot, who had enlisted in the LVF, returned on leave from the Eastern Front convinced of the need to enlist religious co-operation. The PPF

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