Petain: Verdun to Vichy

Petain: Verdun to Vichy

Petain: Verdun to Vichy

Petain: Verdun to Vichy

Excerpt

The story of Marshal Pétain is the story of human weaknesses, nursed in the loneliness of an essentially self-contained nature, watered and fed by the bright mirage of power and the calculated flattery of schemers. It is a bitter story for Frenchmen to contemplate but it is well for us to remember that the Marshal is not the first, nor is he likely to be the last, great man to fall from great heights into the depth of treachery. Benedict Arnold too was a great man, heaped with honors. And before Judas could become a synonym for betrayal he was one of the Twelve chosen by Christ. The crowded history of France herself contains many great and tarnished names of heroes turned traitor. And France has survived them all, just as she will survive the last and most ancient of her unfaithful sons.

It is superficial to assume that all traitors are petty rogues, marked plainly by the itching palm and the shifty eye. Betrayal is not always a simple choice between good and evil, a conscious and cynical seeking of the easy path to profit and power. The elements of treachery are present in every man's soul, and in no other area of dishonor is the means of self- deception so readily available, the hypocrite's mask so smooth and well-fitting.

The story of Marshal Pétain is one that carries with it the salutary shock of cold truth. And the truth brings always its own bleak comfort. In this case it is the realization that even . . .

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