France: The Dark Years, 1940-1944

By Julian Jackson | Go to book overview

16
The Free French 1940-1942

Beginnings

When the 49-year-old General de Gaulle broadcast from London on 18 June 1940, he was an almost unknown figure. Alexander Cadogan, the Permanent Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office, knew only that de Gaulle had 'a head like a pineapple and hips like a woman's'; most French people, unable to see him, knew even less.1 Few people heard his speech; fewer still acted upon it; the BBC did not even bother to record it. In political and military circles, de Gaulle was notorious in the 1930s for his advocacy of the mechanization of the army and the offensive deployment of tanks. The stridency with which he argued this case had won de Gaulle many enemies. The only leading politician to back him was Paul Reynaud. As a result, de Gaulle's military career had been respectable, but not spectacular. He was promoted to the rank of Brigadiergeneral on 1 June 1940, making him the most junior general in the army.

On 5 June 1940, Reynaud took de Gaulle into his government as UnderSecretary of State for War, a post that he held for twelve days until Reynaud's resignation. In Reynaud's government, de Gaulle was one of the most vigorous opponents of an armistice. When he arrived in London on the morning of 17 June, the day after Reynaud's resignation, de Gaulle had previously met Churchill on only four occasions. Churchill allowed de Gaulle to broadcast on the BBC despite the scepticism of other British ministers who wanted to avoid antagonizing the new Pétain government at such a delicate juncture. For this reason de Gaulle was not authorized to broadcast again until 22 June.2 Once the signature of the Armistice reduced the need to treat Pétain with kid gloves, Churchill was ready to accord de Gaulle formal recognition, despite the reservations of the Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax.

Originally Churchill hoped that de Gaulle might attract more important French personalities. This did not occur. Not only did few people come from France to join de Gaulle, most leading French figures already in London decided to return to France. Even many of those who wanted to go on fighting had no

1The Diaries of Sir Alexander Cadogan, ed. D. Dilks (1971), 302.

2 Crémieux-Brilhac, La France libre, 48–53.

-389-

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France: The Dark Years, 1940-1944
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents ix
  • List of Maps and Figure xvi
  • Abbreviations xvii
  • Introduction: Historians and the Occupation 1
  • Part I - Anticipations 21
  • 1: The Shadow of War: Cultural Anxieties and Modern Nightmares 27
  • 2: Rethinking the Republic: 1890-1934 43
  • 3: Class War/Civil War 65
  • 4: The German Problem 81
  • 5: The Daladier Moment: Prelude to Vichy or Republican Revival? 97
  • 6: The Debacle 112
  • Part II - The Regime: National Revolution and Collaboration 137
  • 7: The National Revolution 142
  • 8: Collaboration 166
  • 9: Collaborationism 190
  • 10: Laval in Power: 1942–1943 213
  • Part III - Vichy, the Germans, and the French People 237
  • 11: Propaganda, Policing, and Administration 246
  • 12: Public Opinion, Vichy, and the Germans 272
  • 13: Intellectuals, Artists, and Entertainers 300
  • 14: Reconstructing Mankind 327
  • 15: Vichy and the Jews 354
  • Part IV - The Resistance 383
  • 16: The Free French 1940-1942 389
  • 17: The Resistance 1940-1942 402
  • 18: De Gaulle and the Resistance 1942 427
  • 19: Power Struggles 1943 447
  • 20: Resistance in Society 475
  • 21: Remaking France 506
  • Part V - Liberation and After 525
  • 22: Towards Liberation: January to June 1944 529
  • 23: Liberations 544
  • 24: A New France? 570
  • Epilogue: Remembering the Occupation 601
  • Appendix: The Camps of Vichy France 633
  • Bibliographical Essay 637
  • Index 647
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