Between Justice and Politics: The Ligue Des Droits de L'homme, 1898-1945

By William D. Irvine | Go to book overview

EIGHT
Vichy

The collapse of France in 1940 caught the League, like most of the French, by surprise. As late as May 16, when the Battle of France was raging, a confident Emile Kahn told the president of the federation of the Isère that recent developments meant that he would be postponing, but not cancelling, his anticipated propaganda tour in that department.1 A week later, when the war was on the verge of being lost, the section of Sainte-Claude in the Jura was still trying to find the right balance when dealing with German natives in France. Owing to the dangers of a Fifth column, close surveillance seemed appropriate but only if it involved no “inhuman treatment or attacks on their dignity.” At the end of the month, Kahn still found time to thank the section for its thoughtful reflections on the subject.2 By June, however, it was obvious that a German invasion of Paris was imminent. Kahn dutifully ordered his staff to pack up the League’s archives in preparation for departure from the city. He was, however, too late, and when the Germans descended on League headquarters in the middle of June they found the archives conveniently stacked by the front door. With its archives confiscated, its headquarters occupied, and its activities now illegal, the League ceased all operations. By the time the Vichy regime was installed a month later, individual members of the League had already gone their separate ways.

Victor Basch managed to escape from Paris on June 18, first to Brittany, and later, and with some difficulty, to Lyon in the unoccupied zone. Physically ailing, depressed both by the defeat and by the suicide of his son Georges, deprived of his precious library, Basch and his wife Ilona managed to survive a thoroughly miserable existence for the next three and a half years. On January 10, 1944, they were arrested by two agents of the Vichy paramilitary police, the Milice. Both, now in their eighties, were driven to a lonely alley and summarily shot.3 A similar fate befell Jean Zay and Marx Dormoy, prominent deputies and longtime members of the League. Central Committee member

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Between Justice and Politics: The Ligue Des Droits de L'homme, 1898-1945
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Between Justice and Politics - The Ligue Des Droits de L'homme, 1898–1945 iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction 1
  • One - Origins, Organization, and Structure 5
  • Two - Ici on Ne Fait Pas de la Politique 20
  • Three - Politics, Yes, but Not Electoral Politics 53
  • Four - Liberty with All Its Risks 81
  • Five - The League from below 111
  • Six - War and Peace- 1914–1934 132
  • Seven - From the Popular Front to the Fall of France 160
  • Eight - Vichy 194
  • Epilogue 213
  • Notes 225
  • Bibliography 255
  • Index 257
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