Politics, Society and Christianity in Vichy France

By W. D. Halls | Go to book overview

1
Introductory

In the hot, early summer of 1940, within six weeks the German armies had overrun most of France. On 17 June the new head of the French government, Marshal Pétain, the hero of Verdun, asked for an armistice. By 25 June this had come into force. France was divided into two main zones, the one occupied by the Germans and centred on Paris, and the other, unoccupied, where nominally the French writ still ran freely, and which eventually centred on Vichy. On 10 July, meeting in the gaming casinos of the spa, the National Assembly entrusted the aged soldier with full powers to govern until he had drawn up a new constitution. The Third Republic was presumed dead, and only some eighty deputies mourned its passing.

Yet when Philippe Pétain, using the royal plural in a grandiloquent gesture and exercising prerogatives surpassing even those of Louis XIV, proclaimed on 11 July his supremacy as Head of the French State, nothing immediately changed. Many of the same personalities as before continued in public life, although others advocating more authoritarian policies were already waiting in the wings. What is remarkable is just how much of the old order was initially carried over into the new. Faces, priorities and attitudes changed only imperceptibly. Of no aspect of national life was this more true than in the religious domain.

In view of the prominent role to be played by both Catholics and, to a lesser extent, Protestants under the new regime, how strong in 1940 was Christian culture? Where was the Christian faith geographically concentrated? How intensely was religion practised? What charisma did Christian leaders possess? Which ecclesiastical structures regulated the Church? What was its mission? These are key questions in determining the influence that the Church was able to exert upon the Vichy regime and the Germans.

Where lay the bastions of Christianity in 1940? Detailed statistics are lacking but according to Boulard, a pioneer in the sociology of religion, studying religious 'density' slightly later, in the 1950s, 1 geographically the Catholics were most solidly implanted in Alsace-Lorraine, Franche-

-3-

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Politics, Society and Christianity in Vichy France
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Berg French Studies ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • List of Abbreviations x
  • Part I - Christianity in Crisis 1
  • 1 - Introductory 3
  • Notes 13
  • 2 - Christians and Pre-War Politics 15
  • Notes 28
  • 3 - Prelude to Vichy 31
  • Notes 40
  • Part II - Aspirations, Realisations and Disappointments 43
  • 4 - The Man of Destiny 45
  • Notes 65
  • 5 - Christians in Disarray 69
  • Notes 84
  • 6 - The Church: New Laws 87
  • Notes 92
  • Part III - The Scapegoats 93
  • 7 - Christians and Jews--I 95
  • Notes 110
  • 8 - Christians and Jews--Ii 113
  • Notes 124
  • 9 - Christians and Jews: The Aftermath 127
  • Notes 144
  • Part IV - Friends and Foes 149
  • 10 - Christians and the Allies 151
  • Notes 162
  • 11 - Christians, Bombings and 'terrorism' 165
  • Notes 174
  • 12 - Christians and Germans 177
  • Notes 195
  • 13 - Christians and the Resistance 199
  • Notes 220
  • 14 - Vichy, the Church and the Vatican 223
  • Notes 236
  • Part V - The Church and Society 239
  • 15 - The Church and Economic and Social Affairs 241
  • Notes 265
  • 16 - Youth Policy and the Church 269
  • Notes 284
  • 17 - Youth Movements 287
  • Notes 307
  • 18 - Christians and Deportation to Germany 311
  • Notes 334
  • Part VI - Settling the Accounts 339
  • 19 - Christians and the Collaborationists 341
  • Notes 356
  • 20 - 'Epuration' and the Higher Clergy 361
  • Notes 379
  • 21 - Concluding Remarks 383
  • Notes 388
  • Appendix I Before the War: L'Aube and the Catholic Intellectual Press 389
  • Notes 391
  • Appendix II Bishops and Archbishops by Province 393
  • Bibliographical Note 397
  • Select Bibliography 399
  • Index 405
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