Youth Policy and the Church
The Révolution Nationale sought to mobilise the energies of young people. Requiring from them a 'moral reformation', a sense of civic duty, patriotism and political conformity, it nevertheless assigned to them a subordinate position in society. They had therefore to be disciplined and regimented. This was the task given to the newly-created Secrétariat Général à la Jeunesse (SGJ). Christians at first reacted positively to the demands made upon them. But circumstances enlarged the role of youth in unexpected ways not always agreeable. Students, young workers, and the young middle-class, Christian or non-Christian, eventually questioned Vichy's 'doctrines' and even more its practice. They rejected the breast-beating penitential approach to the country's plight no less than the government's increasing compliance with German wishes. Deportation for work in Germany was the last straw. Some joined the Resistance, either escaping to London or joining the Maquis. A few steered an opposing course and collaborated. However, the majority reluctantly and unwillingly obeyed. All in all, the history of Vichy's youth policy, like so much else, is a chronicle of failure.
What therefore was the background to the options proposed by the Vichy government, and how did young people, particularly Christians, arrive at the choices they made? How could youth be mobilised for the task of national 'regeneration'? Henri Massis, Péain's Maurrassian youth adviser, saw the problem as primarily one of civic education. It was argued that young people had not only been unpatriotic but lacked a sense of social responsibility and morality. Physically unfit, they shunned sport, and overindulged in tobacco and alcohol. The charge might equally have been levelled against their elders--after all, it was they, and not the young, who had lost the Battle of France--or indeed against all the belligerents. In any case its truth was questionable. But in 1940 the regime required scapegoats: youth was yet another convenient victim.
Against this backdrop a policy had to be hammered out. One solution was to create a monolithic youth movement, a 'jeunesse unique' on