Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
France: The Dark Years,

Julian Jackson

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780198207061

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198207061.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.oxfordscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2017. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use (for details see http://www.oxfordscholarship.com/page/privacy-policy). Subscriber: null; date: 26 February 2017



(p.166) 8 Collaboration
France: The Dark Years, 1940–1944

Julian Jackson

Oxford University Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter discusses the realities of collaboration between France and Germany from 1940–1944. It identifies three different motives behind voluntary collaboration. First, there was what might be called the politico-administrative motive which aimed to protect French sovereignty. The second motive behind collaboration might be described as politico-diplomatic: to prepare a favourable outcome for France in the peace treaty which was believed to be imminent. The third motive was the need to alleviate the impact of the Armistice on daily life in France.

Keywords:   Jean Moulin, collaboration, Vichy regime, France, Germany

Jean Moulin: Collaborator

On 25 June 1940, Jean Moulin, prefect of the Eure-et-Loir, had his first formal meeting with the occupying authorities. Moulin was no ordinary prefect. Unlike some who had joined the Exodus, leaving the population to fend for itself, Moulin was at his post when the Germans arrived in Chartres on 17 June. On the next day, a German officer instructed him to sign a declaration condemning alleged massacres of civilians by French Senegalese troops. Moulin refused to comply since he knew the deaths had been caused by German bombing. The Germans, surprised at such scruples when it came to protecting the reputation of black soldiers, beat Moulin up and incarcerated him for the night. Unsure if he could withstand more of this treatment without caving in, Moulin found some broken glass in his improvised cell, and cut his throat. Bleeding, but still alive when the Germans arrived the next morning, he was taken to a German doctor. The affair was embarrassing to the Germans who wished to portray a benevolent image—hence the attempt to shift responsibility for civilian deaths on to the Senegalese—and they let Moulin free.1

Once Moulin had recovered and resumed his duties, it fell to him, as to every prefect in the Occupied Zone, to mediate between the French population and the Germans. He was inundated with appeals from the 426 mayors of the département. The mayor of Gué-de-Longroi reported the arrival of 400 Germans who were commandeering lodgings without permission: were they entitled to do this? The mayor of Farvil wrote that the Germans were requisitioning local produce: how should he respond? The mayor of Jouy asked how to react to a German demand that he pay 52 marks (1,040 francs) for two photographs of Hitler and Goering.

Moulin responded as best he could, intervening with the Germans to resolve these situations amicably. On 12 September 1940 he instructed the sub-prefects and mayors of the département how to behave towards the Germans: ‘In your relations with the occupying authorities you will display a courteous and loyal collaboration, which should not exclude dignity and firmness when the circumstances (p.167) require it.’2 Over the next five months, until being dismissed by Vichy, Moulin tried to show by example how his instruction should be interpreted. Although he took the ‘dignity and firmness’ seriously, the Germans had no complaints and appreciated his efficiency. When the Feldkommandant, Colonel von Gutlingen, was replaced at the end of September 1940, he wrote a farewell letter to Moulin hoping that ‘your collaboration with my successor will follow the same paths you and I have followed’. His successor described Moulin as a remarkable administrator: ‘working with him has been satisfactory’.3

Involuntary Collaboration/Voluntary Collaboration

The case of Moulin shows that the word ‘collaboration’ must be used carefully. Quite apart from his later Resistance career, Moulin’s behaviour on 18 June shows him to have been someone of exceptional moral courage. But his official position required him to ‘collaborate’ with the German authorities. This was collaboration as specified by article 3 of the Armistice, requiring the French authorities in the Occupied Zone ‘to conform to the regulations of the German authorities and collaborate [zusammenarbeiten] with them in a correct manner’.

Collaboration in this spirit was quite different from collaboration as pursued by the Vichy regime. Stanley Hoffmann has distinguished between ‘involuntary’ and ‘voluntary’ State collaboration, the former involving a punctilious conformity to the letter of the Armistice but no more, the latter representing an attempt go beyond the Armistice and offer more than it required.4 After the war, Pétain’s defenders claimed that he had favoured a minimalist policy of involuntary collaboration, while Laval had pursued voluntary collaboration. They presented Laval’s dismissal on 13 December 1940 as a repudiation of collaboration, one even alleging that this was an event as grave for Hitler as the loss of a battle.5 One of the many achievements of Robert Paxton is to have established that this was completely untrue: the regime was united behind the need for some degree of voluntary collaboration. But two qualifications can be made. In the first place, because Paxton made extensive use of German sources his picture may be slightly skewed. What the French felt that they had to say to the Germans was not necessarily always what they believed. In fact the subsequent opening of French archives vindicated Paxton’s interpretation in most respects, but—and this is the second qualification—he did perhaps underestimate the existence of elements within the regime who were unhappy about collaboration. As we shall see, some of the first resisters in France emerged from within the orbit of the regime. Although the contradiction between a subjective disposition towards resistance within a regime that was objectively collaborating (or trying to) could not be (p.168) sustained indefinitely, there was a period of uncertainty about what the ultimate orientation of the regime would be.

Different responses towards Germany emerged as early as 15 July 1940 when the Germans requested the use of French bases in North Africa. This was a clear breach of the Armistice. François Charles-Roux, Secretary-General at the Quai d’Orsay, drafted a reply which politely but firmly refused, but the government opted for a refusal which tested the water for the future: ‘only a new negotiation can solve these problems’.6 In the end Hitler did not pursue the matter. The most vociferous opponent of any overtures to Germany was Weygand. In the summer of 1940, cabinet meetings frequently degenerated into slanging matches between Weygand and Laval. Although Weygand was sent away to be Delegate General in North Africa on 6 September, this was an important power base and he continued to make his views known. In November 1940 he reminded Pétain that ‘Germany and Italy remain the enemies’.

The line between voluntary and involuntary State collaboration did not run between Pétain and Laval: they both believed that Germany had won the war and Britain would soon surrender. This did not mean that they, and other proponents of voluntary collaboration, shared identical views of its purpose. There were at least three different motives behind voluntary collaboration. First, there was what might be called the politico-administrative motive which aimed to protect French sovereignty. Although in theory sovereign over all French territory, Vichy’s control over the Occupied Zone was at the mercy of German interference. French laws had to be submitted to the Germans before they could be published, and the Germans could veto administrative appointments. In June 1941 prefects were instructed to report German acts that they considered ‘unacceptable for the maintenance of French sovereignty’. Where such acts could not be prevented, the government preferred the French to carry them out. Pucheu told the prefects in January 1942: ‘the role you have to play is the maintenance of public order…It must be assured by French hands, French arms, French heads.’7 Although this administrative collaboration started out as defensive and prophylactic, it became an ever more dangerous spiral of complicity: a River Kwai syndrome as one writer described it.8

The second motive behind collaboration might be described as politico-diplomatic: to prepare a favourable outcome for France in the peace treaty which was believed to be imminent. On 7 July, General Huntziger, the French representative on the Armistice Commission, proposed that the Commission’s discussions should be supplemented by additional contacts, in view of the fact that France was ‘almost at war’ with her former ally. Two days later the Foreign Minister, Paul Baudouin, was trying to make contact with Ribbentrop, telling him (p.169) that France wanted to become an associated power’.9 Such sentiments were partly explicable in the wake of Mers el Kebir. But French feelers towards collaboration represented not only short-term pique against the British. They were the beginning of a policy that was to be pursued in various guises for the next four years.

The first indications of German plans for a future peace treaty were worrying. On 15 July, the Germans set up customs controls on the 1871 frontiers between Alsace-Lorraine and Germany. Two Gauleiter were appointed to administer the region, suggesting that Germany intended to annex it after the war. Although technically a breach of the Armistice, this development did not entirely suprise the French. They were more alarmed by the other divisions which the Germans created within the Occupied Zone. The two départements of the Nord and Pas-de-Calais were attached to the German military command in Brussels. This was supposedly done to prepare the invasion of Britain, but even after the invasion was called off in September, the measure was not reversed. There was no military pretext for the creation, within the Occupied Zone, of the so-called Reserved or Forbidden Zone. Refugees who had left this area during the Exodus were not allowed to return. Even more sinister was the fact that their properties were handed over to the Ostland Company which started to settle German colonists on them. Nor did it escape notice that the boundaries of the Reserved Zone coincided more or less with the frontiers of the German Reich after the death of Charlemagne. If this was a portent of Germany’s long-term plans for France, it was vital to win German goodwill before it was too late.10

The disruptions caused by the creation of these extra zones explain the third motive behind collaboration: the need to alleviate the impact of the Armistice on daily life in France. Originally, it had been assumed that the Armistice would only be a provisional arrangement before a speedy end to the war. As the war dragged on, the Armistice proved increasingly burdensome. One French priority was to obtain the release of the 1.5 million prisoners who were due to remain in captivity until the end of the war. Trying to relax the terms of the Armistice was all the more urgent because Germany started to apply them as rigorously as possible, treating the demarcation line as a sealed frontier which was virtually impossible to cross, and imposing huge financial burdens on the French.

The Armistice had made France responsible for paying the upkeep of the German army. In August 1940 the Germans estimated these costs at 20 million Reichsmark a day, and then fixed the franc/mark exchange rate at 20 francs to 1 mark, which represented a 50–60 per cent overvaluation of the mark. The French found themselves having to pay 400 million francs a day, enough to keep an army of 18 million men. As a result the Germans had massive spending power in France. One German official noted: ‘with this money the Germans will be (p.170) able to buy the whole of France’. On the cheap, he might have added.11 As a final screw on the French economy, the Germans forced the French government to sign a clearing treaty. This mean that each country would pay its own exporters and then clear the trade debts nationally. French importers would pay francs into a clearing account and German importers would pay in marks. From this account the respective government would pay their exporters. But since France would be exporting much more than she imported, the account would be massively out of balance. To pay French exporters, the account would have to borrow francs from the Bank of France. Thus the French government was effectively financing Germany’s imports from France.12

German Polyocracy: ‘What a lot of authorities’

Vichy’s problem in establishing contact with the occupiers was to identify who had the ear of Hitler. The Germans transplanted to France that multiplicity of competing agencies which have led historians to call the Nazi regime a ‘polyocracy’. The Nazi power-brokers—Goebbels, Goering, Himmler, Ribbentrop—all had representatives in France. When told that Germany was an authoritarian state, Laval remarked this might be so, but what a lot of authorities’.13

The supreme authority in the Occupied Zone was the German military administration (MBF) based at the Hôtel Majestic in Paris under General Otto von Stülpnagel. The MBF was divided into military and civilian branches. The latter was itself subdivided into an administrative wing under the jurist Werner Best and an economic one under Elmar Michel. Best was a committed Nazi who had been in the Party since 1930; he later became Reichskommissar in Denmark. Michel was a technocratic civil servant who joined the Party only in 1939. Both were formidably able administrators. Matters arising from the Armistice were discussed at the Armistice Commission in Wiesbaden, chaired by General Karl von Stülpnagel (Otto’s cousin). The Commission had its own economic commission chaired by the diplomat Richard Hemmen. Policing was the responsibility of the MBF, but Himmler managed to secure the presence of a few representatives of his security services (SD) under the SS officer Helmut Knochen. Censorship, propaganda, and cultural policy were the responsibility of the Propaganda-Abteilung (with four outposts in the provinces and one in Paris). Although incorporated into the MBF administration, the Propaganda-Abteilung was answerable to Goebbels’s Propaganda Ministry in Berlin. There was also a German Embassy at the Rue de Lille in Paris. The ambassador was Ribbentrop’s protégé, Otto Abetz.14

(p.171) These authorities had different priorities. The career officers at the MBF were essentially pragmatic, and ready to use the carrot as well as the stick. ‘If one wants the cow to give milk, it must be fed’, said Otto von Stülpnagel in September 1940.15 They were irritated by the zealousness of hard-core Nazi ideologues like Knochen. When the SS, in co-operation with French fascists, bombed several Paris synagogues in October 1941, Stülpnagel was furious, and tried to have Knochen removed. Knochen himself resented the fact that the military controlled policing. But the line between professionals and ideologues did not necessarily separate those prepared to be gentler on the French from those prepared to be more harsh. Hemmen was distrusted by the Nazi Party, but as a negotiator he was devastatingly effective, ready to concede the French no favours.

Most German authorities in France were suspicious of the Embassy, which had the reputation of being too Francophile. Abetz’s knowledge of France went back to the Sohlberg circle at the end of the 1920s. He was Francophile in that he admired French culture, food, and wine (and had a French wife), but he also believed that the French needed to know their place. The plan Abetz presented to Hitler in July 1940, before his appointment to the Embassy, was to reduce France to a ‘satellite State’ forced to accept ‘permanent weakness’. He proposed to play on French rivalries and excite French hopes of an entente with Germany: ‘a uniform attitude of rejection would provoke a single and indivisible front of all the French’. His instructions from Hitler ratified this strategy: ‘everything must be done to encourage the internal divisions and thus the weakness of France’.16 Abetz’s subordinates were, like him, young and knowledgeable about France. They included Friedrich Sieburg, whose ‘Francophilia’ was of the same variety as Abetz’s, and Karl Epting who had in the 1930s organized Franco-German student exchanges. Epting ran the German Institute which was the cultural arm of the Embassy. The Propaganda-Abteilung, whose brief was to destroy French cultural influence, did not approve Abetz’s policy of cultural seduction. It was run by Major Heinz Schmidtke, a narrow Prussian officer type impervious to any attractions France might have to offer.

The relative power of these authorities oscillated. In the clash over control of cultural policy the Propaganda-Abteilung lost ground to the Embassy in the summer of 1942, but Abetz himself fell out of favour later that year. Between December 1942 and December 1943, he was replaced by his deputy Rudolf Schleier. Control over economic policy shifted from Wiesbaden to Paris when Hemmen moved there in the spring of 1941. The army lost control of policing and security to the SS from 1942. But the infighting never ceased, and there were other players to complicate the game further: the army’s intelligence service, the Abwehr, and the Einsatz Rosenberg, which was in charge of pillaging of works of art, and acted as a law unto itself.

(p.172) Initiating Collaboration: Montoire

The German authorities gave out different signals, and various French politicians tried in the summer of 1940 to make contact with them. Flandin saw Friederich Grimm, of the Embassy staff, on 16 July, and told him that France must collaborate with Germany; Bonnet met Schleier on 31 July; Adrien Marquet contacted representatives of the SD and talked himself up at the expense of Laval; Pétain himself tried in the autumn to make contact with the Germans via René Fonck, a First World War air ace friendly with Goering.17 But it was Laval who succeeded in establishing a relationship with the Germans, and it was his success in doing so, not his attempt to do so, which set him apart.

Laval’s German contact was Abetz whom he met for the first time on 19 July. They discovered an affinity based on shared left-wing origins and a commitment to Franco-German reconciliation. Once Abetz was appointed ambassador on 3 August, this contact became important. As time went on, Laval and Abetz came to need each other: Laval to prove to Vichy that he had the ear of an important German, Abetz to prove to Hitler that he had found a Frenchman he could do business with.18 Laval, who even obtained a semi-permanent Ausweis enabling him to travel freely between the two zones, became a frequent visitor to Paris. But it took two to collaborate, and Hitler, after his abortive attempt to get a foothold in North Africa, showed no interest. Not until the end of September did his attention turn to France again.

Hitler’s attitude changed as a result of events in France’s African Empire. Although most French colonies had stayed loyal to Vichy, French Equatorial Africa (Chad, the Cameroons) had rallied to de Gaulle in August. Worried that this rebellion might spread to West Africa, Vichy urgently sought German permission to reinforce French forces there. In September a joint Anglo-Gaullist force set sail for Dakar, the main port of French West Africa. But the Vichy defenders remained loyal and the Gaullists were repulsed. In retaliation the French bombarded Gibraltar. For Hitler this evidence of Vichy’s determination to defend her Empire opened up the possibility of a Mediterranean and colonial strategy against Britain now that the invasion had been shelved. On 24 September Vichy was authorized to rearm the air force in North Africa. Encouraged by this, Pétain announced on 10 October that France wished to free herself of ‘traditional friendships’ and forge ‘a new peace of collaboration’.

Hitler was now ready to launch the ‘new policy’. The problem with a Mediterranean strategy was to reconcile the competing interests of Italy, Spain, and France in North Africa. One idea, never in fact presented to Vichy, was that France would be given Nigeria to compensate for the cession of Morocco to Spain and Tunisia and Corsica to Mussolini.19 On 23 October, Hitler met Franco at Hendaye on the Franco-Spanish border to persuade him to enter the war. On (p.173) his way, he stopped at Montoire, near Tours, where a surprised Laval was summoned to meet him on 22 October. A similar meeting was proposed for Pétain on the return journey two days later. Pétain’s advisers were suspicious, but Pétain agreed to go, recalling the precedent of Tilsit when the defeated Alexander I of Russia had met Napoleon in 1807.

The discussions at Montoire remained general. The French had had no time to prepare their position, and Hitler made no concrete demands, partly because he had failed to win over Franco. No details were discussed and nothing was signed. At Montoire Pétain was more cautious than Laval. He called the declaration of war a blunder; Laval said it was a crime. Laval proposed collaboration; Pétain accepted it in principle, but said that he could not discuss details before talking to his government. Nonetheless, the symbolic impact of Montoire can hardly be exaggerated. Pétain was photographed shaking Hitler’s hand, and in a speech on 30 October he announced that France was ‘entering the path of collaboration’. He promised that in ‘the near future’ there would be an improvement in the situation of the prisoners of war, a reduction in occupation costs, and a relaxation of the demarcation line.20 Montoire’s importance was also shown by the fact that it led to the resignations of Charles-Roux and Baudouin; Laval now became Foreign Minister.

After Montoire, discussions started in Paris between German military representatives and envoys from Vichy (Laval, Darlan, Huntziger). The negotiations concerned a French expedition to reconquer French Equatorial Africa even at the risk of opening hostilities with the British. At the first meeting, on 31 October, General Huntziger, French Minister of Defence, told the Germans: ‘The British must be chased out.’ But at the second meeting, on 29 November, he disappointed the Germans by claiming that no operation against the British would be possible until the end of 1941. At the next meeting, on 10 December, he had revised his position again, and suggested that an operation might be feasible by February 1941.

These fluctuations in the French line are entirely comprehensible. At the very least, Vichy had to seem serious about defending her Empire from Britain so that the Germans were not tempted to step in themselves; on the other hand, Vichy did not want to provoke the British and Free French into launching further attacks on the Empire. In addition, French negotiators hoped to use the prospect of military operations against Britain as a way of securing German agreement for an increase in the size of French naval and military strength in the Empire. It is not clear how serious the French were about military action against Britain in Africa. Laval seems to have been the most enthusiastic—he informed Abetz that he was disappointed by Huntziger’s position on 29 November—while Darlan and Huntziger seemed more cautious. On the other hand, on 12 December Pétain told the American diplomat Robert Murphy that France (p.174) was organizing an expedition to recapture Chad. French policy was not fixed at the end of 1941, but it would be wrong to suppose that the idea of military action in Africa was Laval’s alone.21

13 December: The Fall of Laval

Despite these negotiations, Montoire brought no tangible benefits to the French population apart from an agreement on 16 November to release POWs with more than four children.22 The German representatives on the Armistice Commission remained as unco-operative as ever: Hemmen told the French that Montoire was a ‘political event which has nothing to do with what we are doing here’.23 Indeed things got even worse for the French. At the end of October the Germans expelled some 7,700 Jews from the Palatinate and Baden-Württemberg and dumped them in France. From 11 November, the Germans started to expel citizens of Lorraine who were judged to be unassimilable into Germany. Trainloads of refugees arrived daily in France. When the operation ended in mid-December, some 100,000 Lorrainers (and 4,000 Alsatians) had been unceremoniously dumped into France. This was a major blow to the German image in France, and annoyed Abetz whose seduction of the French required them to be offered some concessions. On the economic front, German demands escalated daily.

Montoire’s failure to produce results poisoned relations between Pétain and Laval. It revealed a significant difference between them—not about the desirability of collaboration, but about its nature.24 For Pétain, collaboration was a way of securing improvements in the conditions of daily life in France. The prefects reported that Montoire had shocked public opinion, and Pétain felt aggrieved at having staked his prestige on a policy which had not delivered results. For Laval, indifferent to the National Revolution, collaboration was a longer term strategy. Although disappointed that Montoire had not achieved more, his objective was a durable Franco-German reconciliation. For this he was ready to make sacrifices. On 26 November, he accepted a German request that the French surrender their capital holdings in the Bor copper mines in Yugoslavia. Three days later, he handed over, without compensation, the gold stocks that had been entrusted to France by the Bank of Belgium. In both these cases Laval, arguing that France must give ‘testimony of our good faith’, overruled the protests of the Minister of Finance, Bouthillier.25 For all his reputation (p.175) as a cynic, Laval was extraordinarily naive. His mistake was to overestimate the importance of Abetz whose influence over German policy was less than he believed (and Abetz hoped).

Laval also became too confident of his own indispensability. He was therefore completely taken by surprise when Pétain sacked him on 13 December. Subsequent claims that he was dismissed because of his closeness to the Germans are quite wrong: only the hope that his German contacts would bear fruit had saved him from being dismissed sooner. The objection to Laval was not that he sought collaboration, but that he had achieved nothing from it.26 On the other hand, many of Laval’s enemies within the government did believe that he had executed the policy imprudently, and to that extent it is true that collaboration played some part in Laval’s downfall.

Laval was replaced by a triumvirate of Flandin, Darlan, and Huntziger. Pétain assured Hitler in a letter that French policy had not altered, but Abetz was furious. Storming down to Vichy on 16 December, accompanied by some armed SS men, he had Laval released, and returned to Paris with him. Although Darlan met Hitler on 25 December, listened to a tirade, and assured him that France remained committed to collaboration, the Germans would not be appeased: they punished Vichy by closing the demarcation line even to civil servants. By January the government in desperation started to consider taking Laval back, but Laval now refused anything less than full power. In the end, however, Laval’s return to government foundered not on his intransigence, but on a change of attitude by Ribbentrop who decided to keep him in reserve in case Vichy misbehaved again in future.27 For the moment the Germans had decided that Darlan could be trusted after all. They spun the crisis out only to squeeze some extra concessions from Vichy. On 9 February, Flandin resigned and Darlan took over. The Germans received satisfaction with the dismissal of some of the 13 December conspirators (including Alibert and Peyrouton) and the entry into government of some ardent proponents of collaboration (Marion, Benoist-Méchin).28

Throughout the crisis the French had done all they could to assure Germany that Laval’s dismissal was not a repudiation of collaboration. They would have done this whether it was true or not, but there is no reason to assume it was not. After the war, Flandin claimed that he had broken with collaboration. There was indeed almost no contact with the Germans in his short period of power, but this was not his choice.29 Flandin, the man who sent Hitler a telegram of congratulation after Munich, did not have an anti-collaboration reputation. He had made a speech favourable to collaboration on 18 November, and he had been appointed partly to allay suspicions of anti-German motives in (p.176) the elimination of Laval.30 The scheme had foundered, but through no fault of Flandin’s.

The British Connection

Apart from the dismissal of Laval, those arguing that Pétain was ambivalent about collaboration point to the existence of secret contacts between Vichy France and the British. These are taken as signs of Pétain’s ‘double game’. Contacts with Britain certainly existed, but their importance was exaggerated after the war, and Laval’s dismissal was unrelated to them.31

The contacts started in September 1940 via the two countries’ embassies in Madrid. The French hoped to alleviate the effects of the British blockade which was starving metropolitan France of French colonial produce and the British hoped to avert any attack on their colonies or the dissident Gaullist ones. When the French refused to commit themselves on this point, the contacts were broken off. Another contact was made by Louis Rougier, a professor at Besançon, who obtained Pétain’s agreement to visit London where he met Churchill on 25 October. After the war Rougier claimed, with the aid of doctored documents, that he had signed a secret protocol with Churchill. No such document existed, but Rougier’s presence in London at the moment of Montoire did at least reassure the British that France had not entirely turned her back on them. It encouraged them to resuscitate the Madrid contacts. When Laval became Foreign Minister, he immediately informed the Germans and terminated these contacts again. He wanted ‘loyalty’ to Germany ‘exclusive of any equivocal diplomacy’.32

Clearly there was a difference on this matter between Pétain and Laval, but events after Laval’s fall showed that the difference was minimal. A third set of Franco-British contacts occurred through the Canadian diplomat Pierre Dupuy, who had contacted Jacques Chevalier just before Laval’s fall. The significance of this connection was that Chevalier had once known the British Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax. Dupuy brought a message from Halifax that if France promised to keep the Empire out of German hands and leave the Gaullist colonies alone, the British would consider relaxing the blockade. On 6 December, Dupuy saw Pétain, Darlan, and Huntziger. He was assured that no action would be considered against the Gaullist territories before the spring at the earliest, and that the Germans would not be allowed in the Empire. Pétain also made the sibylline comment: ‘you know where my sympathies lie’. Dupuy took this news to London. This was the extent of what Chevalier after the war (p.177) christened the Chevalier–Halifax Agreement. In fact, nothing was signed. It is not even clear whether Dupuy had been authorized by Halifax to pass on any message; and if he had been, it only represented the private view of Halifax who was better disposed to Vichy than Churchill was.

Nonetheless on the strength of Dupuy’s more extravagant assertions about Vichy’s real attitude, and encouraged by Laval’s dismissal, Churchill sent Pétain a secret message at the end of December suggesting possible British military assistance to North Africa if the French would contemplate an eventual entry into the war. Pétain did not reply. Another consequence of the hopes aroused by Dupuy was the resumption of the talks in Madrid (for the third time) in January, but British suspicion was aroused when Flandin informed the Germans about these. At Madrid the French presented the British with unrealistic demands for the importation of massive quantities of supplies. The negotiations petered out in February 1941, and the Franco-British contacts were now over. Dupuy went on proffering his services, but no one took any notice.

There was no French double game either before or after Laval’s dismissal. The French hoped for an alleviation of the blockade, but they offered no concessions in return: nothing that Dupuy was told on 6 December was not already French policy. If the French subsequently sabotaged the Madrid negotiations, it was because they realized that the British lacked the resources to enforce a blockade: in the first three months of 1941, only eight out of 108 French ships passing through the Straits of Gibraltar were intercepted.33

France’s plight was also eased after the American government started sending supplies to French North Africa, subject to certain conditions. This was the result of an agreement negotiated in February between General Weygand and President Roosevelt’s representative in North Africa, James Murphy. The Murphy–Weygand agreement was motivated by Roosevelt’s belief that if the Allies showed goodwill towards Vichy, it would be possible to bring France back into the war on the Allied side. Roosevelt’s ambassador at Vichy, Admiral William Leahy, built up excellent relations with Pétain. But the Americans had even greater hopes of Weygand, seeing him, in the words of the Secretary of State, Cordell Hull, as ‘a cornerstone around which to build a policy of resistance towards Germany’. The British were not convinced about this strategy, but they could not stop it.34

After the end of 1940, there was no more talk of retaking Chad, but this was not because Laval had gone. The policy had never been Laval’s alone: when Darlan and Pétain saw Dupuy on 6 December they had refused to rule out a Chad expedition. If the project was abandoned, it was partly because Hitler had lost interest in the Mediterranean–African arena and was already planning the invasion of Russia. This meant that he was unlikely to allow the French to equip (p.178) the necessary forces.35 It was also clear that the British, scarred by the failure of the Dakar expedition, were not going to sponsor such operations in future. Thus it made sense for Vichy tacitly to accept the colonial status quo rather than risk provoking the British unnecessarily.

Relaunching Collaboration: The Protocols of Paris

Nothing more conclusively contradicts the view that Laval’s dismissal was a repudiation of collaboration than the fact that the apogee of the policy occurred under Admiral Darlan, his successor. Darlan was a devious figure in whose career it is hard to find any consistency. In the Third Republic, he had never displayed anti-Republican sentiments, and his sympathies were considered to lie on the left, yet in 1941 he claimed to believe that France’s problems had been caused by the weaknesses of the Republic, its schoolteachers, and its ‘Judaeo-Masonic political habits’. Unlike Weygand, he had not been an early advocate of the Armistice, yet he had changed his mind at the last moment. He was not involved in the plot against Laval, yet he became its main beneficiary. Apart from a tenacious Anglophobia tradition in the navy—in May 1942 he remarked: ‘I worked with the British for 15 years and they always lied to me; I have worked with the Germans for 3 months, and they have never deceived me’36—Darlan’s only principle was opportunism. He also enjoyed the trappings of office, and had a taste for the high life which contrasted with the austere tone of Vichy. Apart from two residences in Vichy itself, he had a sumptuous official villa in Toulon. He entertained lavishly, and liked to be accompanied wherever he went by a large military band.37

Darlan’s views in 1941 can be easily reconstructed because he had a predilection for composing long memoranda which decked out his opportunism in grand geopolitical speculations. He believed that whether the war resulted in a stalemate or a German victory, its consequence would be a world divided into two blocs—a European one dominated by Germany and an Anglo-Saxon one dominated by America—and the end of the British Empire. Although one day France might become a bridge between these two blocs, her immediate destiny was to be part of German Europe.38 Not only did Darlan think a German Europe was the likeliest outcome; he also thought it the desirable one. A British victory would lead to France being treated as a third-class dominion; a negotiated peace between Germany and Britain would allow them to carve up France’s Empire to their mutual advantage; a German victory would offer France some sort of continental role and posed the least threat to her Empire.39 Some of Darlan’s predictions (p.179) have been borne out by history, but for an opportunist it is fruitless to be right fifty years early.

After Laval’s insouciance and secrecy, Pétain appreciated Darlan’s orderly reports. His view on collaboration did not differ substantially from Darlan’s, although he noted in the margin of one of Darlan’s memoranda that collaboration must not be military or involve the cession of bases.40 If Pétain was not as sure as Darlan that Germany would win, he was no less convinced she would not lose: ‘if Germany wins the war, we must have settled our account with her while she still has need of us’.41 Darlan’s main difference from Pétain was on domestic policy. His priority, and that of the technocrats in his government, was to enable France to hold her own economically in the new Europe. With Darlan therefore the congruence between domestic and foreign policy was greatest: where Laval was cynical about domestic reform and primarily interested in collaboration and Pétain primarily interested in collaboration to facilitate domestic reform, for Darlan the two were inseparable.42

To relaunch collaboration it was necessary to interest Hitler in France again. This became possible after February 1941 when Hitler sent Rommel to North Africa to assist the Italians. France’s opportunity to capitalize on this occurred in April when Hitler decided to support an anti-British coup that had broken out in Iraq. Abetz asked for Germany to be allowed to use airbases in French Syria. On 5 May Darlan agreed and the first German planes arrived four days later. Darlan’s understanding was that in return the French would win some of the concessions they so desperately wanted: a reduction in occupation costs and the release of more POWs. But Abetz had promised more than he could deliver, and no concessions were forthcoming.

On 11 May, Darlan met Hitler at Berchtesgaden. Hitler told him that although Germany would win the war anyway, France could speed up victory. For every large concession France made to Germany, the Germans would make a large one in return; for every small one, the Germans would make a small one. Back in France Darlan reported:

This is the last chance for us of a rapprochement with Germany…If we collaborate with Germany…that is to say, if we work for her in our factories, if we give her certain facilities, we can save the French nation; reduce to a minimum our territorial losses in the colonies and on the mainland; play an honourable—if not important—role in the future Europe.

My choice is made: it is collaboration…France’s interest is to live and to remain a great power…In the present state of the world, and taking account of our terrible defeat, I see no other solution to protect our interests.43

(p.180) The cabinet approved these conclusions. The ensuing negotiations with Germany resulted in the signature on 27 May 1941 of the Protocols of Paris. These contained three major French concessions: German use of Syrian airfields (formal confirmation of the 5 May agreement); German use of the Tunisian port of Bizerta to supply Rommel in North Africa; submarine facilities for the Germans at Dakar. Annexed was a fourth protocol mentioning political concessions to give the French government the ‘means to justify to public opinion the eventuality of an armed conflict with Britain or the United States’. The first three protocols were signed by Darlan, Abetz, and the German military negotiators; the fourth was signed by Abetz and Darlan alone. While France remained officially neutral, in practice that neutrality was increasingly asymmetrical.

When the Protocols came up for approval on 3 June, Weygand, who had hurried over from North Africa, threatened to resign. Darlan conceded that before proceeding further, the government would itemize the political concessions it required. A list of these was handed to Germany on 6 June. The German reaction was unforthcoming and the negotiations stalled. Weygand was back in Vichy on 11 July, and on 14 July the government presented Germany with another note. Again the German response was negative, and the application of the Protocols was suspended. Nonetheless the affair had had grave consequences for France. The Iraqi revolt had been crushed by the end of May which allowed Darlan to obtain the removal of German planes from Syria. But this was too late to prevent the Anglo-Gaullists launching an attack on Syria on 8 June. After a month of fighting, the Vichy forces surrendered. Vichy had lost another piece of her Empire; Vichy forces had fought the Anglo-Gaullists; no German concessions had been obtained.

These events have been interpreted in various ways. Weygand believed that his intervention was decisive in forcing Darlan to abandon the military collaboration he was contemplating. The French diplomatic historian Jean-Baptiste Duroselle accepts this claim. According to this interpretation, the French notes of 6 June and 14 July were drafted to invite a German refusal and sabotage the protocols.44 Jäckel and Paxton, on the other hand, utilizing German sources, downplay Weygand’s role. Noting that Darlan continued to negotiate with the Germans after Weygand’s intervention, they see the note of 14 July as a bid to put Franco-German relations on a new footing going beyond the Armistice, and taking Hitler’s words at Berchtesgaden at face value. Benoist-Méchin, who helped to draft the note, certainly claims in his memoirs that this was its purpose.45 According to Paxton, if Germany did not take the bait, it was because the invasion of the Soviet Union again redirected Hitler’s priorities away from the Mediterranean: Abetz informed the French on 13 August that Germany could not consider their proposals because she was now tied up in the East.

(p.181) Pétain’s biographer, Marc Ferro, offers a different interpretation. He believes that Darlan quickly became suspicious about Germany’s willingness to offer concessions. Weygand therefore pushed Darlan in a direction he wished to go, providing an alibi for retreat.46 Thus Weygand wrote to Noguès on 15 July: ‘I must say that I had to fight less hard than I had expected.’47 Darlan’s biographers, in their heroic attempt to salvage the Admiral’s reputation, have pushed this line even further. They argue that even when he signed the Protocols, Darlan, who felt the Germans had cheated him on 5 May, was already wary of their intentions: he had inserted the fourth protocol as an escape route.48

The only certainty is that Darlan had taken France to the brink of military collaboration and that he drew back for want of German political concessions. The view that the Protocols foundered because Germany lost interest does not square entirely with Germany’s irritation at the new French position. Even if the view is correct, it is not incompatible with the idea that the 14 July note was intended to elicit a negative response. Probably the various protagonists had different expectations of the note, Benoist-Méchin hoping it would relaunch collaboration as a genuine partnership, Weygand believing it met his requirement of ‘keeping our political demands very high’,49 Darlan probably expecting a German refusal, but unsure if he wanted one.

After the Protocols: Collaboration goes on

The Protocols, however, were only part of a longer process of Franco-German co-operation in North Africa which had started before the Syrian affair and went on after it. French North Africa had become important as a base of supply for Rommel’s armies. On 25 April 1941, the Germans asked to purchase French military vehicles. Vichy agreed and a contract was signed in May for the provision of 1,100 lorries and 300 liaison vehicles.50 Negotiations on this subject reopened in September. In general Darlan’s behaviour in the second half of 1941 suggests, even to his own apologetic biographers, that ‘he persisted in the idea that France could obtain from Germany more favourable conditions and even a modification of her political statute’.51 He did everything possible to win German approval, starting in July with the removal of General Doyen from the Armistice Commission for being too anti-German.

Vichy’s adoption of more repressive internal policies in August was partly a response to the deteriorating internal situation, but it was also linked to collaboration. Policing was at the intersection of politico-administrative and politico-diplomatic (p.182) collaboration: it was a way of preserving sovereignty by preventing the Germans from interfering in French internal security; and a way of winning German approval for the wider project of relaunching political collaboration. It was also a means of pre-empting more ruthless German measures likely to render both the regime and collaboration more unpopular. The Germans had responded to the first Communist terrorist attacks in August by executing five French hostages, and Hitler ordered that future attacks should be punished by the execution of 50–100 hostages per victim. To keep some control over the situation, the French themselves executed three Communists on 28 August after a trial in a ‘Special Section’ and another three on 24 September after a trial by the Special Tribunal. These six victims, guilty of no more than being Communist, were in no way implicated in the terrorist attacks.

If these measures proved insufficient to stop the German policy of shooting hostages, Vichy at least wanted to limit the unpopularity of that policy. On 23 October, the government proposed co-operation between the French and German police to avoid the Germans shooting the wrong people: ‘it is eminently desirable in the future that the Communist hostages are selected by the German authorities but after consultation with the relevant French authorities’.52 Prefects were instructed to hand the Germans lists of those arrested as Communists. This was only a step away from the French government selecting French citizens to be shot by the Germans. Anti-communism blunted Vichy’s recognition of the invidious territory into which it was straying.

The resistance attacks continued, and the Germans went on exacting their revenge. After a German soldier was shot in Bordeaux on 20 October and another at Nantes the next day, ninety-eight French hostages were executed. These executions became particularly controversial because Pucheu, having managed to get the number of victims reduced, was later accused of having selected the names of Communists from among the hostages. He had apparently asked the Germans to spare the names of some people with heroic war records, and then presented with another list containing the names mainly of Communists, he kept silent. The executions caused a wave of national outrage, and Pétain decided to present himself as a hostage at the demarcation line. He was talked out of the idea, but news of it spread sufficiently for Pétain to secure credit for it without having had to carry it out. In fact the German reprisals did not let up. Ninety-five more hostages were shot after another resistance attack on 28 November. In total, 471 hostages were executed by the Germans between September 1941 and May 1942.

To win German approval, Darlan was also ready to sack Weygand who had done his best during September to slow down deliveries for Rommel.53 On 8 November 1941, Darlan delivered Pétain an ultimatum: ‘France, having been (p.183) beaten by Germany, cannot hope to survive unless she draw closer to her conqueror who desires this not out of sentiment but self-interest…I have chosen the path of integrating France into the European bloc’. If Pétain would not sack Weygand, Darlan would resign.54 Weygand was finally dismissed on 18 November and replaced by General Juin who was given military command over North Africa, but not the political powers which Weygand had also exercised. Weygand’s dismissal did more to alienate American opinion than to win concessions from Germany.

As Rommel’s position in North Africa deteriorated at the end of 1941, Vichy came under more pressure to provide him with help. Juin was sent to negotiate in Berlin. Asked whether France would defend Tunisia even if this meant French troops alongside Rommel, he was evasive, saying that it was necessary to create the ‘necessary climate for the French troops to accept the idea of fighting side by side with the Germans’. As usual Germany would not offer the concessions which this statement implied. Nonetheless at the end of December Darlan was forced to provide more supplies and promise that the French would resist any British incursion into Tunisia if Rommel were forced to retreat there. In effect, then, the Germans had secured the second of the Protocols without giving anything in return. Luckily for French neutrality, it never became necessary to offer a refuge to Rommel because the British offensive faltered. But France delivered supplies to Rommel until the Americans threatened to stop their deliveries under the Murphy accords. Between June 1941 and May 1942, France had provided Rommel with about 1,700 vehicles, a small quantity of arms, and about 3,600 tons of fuel.55

None of this brought a political settlement any closer. In return for sacking Weygand, Pétain was granted an interview with Goering at Saint-Florentin on 1 December. But when he presented the usual French demands and complained at Germany’s lack of co-operation, he was told: ‘Who won this war, you or us?’56 This was what ‘collaboration’ had come to. A glimmer of hope that the Germans might consider a general settlement was offered by Abetz after a rare meeting with Hitler on 5 January. He told Benoist-Méchin that Hitler really seemed interested in offering a peace treaty ‘which will astonish the French’ if they would declare war on the Allies. Benoist-Méchin enthusiastically reported this to Darlan. The information was discussed by a small group of ministers in Pétain’s presence on 10 January. Despite Pétain’s reluctance, they decided not to reject the overture flatly, but explore what was on offer. Benoist-Méchin reported back positively to Abetz who immediately informed Ribbentrop that the French were ready to declare war.

In the end, nothing came of this. If Hitler had fleetingly nursed the idea of (p.184) offering France something, he did not do so for long. He told Goebbels on 22 January that ‘France renders us certain services in Africa but not of sufficient importance for us to offer concessions.’ On the French side, this curious incident is difficult to interpret. What seems to have happened was that at every stage Abetz and Benoist-Méchin inflated the significance of what they had been told: Abetz exaggerated to Benoist-Méchin a few reveries by Hitler; Benoist-Méchin exaggerated to Darlan what Abetz had told him, and then exaggerated to Abetz the way Darlan had responded; and finally Abetz exaggerated to Ribbentrop what Benoist-Méchin had told him. This makes it difficult to reconstruct exactly how the French government did respond, but it seems certain that the response was to keep the door open. Darlan rushed to Paris in the hope of meeting Ribbentrop. He returned empty-handed. The whole affair was a tragicomic condensation of the entire history of collaboration.57

Darlan still hoped for a general settlement, but it is unclear how far he was now prepared to go to obtain it. In February 1942, he sent notes to Abetz and Stülpnagel expressing his continued interest in a rapprochement ‘indispensable to the establishment of a new stable order in Europe’, but he added that ‘rapprochement does not mean participation in the war, at least as long as the country is neither materially nor morally ready’. Privately, however, Darlan had begun to lose hope. He wrote to Admiral Duplat who was negotiating with the Italians:

While for a year I have deliberately oriented French policy towards a rapprochement, I have only met mistrust from both the Germans and the Italians. The proof of this is given by the constant refusal to give us the military means to respond to the Anglo-Saxon reprisals which are risked by our transports for the Axis…So it is not surprising if I respond to mistrust with prudence.58

The American entry into the war in December 1941 was a further blow to Vichy’s policy of asymmetrical neutrality. Worried that the Germans might use French bases in the Caribbean, Washington insisted in February 1942 that Darlan refuse Germany any facilities in France’s Caribbean possessions. The Germans pressurized him to resist American pressure. Darlan’s freedom of manoeuvre was rapidly shrinking.59

By the end of 1941, Darlan’s policy was as discredited as Laval’s had been a year earlier, and he was losing favour with Pétain. He resented Darlan’s failure to produce results, and had been deeply disappointed by the interview with Goering. Pétain’s frustration emerged in his New Year message where he spoke of his ‘partial exile’ and ‘semi-liberty’. Darlan tried to stop Pétain delivering this speech, and the Germans would not allow it to be reproduced in the North.

(p.185) Darlan’s position was not helped by the opening on 19 February 1942 of the long-delayed trial, at Riom, of those judged responsible for the defeat. The two most prominent defendants, Daladier and Blum, had little difficulty in showing the flimsiness of the charges against them, and turned the occasion into a public relations disaster for the regime. The Germans, on the other hand, were furious that the accused were being tried not for causing the war, but for losing it. Under German pressure the trial was suspended in April. Darlan had few friends left.

The weeks of scheming preceding Darlan’s dismissal were Byzantine even by Vichy standards. On 26 March 1942, Pétain had a secret meeting with Laval. In fact he remained as hostile to Laval as he had ever been, but Darlan took fright and showed the German consul at Vichy a note from the American ambassador, Leahy, informing Pétain of America’s opposition to Laval’s return. This was a tactical error on Darlan’s part. Apart from Abetz, whose star was waning, the Germans had not been pushing for Laval’s return, but once Darlan turned his own survival into a trial of strength between Germany and America, he obliged Berlin to swing behind Laval. On 17 April Darlan resigned, and Laval returned to power.60 Collaboration was now to enter a new stage.

Economic Collaboration

Leaving aside any moral objections to the policy as pursued up to April 1942, collaboration followed logically from the premiss that Germany had won the war, just as de Gaulle’s resistance followed logically from the opposite premiss. Although Vichy’s premiss turned out to be wrong, it was not an absurd one between 1940 and 1942. In that sense, as Henri Michel observed, the policy of Darlan and Laval made more sense than Weygand’s position of noble obstinacy, which drew the opposite conclusion from the same premiss.61

Even allowing for the flawed premiss, however, collaboration turned out to be a chimera because Vichy grossly overestimated the degree to which France mattered to Hitler. Vichy Realpolitik was wishful thinking based on a complete misreading of Germany. Although Hitler had not made up his mind about France’s long-term fate, in conversation he mused about annexing Burgundy and Flanders to the greater Reich, and returning France to her borders of 1500. Of course, Vichy leaders were not privy to these thoughts, but available indications of German intentions towards France were hardly promising. The German Propaganda Ministry had announced on 9 July 1940 that France’s future would be to become ‘a greater Switzerland, a country of tourism…and fashion’.62

(p.186) As far as the future peace treaty was concerned, Hitler had debts to pay to Italy, and these were likely to be at France’s expense. Laval made the mistake of misreading Abetz’s intentions and overestimating his influence. As Philippe Burrin observes, collaboration was based on a double manipulation: that perpetrated on the French by Abetz who was really seeking ‘France as a satellite not a partner’; that perpetrated on Abetz by Hitler who allowed Abetz to believe he wanted France as a satellite whereas in reality he intended to crush her.63

How could Vichy have been so credulous about Germany? A partial explanation can be found if one moves from the high politics of collaboration, which was a dialogue of the deaf, to collaboration as a daily process of negotiation. State collaboration was the story of a French government desperately seeking a response from a German government which was usually not interested. But it is not true that there was nothing the Germans wanted from the French. On the contrary, they embarked on a systematic milking of the French economy. Having abandoned a policy of outright requisition in the autumn of 1940, the Germans engaged the French in complex economic negotiations. These had the consequence of accustoming high-level French officials to the idea of doing business with the Germans. Administrative, economic, and political collaboration followed different rhythms. Montoire did not help the French negotiators on the Armistice Commission, but Abetz’s hostile reaction to the sacking of Laval did not disrupt Franco-German negotiations which were taking place in Paris to work out how much influence Germany should be allowed over civil service appointments in the Occupied Zone.64

Vichy tried to monitor, and control, economic negotiations between industrialists and the Germans. For this reason it set up, in February 1941, the General Delegation for Franco-German Economic Affairs (DGREFA), under Jacques Barnaud, to co-ordinate all Franco-German economic negotiations. The French aimed to link economic negotiations, where the Germans wanted something, to political negotiations, where the French wanted something. The highly sensitive case of the aircraft industry showed, however, that the Germans refused to connect politics and economics in this way. Here the initiative for collaboration came from the Germans who wanted French factories (in both zones) to produce planes for them. In September 1940 Vichy agreed to allow French factories to produce military aircraft for Germany, except fighter planes which might be used offensively against Britain. The Germans asked the French to produce German models as well. In return Vichy asked for concessions on the demarcation line and the release of prisoners, but with no success. It was Flandin who in January 1941 abandoned this bargaining position and let the negotiations proceed nonetheless. An agreement was finally signed in July 1941. In return for producing planes for Germany, the French were also authorized to produce aircraft (p.187) for themselves (something previously forbidden by the Armistice). The proportion of German to French planes would be approximately 2:1. The French were to produce 2,275 for Germany (including 1,480 German models) and 1,101 for France.

By November 1942, when the Germans occupied the whole country, they had still received only about half of the planes due. The shortfall, which also affected the planes for France, was due not to any French resistance, but to shortages of raw materials and to the difficulty of adjusting to German models. Nonetheless, the total contribution of the French aircraft industry to Germany was not insignificant: 27 per cent of Germany’s transport planes in 1942, 42 per cent in 1943, and 49 per cent in 1944 had come from France. Planes produced in France supplied Rommel’s African army in 1942 and German troops at Stalingrad in 1943.

If Vichy had not collaborated in this matter, the Germans would probably have dismantled French aviation factories and reassembled them in Germany. But there were more positive motives for co-operation. German orders kept the French aircraft industry going, allowed France to envisage building up an air force again, and provided employment to the aircraft workers who had been laid off after the Armistice. Their number had dropped from 250,000 in May 1940 to 40,000 in June; by 1942 it was back to 80,000; by 1944, 100,000.65 The aircraft industry embodied a paradox which applied to French industry as a whole: the Germans posed a threat to the French economy, but they also provided the only prospect of its recovery. Negotiations were therefore unavoidable. Even if political concessions were not forthcoming, the French were also interested in other concessions—for example, the provision of raw materials lacking in France or guarantees that some production would be reserved for the French market. If the Germans wanted the French to supply them with manufactures, they had to allow them raw materials in return.

During all economic negotiations Vichy was vigilant about a possible penetration of German capital into France. At the Ministry of Finance, Maurice Couve de Murville was put in charge of monitoring this issue. In fact, this was one area where the Germans proved less predatory than expected. The one exception was the dye industry where the German chemical giant, IG Farben, backed by the German authorities, intended to restore the dominant position in the French market which it had lost after the First World War. An agreement signed in March 1941 compelled French manufacturers to join a new Franco-German mixed company, Francolor, where IG Farben held 51 per cent of the capital. The French government in return obtained some concessions: the president of the company would be French, and the agreement would not be taken as a proto-type (p.188) for other industries, as the Germans had originally wanted.66 Other examples of financial penetration occurred not as part of a general strategy, but in piecemeal fashion, and for specific reasons. In the cases of the Denoël and Sorlot publishing houses, and the Havas press agency, the motive was one of ideological control. In the case of the Galeries Lafayette department store and Calmann-Lévy publishing house, the Germans seized an opportunity presented by ‘Aryanization’. In the case of the Mumm champagne firm, the Germans recovered control of a firm which had been German-owned before 1914 and been taken over by France on the outbreak of war.

The absence of a concerted German plan for financial penetration of the economy indicated how unimportant a place was ascribed to the French economy in the post-war New Order. In the immediate term, they could obtain all they wanted from France thanks to their massive purchasing power and to the mechanisms of economic control they forced the French to set up. The most important of these was OCPRI on which an MBF report in September 1940 commented: ‘a foundation has been laid on which French industrial production and distribution can be directed in a unified way under German control throughout the whole of France’.67

A whole series of contracts were signed with French industry: the Kehrl Agreement in February 1941 for the purchase of French textiles, various contracts for the purchase of bauxite, the Grunberg Plan for the delivery of shoes.68 Invariably the terms were unfavourable to the French, but there was little choice. As Bouthillier told the government when recommending acceptance of the Kehrl Agreement: ‘If this operation is not accepted in an agreement, it will be imposed upon us.’69 In the case of some lost causes, Vichy did not exert itself to protect French industrial interests. This was true of the steel industry where the likelihood of losing Alsace-Lorraine permanently did not make it worth arguing too hard about a sector where German pre-eminence seemed assured.70 By the end of 1941 the Germans were taking 40 per cent of French bauxite, 55 per cent of aluminium, 90 per cent of cement, 50 per cent of wool, 60 per cent of champagne, and 45 per cent of shoes and leather products.71

Even if economic negotiations were often disappointing to the French, the officials with whom they negotiated were more flexible than the higher political authorities. These were at least negotiations. Although unhappy about the terms of the textile agreement, the French negotiators found their opposite number, Hans Kehrl, encouraging in his views about the future of France’s textile industry in the new Europe. He was said to have shown ‘a spirit of comprehension…and a genuine desire for collaboration’.72 Summarizing economic collaboration at the end of 1941, one high-ranking official noted that, however tough (p.189) Germany had been, she had been less ‘eager than the Anglo-Saxon powers would have been in a similar situation to take commercial stakes’.73

Overall, then, these contacts helped to fuel the expectations of technocrats in the Darlan administration that ultimately collaboration could be conducted on a rational basis: economic logic would prevail over political prejudice. They viewed economic collaboration as a step towards the construction of a new Europe in which France would play a major role. Lehideux nursed the idea of three great road systems linking Bordeaux and Berlin, Cherbourg and Basel, Marseilles and Hamburg. In France itself sixteen roads would converge on Paris through sixteen monumental ‘gates of the Marshal’.74 The irony was that this vision of France as a modern industrial nation corresponded less to German plans for France as a weak agricultural economy than did the vision of the more anti-German traditionalists around Pétain. In that sense at least, the traditionalists were more realistic than the technocrats. But when it came to fantasy politics neither could compete with the Paris collaborationists.


(1) Cordier, Jean Moulin, ii. 316–29.

(2) Ibid. 407.

(3) Ibid. 343–416, 472–6.

(4) ‘Self-Ensnared: Collaboration with Nazi Germany’, 28–31.

(5) Bouthillier, Le Drame de Vichy, i. 283–4.

(6) Duroselle, L’Abîme, 236–8; Paxton, Vichy France, 61. For a contrary interpretation see Coutau Bégarie and Huan, Darlan, 317–18.

(7) Baruch, Servir l’État, 78.

(8) A. Sauvy, De Paul Reynaud à Charles de Gaulle (1972), 134.

(9) Paxton, Vichy France, 60–1.

(10) Ibid. 52–6; Michel, Vichy année 40, 164–7.

(11) A. Milward, The New Order and the French Economy (Oxford, 1970), 61.

(12) Ibid. 58–63; Hytier, Two Years of French Foreign Policy, 128–9.

(13) Jäckel, La France dans l’Europe, 110.

(14) R. Thalmann, La Mise au pas: Idéologie et stratégie sécuritaire dans la France occupée (1991), 23–54, 135–8; Burrin, La France à l’heure, 92–104; Jäckel, La France dans l’Europe, 104 ff.

(15) Jäckel, La France dans l’Europe, 139.

(16) Burrin, La Dérive fasciste, 353–4.

(17) Duroselle, L’Abîme, 262; Jäckel, La France dans l’Europe, 151.

(18) Kupferman, Pierre Laval, 255.

(19) Jäckel, La France dans l’Europe, 166–7.

(20) Ibid. 169–76; Ferro, Pétain, 184–92.

(21) Paxton, Vichy France, 83–7; Paxton, Parades and Politics, 82–93; Warner, Pierre Laval, 242–3, 250–2; Duroselle, L’Abîme, 273–4.

(22) Michel, Vichy année 40, 335–6.

(23) Baruch, Servir l’État, 107; Duroselle, L’Abîme, 270.

(24) See R. Frank, ‘Pétain, Laval, Darlan’, in J.-P. Azéma and F. Bédarida (eds.), La France des années noires, i. De la défaite à Vichy (1993), 297–332.

(25) Duroselle, L’Abîme, 273; Margairaz, LÉtat, les finances et l’économie, 632–4.

(26) Kupferman, Pierre Laval, 268–70; Warner, Pierre Laval, 222.

(27) Cointet, Pierre Laval, 338; Warner, Pierre Laval, 272.

(28) Coutau-Bégarie and Huan, Darlan, 360–86.

(29) Paxton, Vichy France, 101–8.

(30) Bidussa and Peschanski (eds.), La France de Vichy, 181.

(31) On Vichy–British relations see: R. T. Thomas, Britain and Vichy: The Dilemma of Anglo-British Relations 1940–1942 (1979), 38–109; R. Frank, ‘Vichy et les Britanniques 1940–1941: Double Jeu ou double langage?’, in VEF 144–61; Duroselle, L’Abîme, 274–81.

(32) Duroselle, LAbîme, 276.

(33) Thomas, Britain and Vichy, 101; Coutau-Bégarie and Huan, Darlan, 325, argue the blockade was relaxed as a result of the negotiations, but the British records show this to be wrong.

(34) Thomas, Britain and Vichy, 88–106.

(35) Paxton, Vichy France, 94–7.

(36) Boegner, Carnets du Pasteur Boegner, 112.

(37) H. Michel, François Darlan (1993), 143–7.

(38) Notes of 8 Nov. 1940, 17 Nov. 1940, 14 May 1940, in Darlan, Lettres et notes, 245–52, 325–8.

(39) Note of Dec. 1940, ibid. 264–5.

(40) Note of 21 July, ibid. 383.

(41) Burrin, La France à l’heure, 125–6.

(42) Frank, ‘Pétain, Laval, Darlan’, in Azéma and Bédarida (eds.), La France des Années noires i. 297–332.

(43) Communication of 14 May 1941, in Lettres et notes, 325–7.

(44) Duroselle, L’Abîme, 285–90; Weygand, Recalled to Service, 326–37.

(45) Paxton, Vichy France, 116–27; Jäckel, La France dans l’Europe, 251–8. Benoist-Méchin, A l’épreuve du temps, 212–17; id. De la défaite au désastre, i. 237–53.

(46) Ferro, Pétain, 316–24.

(47) Levisse-Touzé, ‘L’Afrique du Nord’, 465.

(48) Coutau-Bégarie and Huan, Darlan, 395–438.

(49) Levisse-Touzé, ‘L’Afrique du Nord’, 465.

(50) Ibid. 314–16; Jäckel, La France dans l’Europe, 233–4.

(51) Coutau-Bégarie and Huan, Darlan, 442.

(52) Quoted by D. Peschanski, ‘Le Régime de Vichy a existé’, in D. Peschanski (ed.), Vichy 1940–1944: Archives de guerre d’Angelo Tasca (1986), 3–49: 30.

(53) Levisse-Touzé, ‘L’Afrique du Nord’, 336–9.

(54) Darlan, Lettres et notes, 414–22.

(55) Coutau-Bégarie and Huan, Darlan, 469–71; Paxton, Vichy France, 127–8; Levisse-Touzé, ‘L’Afrique du Nord’, 318–28, 487–501.

(56) Coutau-Bégarie and Huan, Darlan, 457–70; Ferro, Pétain, 355–65.

(57) Paxton, Vichy France, 387–90; Jäckel, La France dans l’Europe, 302–10; Benoist-Méchin, De la défaiteau désastre, 351–69; Burrin, La France à l’heure, 132–4; Coutau-Bégarie and Huan, Darlan, 512–15.

(58) Note of 9 Sept. 1942, in Lettres et notes, 473.

(59) Paxton, Vichy France, 130–1.

(60) Coutau-Bégarie and Huan, Darlan, 509–44 gives most detailed account.

(61) Vichy année 40, 274. But even Weygand did not oppose any possible deviation from the Armistice. When arguing against the Protocols, Weygand said that ‘there is no question of breaking with Germany…The continuation of the negotiation which has started is indispensable for our military reinforcement.’ Levisse-Touzé, ‘L’Afrique du Nord’, 274.

(62) Milward, New Order, 40.

(63) Burrin, La France à l’heure, 104.

(64) Baruch, Servir l’État, 80–1.

(65) P. Klemm, ‘La Production aéronautique française de 1940 à 1942’, RHDGM 107 (1977), 53–74; ‘Aperçus sur la collaboration aéronautique franco-allemande 1940–1943’, RHDGM 108 (1977), 85–102; H. Chapman, State Capitalism and Working Class Radicalism in the French Aircraft Industry (Berkeley, 1991), 238–42.

(66) Margairaz, L’État, les finances et l’économie, 637–51.

(67) Milward, New Order, 69.

(68) Margairaz, L’État, les finances et l’économie, 591–668.

(69) Ibid. 610.

(70) Mioche ‘Les Entreprises sidérurgiques sous l’occupation’, 397–414.

(71) Margairaz, L’État, les finances et l’économie, 599–600.

(72) Ibid. 609–13.

(73) Ibid. 592–4; Rousso and Margairaz, ‘Vichy la guerre et les entreprises’, 358.

(74) Benoist-Méchin, De la défaite au désastre, ii. 71.