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11-08-2015, 18:52

The Vichy Government

Many of the collaborators ironically claimed to be nationalists. Although some ofthem were sincere nationalists, they nevertheless accepted the rule of their conquerors. This contradiction was embodied most glaringly in the Vichy government. It was created by defeat and it capitalized on the discredit heaped on the Third Republic and the political parties which were held responsible for its failure. Marshal Pétain, head of the Vichy government, was immensely popular and he enjoyed almost unanimous support in the southern zone during the summer of 1940. After this good start two series of measures alienated popular support. He set up a new regime which he called the National Revolution. Its conception was heavily influenced by Charles Maurras, a political theorist who wrote for the journal L'Action Française. The National Revolution differed from fascism in a number of wavs7 but it was similar in others. Its first decision was to persecute categories of Frenchmen, including communists, socialists, Jews, freemasons. But its major defect was to be boni under the occupation and to survive with German approval. The heads ol the Viehy government were convinced that the German victory was irreversible. Their second mistake was a policy ol systematic collaboration with the Germans. In the- hope of mitigating German demands, they cashed in whatever stock France had saved in the Armistice. They negotiated the release of their prisoners of war. But Hitler reaped all they sowed without giving in return. Pétain opposed the reversal of alliances proposed by Pierre Laval, even though his own policy of collaboration helped the Germans without helping France. This policy was at variance with the progress of events. The Wehrmacht's set-backs eventually convinced the French that onlv the Allies could liberate them.