The History of Nazi Germany's Occupation of France during World War II
Narrated by William Crockett / 1 hour 45 minutes
Emerging from France's catastrophic 1940 defeat like a bedraggled and rather sinister phoenix, the French State – better known to history as “Vichy France” or the “Vichy Regime” after its spa-town capital – stands in history as a unique and bizarre creation of German Fuhrer Adolf Hitler's European conquests. A patchwork of paradoxes and contradictions, the Vichy Regime maintained a quasi-independent French nation for some time after the Third Reich invasion until the Germans decided to include it in their occupation zone.
Headed by a French war hero of World War I, Marshal Philippe Petain, and his later Prime Minister Pierre Laval, Vichy France displayed strong right-wing, conservative, and authoritarian tendencies. Nevertheless, it never lapsed fully into fascism until the Germans arrived to reduce its role to little more than a mask over their own dominion.
Petain carried out several major initiatives in an effort to counteract the alleged “decadence” of modern life and to restore the strength and “virtues” of the French “race.” Accordingly, he received willing support from more conservative elements of society, even some factions within the Catholic Church. Following Case Anton – the takeover of the unoccupied area by the Germans – native French fascist elements also emerged.
While the French later disowned the Vichy government with considerable vehemence, evidence such as fairly broad-based popular support prior to Case Anton suggests a somewhat different story. The Petain government expressed one facet of French culture and thought. Its conservative, imperialistic nature did not represent the widespread love of “liberty, fraternity, and equality” also deeply ingrained in French thinking, but neither did it constitute a complete divergence from a national history that produced such famous authoritarians as Louis XIV and Napoleon Bonaparte.
Vichy France: The History of Nazi Germany’s Occupation of France during World War II looks at France after its downfall and the occupation that lasted until late 1944.