Marshal Petain

Discussion in 'Biographies' started by liverpool annie, Dec 4, 2008.

  1. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

    Here is one of the most controversial figures of WW2 .... a hero of WW1 but fell from grace when he collaborated with the Nazis in WW2 ........ theres quite a bit of information about him on the web .... I have a few books .... and in spite of reading so much about him ... I really still can't make up my mind about him ... of course he was way to old to take on the reins of responsibility in WW2 .... he should have left well alone ....

    Henri Philippe Benoni Omer Joseph Pétain (24 April 1856 – 23 July 1951), generally known as Philippe Pétain or Marshal Pétain (Maréchal Pétain), was a French general who reached the distinction of Marshal of France, later Chief of State of Vichy France (Chef de l'État Français), from 1940 to 1944. Pétain, who was 84 in 1940, ranks as France's oldest Head of state ever.
    Due to his outstanding military leadership in World War I, particularly during the Battle of Verdun, he was viewed as a hero in France. However, during the 1920s and 1930s, while remaining the highest ranking military authority, he neglected to modernize French military capability with the sole exception of the Maginot Line which later proved to be useless. After the French defeat in June 1940, Petain was legally voted in as Head of State ( Chef de l'Etat ) by the French Parliament. However, Petain surrendered France to Germany and, along with his cabinet, including later on Pierre Laval, illegally transformed the French State into a dictatorship headed from the town of Vichy in central France. As the war progressed, the Vichy Government sank deeper into collaboration with the German occupant which finally took control of the totality of metropolitan France. Petain's actions during World War II resulted in a conviction and death sentence for treason, which was commuted to life imprisonment by Charles de Gaulle. In modern France, he is generally considered a traitor, and pétainisme is a derogatory term for certain reactionary policies. Due to his treason conviction, French historians refer to him by his name only Philippe Pétain, without the title.

    Philippe Pétain - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  2. Adrian Roberts

    Adrian Roberts Active Member

    Its easy to judge when you know the end of the story.

    Of course, as de Gaulle is quoted as saying: "Marshal Petain died in 1925". In other words, everything he was involved in after that was marked by reactionary inertia - for instance, ending up with the French army of 1940 largely using 1918 weapons. (They still had large numbers of WW1 Renault FT17 tanks; only the engines had been modernised. In fact some of these were discovered in Afghanistan recently where they had been in use until well into the 1950s).

    So, he was elected as Head of State in 1940 entirely as a national symbol of previous glories. He refused to leave the country, which in his position could have been interpreted as running away. So after that, what was he supposed to have done? The Germans had achieved in six weeks what they had dreamed of for four years in WW1 - France surrendering and the British pushed into the sea. Continuing the war was out of the question, and morale was extremely low.

    Setting up the Vichy government allowed a degree of face-saving for the French: better than being ruled directly from Berlin. But Petain's Catholic anti-semitic instincts and his authoritarianism led him into compromise with the Nazis; and the Vichy government lasted only as long as it suited the Germans.

    So, a tragic, King Lear figure rather than an evil man to be forever reviled?
  3. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

    I don't think he was evil AR ... I think Petain just got old ! by 1940 he was senile - suffering from dementia - and needed medications just to make it through the day !

    He was very much respected until 1940 when he allowed himself to be the puppet president of Vichy ...... he was the “Hero of Verdun” the commander who cared for the ordinary soldiers and was reluctant to fight in bloody battles ...... he was distrustful of the British he had been very quick to decide that the war was lost and an armistice was necessary - in order to maintain the French Army and to prevent the German occupation of the whole of France !

    He is said to have said ..... “I consider it my duty to remain with the French people - whatever happens I won’t leave” ..... and he kept that promise

    I feel empathetic towards him ... but I feel he was very misguided !!
  4. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

    I just found this that spidge started ... sorry .... ! :noidea:

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