Vichy, a small town in central France, from which France was administered during the Nazi occupation of Metropolitan France (July 1940-July 1944).
How did the Vichy adminstration originate? In a mood of despair and mitigation thereof.
Francois Mitterand was socialist president of France for 14 years. His career started as an employee of “Vichy” a dictatorship which ruled France for four years during World War two. When asked what Vichy’s most prominent crime was, Mitterrand did not mention the most obvious crimes of Vichy, which are commonly cited. Mitterrand did not mention the crimes of Vichy such as rounding up some refugees and minorities to give them to the Nazis, or fighting, torturing and killing, members of the Resistance. Instead Mitterrand mentioned the original crime of Vichy:”To have killed the Republic”.
That was indeed Vichy’s major crime.
How did it happen? In World War One, the French Republic, assaulted by surprise with the full force of the German army, in a traditional right-wing attack, suffered stupendous losses. One day, in August 1914, during a French counter-attack in Belgium, 27,000 FRENCH soldiers died in combat. In just one day. The Germans, having also suffered great losses, were positively enraged. During their successful counter-attack, those fascist invaders engaged in horrendous war crimes against Belgian civilians, just because they spoke French, even deliberately killing two-year old girls (in extremely well documented cases).
(By the way, in case you ask, this is how the mood of Nazism, all the way to Auschwitz started: after crimes such as the one I evoked, were left unpunished, after the war, the German military officers who soon joined the Nazi Party, felt that they could get away with anything: indeed, instead of being hanged in 1919 for killing two-year olds, they were given a pass by the American authorities, all too vigilant that the French authorities not prosecute German war criminality.)
In September 1914, east of Paris, at the First Battle of the Marne, the French army counterattacked tremendously, and defeated the full might of the entire German army. Only quick reactions by German army group commanders prevented the total destruction of much of the Prussian juggernaut.
After that the lines were frozen for nearly four years, until the Second Battle of the Marne, when the French let the German-all-out effort to reach Paris unfold, until they could throw pincers in the back of the German advance under a tremendous artillery bombardment. Top German commander Ludendorff went to see the Kaiser:”Sire, we have lost the war!”
So the French Republic won, but at tremendous cost. Nearly five million French soldiers were dead, mutilated, or wounded. In 1919, the Americans made sure that the French would not get their way. Although France was allowed to free Eastern Europe from German possession, and recover Alsace-Lorraine, the full guarantees France needed to prevent a resurgence of what came to be known as Nazism, were deliberately blocked by the Anglo-Saxons.
Why? They had their own plans, namely making Germany a private zoo for Anglo-Saxon plutocrats. The result was Nazism.
President Roosevelt was very hostile to France (under the cover of not being so).
In 1945 Roosevelt said:”no he had not changed his ideas; that French Indo-China and New Caledonia should be taken from France and put under a trusteeship… independence was the ultimate goal. I asked the President if he would settle for self-government. He said no. I asked him if he would settle for dominion status. He said no–it must be independence. He said that is to be the policy and you can quote me in the State Department.”
That’s ironical in the light of the way the USA dealt with Hawai’i (a fully independent country invaded), Puerto-Rico, what not. And, as Indonesia showed, “independence” meant freedom of American business (American oil and mining companies replaced the European ones there). Also, notice that Britain was allowed to have “dominions” (and the USA, of course; remember the apoplexy about Cuba’s throwing out United Fruit, the American Mafia, and the attached dictatorship of Batista…).
In truth, Roosevelt talked loud, one way, pledging to help democracy, doing it mostly with his lips, while letting his plutocrats help Hitler for real.
The French government had been fighting with Roosevelt since 1934. Then Roosevelt had aligned the politics of the USA on that of Hitler (massive spending, especially on the military, running debt sky-high, not minding the march to rearmament and war of the fascist regimes).
In May 1940, in part for the late arrival of a British armored division (and, of course incredibly and generalship of the top French commander, who was warned explicitly by his right hand general that the German may be trying a left field attack!) the Nazi army flooded France.
The arrival of Canadian divisions in Brittany, and the quick redeployment of the French army which had held Dunkirk, did not allow to stop the Nazis. By mid-June, the Germans were in Bordeaux.
Churchill proposed the unification of France and Britain, which was accepted by De Gaulle (Sec. of war). However, for rocambolesque reasons, the unification was refused. Wiser Frenchmen decided to call it quits. No more fighting to death for a while.
Why? Because France had fought hard in World War One, just to see the USA win it. In June 1940, France could have kept on fighting: the French Air Force and Navy were undefeated, and pretty much intact (whereas 28% of the Luftwaffe was destroyed). There was no doubt that the French, fighting all out, could have held North Africa (and maybe Southern France, where ports and weapon manufacture were/are located).
But what for? The USA was firmly determined to shrink France (wiser Frenchmen in government knew this; fighting The Nazis was one thing, fighting the USA, hopeless). Last thing France needed was to lose another few millions in war. It was time to change strategy.
As it was, the French empire lost at least two million dead in 1939-1945 (but no more than 3 million). Yes, I know the numbers on the Anglo-Saxon Internet are much less: they use the trick of not counting French losses, if they were not in Metropolitan France.
(So, for example, my father, born in Algeria, served in the French army 1943-1945, and was in combat twice. Had he died then, he would not been found to have been a French killed in combat. This is precisely this sort of injustice which made infuriated Algerians rise against “French” rule in May 1945. In truth, the French command had been manipulated by the Americans, who required the French to “whiten” their army in 1945! Lest said army would be starved of ammunition, material, fuel, food, etc.)
Marshall Petain opted for a cease-fire in June 1940. He had been the master of cruelty in World War One, using Roman methods (decimation) to force the French army to keep on fighting the twice more numerous and crazed Germans.
In 1940, Petain probably thought: if we fight more, now, we will weaken France further, and the Americans will profit. Better be strategic, and not die again for America.
Sure enough, the USA, instead of coming to the rescue of France in June 1940, recognized immediately Petain’s regime, anxious as the American government was, to normalize as much as possible, the USA’s economic grip on Nazi Germany.
Lessons for today? As long as the USA has not explored the devious ways of its diplomacy in the Twentieth Century, it shows no way, even no will, to break the pattern. Thus the Europeans should recognize that American leadership is as Americans want it. The Chinese, too, will have to recognize the same. Then The Economist suggested, insistently that, once the Chinese recognize that the present world institutions are made to serve the USA, China should submit.
What The Economist never explained is why everybody should submit to the USA.
And the answer is this: The Economist’s mother company ferries its profits through several fiscal paradises. By “the USA”, The Economist and the like really mean: GLOBAL PLUTOCRACY. The exact sort which fostered Hitler, and, before him, the Kaiser (the USA became the world’s prominent economic power by helping the Kaiser in World War One… the same method soon extended to their new pawn, Adolf Hitler).
So we, democracy, are facing the same inconvenience as a century ago. And who was leading American policy, a century ago? President Wilson, a notorious racist. By some standards, Wilson was even more racist than Hitler himself (Princeton students are starting to understand this). And Wilson came before Hitler, inspiring countless Nazis.
History is not a continual return of the same. But gangrene, when not yet extirpated, keeps on returning, indeed. First, a proper examination (of history) is needed, before a proper diagnostic.
And what’s the treatment for the disease? As far as French intellectuals are concerned, the treatment, the change of strategy, is called Europe. And, in particular, the Euro. Hence the strident propaganda against the latter in the USA.