Monday, December 11, 2017

Transformation of Laval: How an Anti-War Politician Collaborated in the Final Solution and Germany’s Attempted Supreme Victory in Europe

Transformation of Laval: How an Anti-War Politician Collaborated in the Final Solution and Germany’s Attempted Supreme Victory in Europe
Paul Andreas Fischer
Professor Steven Zdatny
Word count: 4,971
Table of Contents
Methods and Context of the Rise and Legacy of Pierre Laval
A Young Man With Promise Grew Into A Politician Who Kept Promises
The Onset of the Madness of War: Two Decisions Demonstrative of Collaboration
1943: Obstructionism Loses Favor and Laval Loses Hope in Revolution
The Fundamentals of Collaboration: Pierre Laval’s Calculated Decision to Give Germany a Final Year of War and a Second Chance
Nazi Germany and Oil
Laval Protects the German Lebensraum
Negotiating the Road from D-Day to V-Day
Appendix A
Appendix B
Methods and Context of the Rise and Legacy of Pierre Laval
        Pierre Laval has been made out to be a brutal leader, even a butcher, according to some accounts of his leadership of Vichy France in Germany. In order to evacuate a structured analysis of the polemic criticism made in the post-war period and by his contemporary critics, it is necessary to skeptically evaluate the evidence in a dispassionate manner. The information at hand is enormous; the career of Pierre Laval oversaw the rise of the French Left, the recovery from the Great Depression, the breaking of the chains that surrounded Germany in the form of a web of alliances, and of course the events of the Second World War. For the sake of clarity and focus, attention will be centered on the last of these. It should be clear that his early clairvoyance as an acclaimed leader of France, one who spoke with the voice of the French people, devolved as a result of increasing isolation into full-fledged barbarity and collaboration with the actions of occupying Nazi Germany.
        Even with the jackboot firmly placed upon the neck of Laval, it was not a matter of intentionality or functionality. Laval’s stated intention was to restore the honor of France, and he had promised Hitler he would do this without rebellion or at the expense of Germany. As such, the restoration of France’s honor to Laval meant an intrinsically collaborationist relationship with the Germans from the beginning. It is the marked escalation of this relationship and the critical support Laval was able to offer Hitler that must be thoroughly investigated.
        In order to support this thesis a brief history of the background of the career and qualifications of Pierre Laval will be provided. In addition to the direct military support and the supplementary labor he provided will be elaborated on. These shed light on the influences and decision-making procedure of the French politician. In definition of the distinction between collaborator and a complicit actor in a deadly game of treason, it is possible to delineate some of the specificity proposed in conceptualization of the reality of his career. For a motive, it is easy to point to the ambition of a driven working man characterized by diligence. In this case, the path of least resistance is most certainly incorrect. Instead of tracing a complex series of career decisions admittedly marked by opportunism, a specific emphasis on crucial decisions will prove more useful.
        There is a strong temptation to drift into the long-term development of the personality and professionalism of Pierre Laval. This must be put aside for a concrete understanding of his actions during the war. His role in the humiliation of France is best viewed through the corrective lenses of the psychological tropes of the ashes of defeat. In order to do this the period subsequent to his break in defensible logic will be examined. The rationalization that existed behind his early-war actions of fear of coup, of German retaliation, and of the nobility of his cause had been demolished by years of occupation when he commended the Legion of French Volunteers Against Bolshevism and as he begged Hitler to accept workers for his machinery of armaments. During this late period, he may be judged in the nude, without the pretense of rebellion or chains that fettered his early legitimate work of collaboration and obstruction.
        Marshall Pétain, the Grand Marshall of France, was well-known to have gone mad in his old age and his death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. A similar irrationality may have been at play in the actions of Vice-President Laval. In neither case would such a defense have been applicable in the crimes against humanity that could be leveled against these tables with evidence compiled by the French state in the 90s. Included in the crimes against humanity trials are tens of thousands of documents that show a grim determination to co-operate in one of the worst incidents of state-sponsored mass-murder in the history of humankind: the Holocaust. While the attempted suicide and execution of Pierre Laval spared him this trial, looking at his behavior in his last and most important trial will yield insights into the nature of his conviction, as well as to his behavior beforehand.
A Young Man With Promise Grew Into A Politician Who Kept Promises
        Pierre Laval was not by any means a hated figure at the time of the humiliation in 1940. In fact, immediately after defeat he gained popularity already stunted only by his ambition to utilize it. As a young man, the child of a post-master and apparently destined for the same work, he read his books for university while driving a horse carriage. After studying enough, he took on two jobs in order to fulfill his academic ambitions that saw him graduate as an avocat with promise.
        In court, before and during the First World War, he displayed brilliance as an attorney by gathering evidence and using it for socialist causes. This meant he was originally a politician who was fundamentally anti-war, except for what he viewed as the only just struggle in class conflict. While he remained a “socialist of the heart” until his death, he officially broke from the party after his defeat in election in 1919.[1] This falling out with Socialists and the Communist Party would come back to bite him later.
        In both cases before the war during which Laval rose above his rank as a Senator, a strong argument can be made that he could not have done so at a worse time. As Prime Minister in 1930, the onset of the global depression baffled economists and politicians. His initial instinctive instructions to firmly adhere to a balanced budget later saved the French economy. It became apparent in France, as had been the case in the United States with President Hoover’s construction projects and later the “New Deal” from Roosevelt, that stimulus would be necessitated.[2] Hoover agreed to co-operate with French plans for German reparations under certain conditions.[3]
Laval further demonstrated his economic mastery by funding such stimulus with taxes limited to the highest-paid government workers and by keeping the subsequent reduction in their income lower than the rate of deflation.[4] Leaving office in 1935, he saw the economy had recovered and even if some of his policies did not have their intended effect, economics dictates that one must pay to gain.[5]
        As a diplomat, however, in 1936 his attempt to fortify the chain about Hitler was undermined by the opposition of the Socialists in France to a Franco-Italian alliance and by the violation by the Anglo-German Naval Agreement of the fifth clause of the Versailles Treaty in 1935.[6] The failure to forge the links made him less of a diplomatic blacksmith than a whack-a-mole. He received the blessing of Stalin and signed a five year agreement, the Franco-Soviet Pact of Mutual Assistance originally planned by Louis Barthou in the mid-1930s in response to German violations of the Versailles treaty in the reintroduction of conscription.[7] The ink was hardly dry when socialists and French leftists supported by Stalin decried Laval with slogans of “Jail all the fascists!” and “Laval must resign!” His departure from the popular front to the National Bloc may have been necessary to his political survival but now it would make the containment of Hitler difficult and even impossible. Despite his actions to curtail German ambitions, policies such as accepting a statement of credit secured two thirds by British banks and one third by French banks in lieu of direct German reparations at the behest of the French Financial Minister Snowden and American President Hoover compromised his position as a leader using financial instruments to further the interests of France.[8]
Pierre Laval demonstrated effective negotiating skills and diplomatic prowess in his ill-fated attempt to establish a lasting alliance with the Italy of Mussolini, and if not for the Marxist skeletons in his closet and British disapproval, a secret agreement would have initiated a declaration of war upon Germany in the event of the coming Austrian annexation.[9] Laval was close to bringing Hitler’s ambitions to terms against the might of a unified Europe already in 1935. The short-lived rise of the Popular Front he had abandoned in 1919 spelled the end of his ambitions to forge a dominant alliance through Europe.
When England agreed to allow German rearmament in the form of U-boat construction, Laval was one of the few to realize that Hitler’s ambition reached beyond his borders and recovery from the damage of the Great Depression. The young German leader had worked out an alternative, though more limited, solution in hyperinflation and was desperate to impart a dystopian vision upon not only Germany but across Europe. Leaders did not yet know how dark this vision was.
The Onset of the Madness of War: Two Decisions Demonstrative of Collaboration
        Pierre Laval became Vice-President of France under the Grand Marshall Pétain. As a war hero from the battle of Verdun in the First World War, Pétain was a trophy for Hitler but allowed Laval to secure formidable respect and power in the period of the Armistice. At its front, the agreement to cease hostilities, barely and controversially approved by what would later become the Allied nations of America and Great Britain, seemed an easy way out of what would become a bitter and expensive military conflict. It is important not to forget at this time that the USSR had divided Poland with Germany in their neutrality pact. They could become allied with the Axis powers at any time and that America remained lamentably neutral. The very treaty that created Vichy France, in which Laval was now in a position of power, included the word collaboration in the third article.[10]
In addition to the aforementioned creation of a battalion of soldiers to aid German directives on the Eastern Front, one that would later be attached to the SS Waffen, and his supplication of workers for the German cause, Pierre Laval demonstrated a willingness to engage in brutal measures through the employment of a domestic militia actively employed to solidify his own power. This was necessary because, while Laval was a successful politician and skillful negotiator, he had trouble solidifying popular support with a nation that resented their occupiers. The phrase, “les boches nous prennent tous!” hung on the lips of every Frenchman[11].
        Closer to his trial, he would attempt to distance himself from the Milice as the sole project of the butcher Bousquet, and Laval entertained paranoid delusions that the media conspired against both him and this leader of the interrogatory police militia.[12] This is confounded by his claims to use such organizations as a means of obstructing the German presence in France. The most notable of these goals was to head off the antisemitic ambition of Darquier de Pellepoix with creation of the Commission on the Jewish Question and cessation of the raids by the special police.[13] By pre-empting the German attempt to deport the Jews, and in later negotiations with sympathetic diplomats such as Otto Abetz, Laval successfully saved nearly 90% of French-born Jews.[14] Approximately the same proportion of civilian casualties was suffered by this sub-group of European Jews sought after by the SS as the general civilian population in Europe.[15] Evidence before total occupation shows that in the first two thirds of deportations the vast majority of Jews deported were in the Occupied Zone and estimates of the mass murder using this corrective lens can be seen in table 3.[16] Darquier claimed at the time that Laval artificially suppressed the number of what he claimed to be a 54,000 strong community of foreign-born Jews in unoccupied France to just 11,000.[17] If substantiated, the claim corroborates the assertion that Laval actively obstructed the deportation of foreign and native-born French Jews during World War II. Using either statistic, however, betrays the filth that Laval had to cover himself in to make deals with the Germans.
        It was not a moment of diplomatic mastery for Laval, however, and an inverse proportion of foreign-born Jews were killed on French soil or through deportation procedures. In fact, documentation has been made available showing that he actively ‘traded’ this population for the other. In this manner, the ultimate humiliation of the nation of France was achieved. Regardless of the legality of the means of escape for the population of foreign-born Jews to France, by negotiating and using them as a bargaining chip for the return of hostages, POWs, or supplies the highest echelons in French government not only took the complicit role it is known for in the Final Solution, but became traders in the flesh. Worse, with the execution of the wanted Jews in the ensuing Holocaust, France became a partner in the sale of the blood of civilians.
1943: Obstructionism Loses Favor and Laval Loses Hope in Revolution
        1942 and ‘43 were turning points in the Second World War. For Laval it represented a period in which he returned to a more prominent place after a year of ‘mingling in crowds’ and out of the spotlight while François Darlan took over the operating government. GDP tables demonstrate how the early war had changed the economic makeup of Europe.[18] Tactically, the German underbelly seemed safe after deployment of elite soldiers to Tunisia halted the complicating Allied Operation Torch and the Eastern frontier appeared to be yielding resources.
Before the American Army was immobilized in the mud of North Africa, Hitler asked Laval for a conscript army of North African Imperial Legionaries to serve with the Germans. This was prior to Laval having lost hope in the Allied cause.[19] Nonetheless, the formation of this battalion in the days that his opinion began to turn in a dark fashion to sympathize with Nazis created the foundation for broader French involvement in crimes against humanity and for Laval to make an offer that would give the Reich extra precious months at a cost of between a quarter and half a million Jewish lives each month.
        Laval initiated a furious debate with himself on the topic and what pursued was among the most humiliating and tragic decisions of France’s military history. One afternoon, at the last minute and perhaps at the whim of a Tarot reading, Laval approached the microphone to broadcast an appeal to all conservative Frenchmen. Over ten thousand paranoiacs and radicals signed up for what became known as the French Volunteers Against Bolshevism. Many were rejected as unfit to serve, but a legion of 5,000 was eventually prepared and deployed in German uniforms with a French patch.[20] On February 8 1942, the legion was deployed to Eastern Europe to fight in German uniforms. Laval did make later attempts to bring them under direct French control but in doing so made them stronger.[21] By May 1942, 150,000 workers had joined Germans in the factories.[22]
        This was followed by a period of political inaction. This is an interesting development historically because while historians such as Robert Paxton and Kenneth Brody do include Hitler’s request, the commendation that Laval issued to the battlegroup that was formed is overlooked. Pierre Laval’s own diary indicts him in this case. It has already been discussed that he encouraged the unit’s use in Eastern Europe rather than in North Africa, but he also believed this to be a better strategic decision for Germany.[23] The soldiers were much needed by the Third Reich and after taking casualties numbering over half of the unit, the remaining volunteers formed ranks in Paris and the unit was redeployed into the SS Waffen. The last deportation of Jews from France would later occur in Paris as the American army advanced upon the city to secure liberation.
        The discussion of this unit is primarily symbolic. The consternation Laval exhibited in issuing a commendation to them in 1943 empirically proves this symbolism was controversial at the time as well. In later times, had Laval not been convicted of the humiliation of France, the recruitment of French soldiers to the SS Waffen for the explicit purpose of killing civilian Jews and political leaders would have weighed heavily against him in a trial of crimes against humanity. Combined with his negotiation for the return of French-born Jews at the cost of foreign-born Jews, Pierre Laval’s malfeasance in leadership and misunderstanding of the interest of France is are both laid bare.
The Fundamentals of Collaboration: Pierre Laval’s Calculated Decision to Give Germany a Final Year of War and a Second Chance
        The moment Laval lost hope in Allied victory or even restoration of France as he had formerly conceived it, and as General de Gaulle portrayed it, also marks a distinct about face in the nature of the acts of collaboration. This development operates in tandem with the marked reduction his obstructionist activity. By taking an extended break from politics in this critical war-period, he established a period of non-contact before making an about-face in policy with profound implications. The proof lies in his popularly quoted “hope” for supreme German victory in 1942.[24] His restoration to power by Pétain at the request of the Germans initiated a series of decisions with bloody consequences that must be skeptically evaluated because circumstances seldom offered him much choice.
        The seriousness of the allied situation already in 1941 can be seen by returning to table 2. The entry of America into the war disrupts a fundamentally economic analysis of the war for a couple reasons it will be necessary to explain. Pierre Laval could not have foreseen the American war machine to be critical to the liberation of Europe yet. During trial after V-Day, despite Marshall Pétain’s claims not to be cognizant of Laval’s short incarceration, the former Prime Minister described the interlude as the final and only time he had felt hatred towards the figurehead of collaborationist policies in Vichy France, his Grand Marshall.[25]
The industrial base of the United States did provide the Allies with the ability to win. In 1942, however, German U-boats were adeptly sinking such a great number of supply and war ships, that the military had to cease the deployment of these resources until a solution could be found. When the British violated the Versailles treaty and allowed the Germans to build their U-boat navy to 35% of Britain’s tonnage in the bilateral British-German treaty of 1935, they operated from the fundamental assumption that U-boats were inferior to destroyers and could only make a marginal impact on shipping or merchant concerns.[26]
They were wrong. The Germans had sunk almost 4,000 allied merchant vessels in the Atlantic before a solution to the U-boat problem was found, and had lost just over two dozen vessels in return. In detail the Wülfgrüppe or “wolf-pack” technique allowed the Germans to successfully raid a high percentage of merchant vessels.[27] More importantly, they were able to deploy and sink convoys that had an escort attached. By the time the Allies succeeded in mass-producing British Magnetrons in the American industrial heartland, Laval had been lost to the darkness of despair.
Nazi Germany and Oil
        With the Allies prepared to open a front on two sides, the Germans faced a critical decision. The “living room” of Nazi Germany, in Eastern Europe and Russia, could be protected and expanded by diverting workers from armament and synthetic oil factories to the Eastern front. Doing so, however, would put the supply of critical resources such as grain, labor, and fuel in peril. The most apparent of these resources was oil.
        At the outset of the war, Germany had a stockpile of 20 million barrels of oil. The war machine the Nazi empire required would cost almost this much each year. It was perhaps in recognition of this that Churchill made the courageously controversial decision to divert half of the armored units in Britain to overseas colonies, namely Egypt.[28] This was done in the face of the firestorm that became the Battle of Britain and what was assumed to be a coming German invasion.
        While it seems as though the German plans were doomed from the start, instead they were only realistically based on projections about the continued efficiency of this extremely costly war machine. Conquest in the Mediterranean would allow the system to break even, and the Russian oil fields would permit the war machine to grow. High Command anticipated an easy compromise between the numbers of workers producing synthetic oil and their troop levels because conquered territories would provide all of the necessary raw materials.
        Germany was instead faced with the difficult decision of cutting into the marrow of the bone in their precious remaining fuel supplies and deploying soldiers to the protective shell of territory gained in Operation Barbarossa. The year after the initial deployment of the 4 million strong Wehrmacht saw the loss of around 420,000 German soldiers.[29] Revitalizing these divisions completely exhausted military units and new conscription from factories would be necessitated in order to continue offensive operations or even to defend Germany.
        During this early phase in Germany’s offensive war, the demand for manpower allowed a greater level of negotiation than it would later. What Laval failed to obtain at the bargaining table, he simply did not procure later. His negotiation with the Germans saw the demanded number of workers drop to a quarter of a million in 1942 and by the October only 17,000 of 150,000 crucial skilled workers were actually delivered; the unskilled workers looked unlikely to meet their quotas either.[30] This early negotiation noted that the French in North Africa and the French Navy had contributed to Germany and Laval obtained the release of 3,000 of the millions of French POWs held.[31]
        German leadership was so attached to the idea of maintaining their grip on conquered territories that units deployed in Germany dropped to just two divisions at one point; the entirety of the war effort was focused on the perimeter. Hitler decided to bargain with chips that he did not have, and instructed Sauckel to demand 500,000 workers from Pierre Laval at a rate of 100,000 per month at the end of 1943. This demand was gargantuan under the stress of the economic times. Laval had more pressure due to intensifying mass executions of hostages as the standard response to assassinations by the Resistance.[32] The practice had initiated as a reprisal to the insubordination of François Darlan before Laval was restored to power.
 While the French could not fight in great numbers for Germany, their workers could produce synthetic oil and armaments. At 3.6 million barrels of oil per year, maintaining the German synthetic oil production was critical to the war effort.[33] To put this in perspective, the oil produced in synthetic oil reactors was many folds greater than all of the oil won in the campaign into Southern Russia’s major oil fields. Success in this industry meant that Hitler could embark on a counter-offensive at his leisure while failure would spell the end of the war as Nazi Germany would return to a pre-Barbarossa deficit in the vital resource. The next time, though, there would not be the padding of reserves and the entire “empire” would grind to a halt on its own ambition.        
Laval Protects the German Lebensraum
        The initial demands for workers did not present the opportunity for negotiation, and when refused the Germans doubled down in their attempt to expedite the extraction of labor from France. After Laval’s quiet period, during which François Darlan had taken over his duties and refused to send 150,000 skilled workers to Germany the process of German execution of hostages initiated. Had Allied operations not been bungled at the Kasserine pass in Africa and stymied in Tunisia during Operation Torch, it is safe to say that this refusal may have been sufficient to supplement a three-pronged attack on Germany and won an early war.[34]
Before Laval reclaimed his position as Prime Minister with German backing, a new German department to extract labor was established. The head of this department, Fritz Sauckel, would be responsible for obtaining hundreds of thousands of workers to replace the soldiers departed for the Eastern Front. Doing so required the expansion of German training camps, occupation, and motorized units in France.[35] Diversion of each of these hindered the German war effort.
        Laval’s close confidant and source, the German Ambassador Otto Abetz, had been recalled to Berlin under allegations of being a francophile but Laval retained informants within the German hierarchy. He was able to intercept the incoming demand for labor prior to writing Ribbentrop, the foreign minister of Germany at the time and the man Abetz had reported to.[36] With his notorious announcement of the relève, covering the mandatory labor system, Laval hoped to pre-empt a counter-bargain and secure the return of a third of the married POWs in return for just 150,000 skilled workers.
In doing so, he bargained with chips he did not have just as Hitler had played with chips he did not have by deploying Sauckel to France and preparing for an increased occupation of France. In the final days of the war this would become a total annexation in one of Hitler’s mad split decisions and about-turns that marked his leadership style throughout the war. The behavior of Pierre Laval indicates he did not foresee this annexation coming, and while skilled workers were late and few to meet German demands, only 50,000, a couple percent of the total, “peasant” POWs returned to their families.
        The final demand for 500,000 workers by Germany was refused, though Laval agreed to send the remainder of the 60,000 workers from the 350,000 agreed upon in early 1943.[37] He slavishly begs for France to be treated generously as a defeated nation. While this statement from France, recorded in the report of Sauckel back to the Führer, is courageous, in August 1943 it comes too late to save the reputation of Laval. His offer of one worker for every POW returned to France torpedoed his popular opinion rating among the French and extended a needed hand to the flagging German economy.[38] He may have realized the coming Allied victory, but the damage done by providing critical workers six months before and extending the war had already been done.
        In October 1943 the P-51 fighter accompanied the B-17 Flying Fortress on the first successful strategic bombing runs of southern Germany and by April 1, 1944 the war for air supremacy had been won thanks to the long-range fighters.[39]  Targeting synthetic fuel depots, this military technology succeeded where Laval’s integrity had failed. As a long-range fighter plane, day-time bombing campaigns were initiated and forced Hitler to recall dozens of remaining troop divisions to form, for the first time since the Maginot line, a home front in Germany. American daytime bombing campaigns could measure their accuracy in feet while the sledgehammer of British nighttime bombing runs measured accuracy in miles.[40] Without fuel for the armored divisions to launch a counteroffensive, low levels of aviation fuel for the Luftwaffe and inadequate defensive forces, the Third Reich and their Axis allies would crumble within a year.
Negotiating the Road from D-Day to V-Day
        The year and a half of darkness that dominated the decision making process of Pierre Laval may have lifted by the time the P-51 fighter was deployed and Allied air control and victory became clear. At this point, it should be emphasized, Laval could never rectify his actions in the past. The war was won by brute force, and he would never again stand with the opportunity to sacrifice his political career under the Axis in order to save the French cause, and the lives of the millions of victims of Nazi persecution during 1943 and 1944.
        The guilt for his actions, and the profundity of his failure to obtain critical pieces of information that could have guided him to make a more conscientious decision at the time must have weighed heavily upon him. He knew of the German oil shortage, the pressing needs of the Eastern Front, and that his workers would provide Germany with a critical second chance. The most important component to the argument that indicts Laval using the evidence at hand is the psychological atmosphere of despair that impaired his decision making process. Before his execution at the hands of the French government under charges of humiliating France, he attempted suicide by cyanide.
        Demonstration of the symbolic role that Pierre Laval played in the destruction that Germany wrought upon France, Europe, and the world necessitates supplementary evidence. Inclusion of data regarding the holocaust is evidence of a level of collaboration horrific to today’s reader. The Legion of French Volunteers Against Bolshevism provides a tempered look at the level of complicity and collaboration that Pierre Laval played in the course of the occupation.
        There is a deeper penetration into the submerged mechanisms of political and military developments with the analysis of the conscripted labor forces. There is a timeline in the development of the German demands and Laval’s cooperation that develops a sturdy understanding of the Second World War. The negotiation process offered by Laval, and the importance of his actions to the natural resource crisis experienced by the German war machine eliminates doubt that he created a role crucial to the outcome of the war. The tragedy is that he failed to use this position to aid the allies at such a critical moment. With few other options and despair dominating his psychology, he had to make a difficult decision. Failure to aid the Allied cause with every resource and opportunity is still fundamentally a failure.
Appendix A: GDP Tables Before and After the German Occupation of France[41]
Table 1: Allied and Axis GDPs in 1939
GDP (billions)
GDP (billions)
92.5 (142)
* The USSR was neutral to Germany by means of a mutual non-aggression pact but could join war against Allies
Table 2: Allied and Axis GDPs Prior to Pearl Harbor:
GDP (billions)
GDP (billions)
126 (177)
* The USSR was neutral to Germany by means of a mutual non-aggression pact but could join war against Allies
Appendix B: Estimates of French Jewish Populations in the Vichy Occupied Zone Before and After Occupation
Table 3: Number of French Jews in the Vichy Occupied Zone (estimate)
Before World War II
After World War II
French-born Jews
Foreign-born Jews
Cole, Hubert., and Laval, Pierre. Laval, a Biography. 1st American Ed.]. ed. New York: Putnam, 1963.
Chambrun, René De. Pierre Laval : Traitor or Patriot? / René De Chambrun ; Translated by Elly Stein under the Supervision of the Author. New York: Scribner, 1984.
George, Simon, WWII From Space, Directed by Simon George (2012; London: October Films, 2012), DVD.
Harrison, Mark. The Economics of World War II : Six Great Powers in International Comparison / Edited by Mark Harrison. Cambridge ; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998.
Jacquemin, Gaston. La Vie Publique De Pierre Laval 1883-1945. Paris: Plon, 1973.
Laval, Pierre. The Diary of Pierre Laval / with a Pref. by Josée Laval. New York: AMS Press, 1978.
Messenger, Charles. The Chronological Atlas of World War Two / Text by Charles Messenger. New York: Macmillan, 1989.
 Reynolds, David, Hitler’s Soft Underbelly, Directed by Russel Barnes (2011; London: Clear Story, 2011), DVD.
Germany . Statistisches Bundesamt. Statistisches Jahrbuch ... Für Die Bundesrepublik Deutschland., 1960.
Stranges, Anthony. "Germany’s synthetic fuel industry, 1927–1945." In The German Chemical Industry in the Twentieth Century, pp. 147-216. Springer Netherlands, 2000.
Thomson, David. Two Frenchmen: Pierre Laval and Charles De Gaulle. London: Cresset Press, 1951.
Warner, Geoffrey. Pierre Laval and the Eclipse of France. London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1968.
Werrell, Kenneth P. "The Strategic Bombing of Germany in World War II: Costs and Accomplishments." The Journal of American History 73, no. 3 (1986): 702-13.

[1] De Chambrun, Rene, Pierre Laval: Traitor Or Patriot?, (New York, Scribner Book Company, 1984), 30-1.
[2] Warner, Geoffrey, Pierre Laval and the Eclipse of France, (London, Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1968), 90.
[3] Warner, Geoffrey, Pierre Laval and the Eclipse of France, 47.
[4] Hubert Cole and Pierre Laval, Laval: a Biography, (New York, Putnam, 1963), 68.
[5] Warner, Geoffrey, Pierre Laval and the Eclipse of France, 129.
[6] Jacquemin, Gaston, La Vie Publique de Pierre Laval, 1883-1945, (Paris, Plon, 1973), 101.
[7] Thomson, David, Two Frenchmen: Pierre Laval and Charles de Gaulle. (London, The Cresset Press, 1951), 47.
[8] Jacquemin, Gaston, La Vie Publique de Pierre Laval, 1883-1945, 83-5.
[9] Thomson, David, Two Frenchmen: Pierre Laval and Charles de Gaulle, 50.
[10] Laval, Pierre, The Diary of Pierre Laval, (New York, AMB, 1978), 76.
[11]Jacquemin, Gaston, La Vie Publique de Pierre Laval, 1883-1945, 180. The term boche is derogatory slang for the German occupiers. The slogan translates to: “the Germans have taken all that is ours.”
[12] Laval, Pierre, The Diary of Pierre Laval, 105.
[13] Hubert Cole and Pierre Laval, Laval: a Biography, 210.
[14] Laval, Pierre, The Diary of Pierre Laval, 99. Pierre Laval made attempts to save the lives of French nationals before others.  De Chambrun, Rene, Pierre Laval: Traitor Or Patriot?, 30-1. Pierre Laval attempted to save nearly 95% of French-born Jews.
[15] Messenger, Charles. The Chronological Atlas of World War Two, (New York, Macmillan, 1989). The total population of Europe prior to the Second World War was around 420 million and conservative estimates of civilian casualties are 50 million.
[16] Warner, Geoffrey. Pierre Laval and the Eclipse of France, 305
[17] Hubert Cole and Pierre Laval, Laval: a Biography, 210.
[18] Tables 1 and 2 contain GDP charts for 1939 and 1940
[19] Laval, Pierre, The Diary of Pierre Laval, 30. Pierre Laval recognized German military superiority at this point in his diary.
[20] Laval, Pierre, The Diary of Pierre Laval, 134.
[21] Warner, Geoffrey. Pierre Laval and the Eclipse of France, 315.
[22]Laval, Pierre, The Diary of Pierre Laval, 111.
[23]Laval, Pierre, The Diary of Pierre Laval, 32.
[24] United News, Release 170, 1945. Vol. 170. United News. Neighborhood Los Angeles, CA - Hollywood: United Newsreel Corporation, 1945.
[25] Warner, Geoffrey. Pierre Laval and the Eclipse of France, 263.
[26] De Chambrun, Rene. Pierre Laval: Traitor Or Patriot?, (Scribner Book Company, 1984), 19.
[27] George, Simon, WWII From Space, Directed by Simon George (2012; London: October Films, 2012), DVD.
[28] Reynolds, David, Hitler’s Soft Underbelly, Directed by Russel Barnes (2011; London: Clear Story, 2011), DVD.
[29] Germany, Statistisches Jahrbuch Für die Bundesrepublik Deutschland 1960, (1960), 78.
[30] Hubert Cole and Pierre Laval, Laval: a Biography,  208-9.
[31] Warner, Geoffrey. Pierre Laval and the Eclipse of France, 314.
[32] Thomson, David. Two Frenchmen: Pierre Laval and Charles de Gaulle, 101.
[33] Stranges, Anthony. Germany’s Synthetic Fuel Industry, 1927–1945.  (Springer Netherlands, 2000), 148. The Germans produced a total of 21 million tons of liquid fuel from synthetic fuel over 6 months of war, or around 3.6 million barrels per year and just under 3 hundred thousand barrels per month.
[34] Reynolds, David, Hitler’s Soft Underbelly.
[35] Laval, Pierre, The Diary of Pierre Laval, 215.
[36] Warner, Geoffrey, Pierre Laval and the Eclipse of France, 300.
[37] Laval, Pierre, The Diary of Pierre Laval, 216-8.
[38] Hubert Cole and Pierre Laval, Laval: a Biography, 206-8.
[39] Werrell, Kenneth P., The Strategic Bombing of Germany in World War II: Costs and Accomplishments. The Journal of American History 73, no. 3 (1986), 706.
[40] Werrell, Kenneth P., The Strategic Bombing of Germany in World War II: Costs and Accomplishments, 706.
[41] Harrison, Mark, ed. The Economics of World War II: Six Great Powers in International Comparison. (Cambridge University Press, 2000), 10.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Two Affairs Flanking a Larger Complex

Golson, Richard J. Memory, The Holocaust and French Justice: The Bousquet and Touvier Affairs. University Press of New England, Hanover and London. 1996.

Two Affairs Flanking a Larger Complex

The compartmentalization in Memory, the Holocaust, and French Justice by Richard Golsan is commendable. Complicity of the French with the Germans in the prosecution of the Jewish is referred to as affairs, and the book culminates in the trial of Paul Touvier. This is particularly intriguing because he was among the last of the men who tortured and persecuted the Jews of France to be tried. He was ultimately freed.
It is useful to look for comparisons in his trial to that of René Bousequet. He died due to his involvement as the head of Vichy police. The argument he attempted to run was that he was unaware of the actions of the Germans in exterminating those who were deported (127). Touvier had a role more distinctly personal to the Jewish question.
As the head of the Milice, in trial a great part of the discussion lies on the veracity of the claims made against Touvier. Reminiscent of the larger question that lingers among all French, is the role assassinations and political repression enacted by this branch of Vichy enforcement played in German success. While France appears to be laudable in obstruction of justice, as Touvier argues in his specific case, the reality is that a rigorous contextualization of the domestic military conflict between the Gestapo, the Jews, and the Resistance shows a higher level of cooperation than in other nations. The question of justice further complicates this relationship, as an inferred interpretation from inconclusive statements leaves the danger of deeming the actions of the Gestapo in prosecution of the Resistance as illegal, some of which were not, and the actions of the Milice enacting brutality in its own name a legal act.
Golsan flanks this argument with two supplementary points. Firstly, in Holland, one of the highest rates of Jewish extermination in Europe was perpetrated by the Nazism (82). The nation was heavily occupied, and included some of the only public demonstrations against Germann treatment of Jews, as late as 1941, though. Secondly, in Hungary the Admiral Horthy refused to deport any Jews out of the nation for two years during the extermination. The Germans subsequently carried out among their most brutal operations in Hungary.
It can be seen to be apparent that results do not always imply effort. In the case of Touvier, one main argument for his release is that many of the times he killed Jews, he had saved others. There is a young jeweler who worked for the underground. Without other trouble, Touvier returns him safely home and does not raid the shop despite his economic incentive to do so (131). These are stories that obfuscate the full severity of his actions as an interrogatory function of German repression.
Golson does not attempt to tackle the question of the German occupation simply as a single historian, but draws on the work of others in order to create a tangible web at through which a single thesis is explored and reinforced. More importantly, analysis of the court documents releasing one guilty party and convicting another provide contrasting perspectives contemporary to the progression of the understanding of the war. In the trial of Bousquet, in addition to the plea of ignorance and perhaps contradictorily, the high survival rates of Jews in France is portrayed as a solvent to the edge of accusatory agents (81).

Finally, as with the larger movement in France regarding the French role in the Holocaust, Touvier relies in his argument on plain and simple denial. When faced with the accusations of a survivor, Louis Goudard, he simply claims they did not occur (139). As a prisoner with seven Jews, Goudard survived because he was not one and because they were. He also witnessed the torture of prisoners with cattle prods. Here the denial is not complete. “At first I was interrogated without the ‘machine’. Just blows everywhere. After that, there was the tub of water, the electric prods, then more blows, the needles under the fingernails.” Faced with this, Touvier replies in a quavering voice that there were no electric prods. There can be little doubt that had he been tried during the war a guilty verdict would have been reached.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Reflexivity of Analysis in the Events of World War II in France and their Commemoration

Paul Fischer
Professor Zdatny

Word Count: 705

Rousso, Henry. The Vichy Syndrome: History and Memory in France since 1944. Cambridge and London, Harvard University Press, 1991.

Reflexivity of Analysis in the Events of World War II in France and their Commemoration

The Occupation of France in World War II represents a chronological web because while 10,000 collaborators were summarily shot or hanged after liberation, those responsible for deportations were not tried for decades. Even functionary trials extended into the fifties and beyond. Each of these subsequent developments had their roots firmly in the final years of World War II and especially the events that passed during that cold winter. Henry Rousso navigates this web masterfully in The Vichy Syndrome: History and Memory in France since 1944.
There is a functional chronology as the primary thesis of the book is to analyze the historical commemoration of the occupation and liberation. Rousso believes the actions of Vichy France to play a greater role in French reconciliation of the memory of the war than other factors. This is due to the “prism of Vichy” through which the people of France perceive the war even today (10). It should be noted that this is an evolving prism, an example can be seen as the liberal reversal in the view of the Israeli state to a symbol of Western colonialism and return to support (81). Such developments in political analysis match the timeline proposed by Rousso precisely.
First came the period of repression marked by pardons and clemency. Then came a short but turpitudinous “broken mirror” period followed by two overlapping periods of obsession. With the trial of Klaus Barbie and the death of Louis Darquier de Pellepoix in the 1980s, it is only during the period of obsession that the final solution returned as a primary focus of historians and in the public eye from the period. The progression in public opinion is matched and supported with evidentiary analysis of laws, films, and publications (222)
There are three structural factors of the Vichy syndrome identified by Rousso. Catholicism played a fundamental role in Pétainism and contributed to the scandals and is argued to continue to play a political role after 1940 in France (299). Left-right political differences drew on the resistance in the aftermath of the war, and it was the decision to pursue Gaullo-Pétainism by liberals that allowed the right to rehabilitate itself from being a purely fascist entity in Europe. Finally anti-semitism plays a critical role in the Vichy syndrome, returning to the public eye in the 1960s and climaxing by 1980.
He draws a hard line between functional historical analysis and that of memory. This definition aids the reader throughout the book to identify with the considerable job of narrowing down an enormous body of knowledge and to understand his decision making process in doing so. Memory is cast as a reflexive action, only a repercussion to an event (2). Historical analysis should be a reconstruction of events and deconstruction of biases and motivating factors.
This hard line creates the basis for a scientific evaluation of the stages through which decades of domestic and geopolitical politics took remembrance of the liberation. In doing so, Rousso uses moments in the war to illustrate contemporary developments in the press and film of the portrayal as well as their convergence and divergence. These developments allow the proof of three structural facets to the Vichy Syndrome. Combined with a timeline of the history of the history of the Resistance, two vectors of analysis are then created that allow for a diagnosis of the “syndrome” represented by Vichy encroachment on public consciousness.
The extent of the malady is then approached, estimated, and through work like that of Rousso’s is treated. There are multiple novel historical concepts introduced and defined in this work, including extended redefinitions of functional terms. This does not clutter the work, but instead allows a certain genius of clarity to glimmer forth. A quick summary of these three structural factors as well as a chronological sketch is provided above though it is certainly worth cracking the book to flesh out the specific examples.
The allusions to primary sources are abundant and well cited. Some of the work is popular literature and cinema in addition to historical writing and documentary work; Rousso gives the reader a hand by offering a clear division in definition between the two. To do otherwise would be hypocritical at the least.