The Portrait of Esther The Black Notebook

Pétain and the Vichy Regime

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Episode I - page 60

« C’est librement que je me suis rendu à l’invitation du Führer. Une collaboration a été envisagée entre nos deux pays. J’en ai accepté le principe. (…) Cette collaboration doit être sincère. Elle doit être exclusive de toute pensée d’agression, elle doit comporter un effort patient et confiant. »

Philippe Pétain
Soldier and French politician (1856-1951), photographed in civilian clothing in 1930 Harris & Ewing Collection, Library of Congress
(Domaine public), via Wikimedia Commons

In his speech on 30 October 1940, Marshal Pétain, Chief of the French State, announced that full collaboration was now in place with Nazi Germany. How did this man of 84 years of age become the leader of France?

France declared war on Germany on 3 September 1939. This was the start of the Second World War. Following several months of fighting, the German Forces entered Paris on 14 June 1940. Two days later, Marshal Pétain was elected head of government by the president of the Republic. On 17 June 1940, he announced the armistice on the radio.

On the 10 July, the National Assembly voted to give full powers to Pétain. He was given the title of Chief of the French State. This was the end of the 3rd Republic. The French government set up its headquarters in Vichy.

At the beginning of October 1940, Pétain—head of the authoritarian Vichy Regime—implemented anti-Semitic laws to appease Nazi Germany, therefore collaborating with the Third Reich. This is the context in which Esther and her family lived, a French Jewish family.