Marshall Petain and 11 november 2018

Apr 2017
550
Lemuria
#21
Personally, I think Petain saved France not once but twice. His achievements in WW1 are obvious. But in WW2 he took unto himself the mantle of traitor and collaborator in the same spirit as in Verdun, WW1---this time not to save his soldiers but the entire France. At that point France was powerless and defenseless and submission was preferable to extinction. To me, he is a Christ-like figure who is misunderstood. He was absolutely not senile. The man was what you would class as a pragmatic strategist. The type of leader you would need for the scenario one level below the absolute worst case scenario (extinction and total annihilation being the worst case).
 

Larrey

Ad Honorem
Sep 2011
4,503
#22
Pétain in WWII confused the hell out of the French. Beginning with who the real enemy was, and what kind of post-war France would emerge.

No Pétain, and France would have been unlikely to have been confused about its status as a Nazi occupied country, meaning resistance would have been stronger, sooner, likely including directly fighting on in exile. Which was all along what France needed to do; it was the sum total of the policies of the Free French and de Gaulle. (Never mind how France like that would have been a direct drain on German resources, not a relative cash-cow.)

De Gaulle was an improbable stroke of luck for France. Allowing Pétain and the Vichyists to define France into the post-war era would have been an utter mess. (Not least since from 1943 France was a directly occupied country in every way, except with Pétain improbably continuing to accept fronting it.)
 
May 2017
508
France
#23
What is the error of Pétain in 1940 ? To declare that we must stop fighting ? If the government had organized some resistance in Paris-barricades in the latin quarter like in 1968- I am sure that Hitler would have phoned to his good friend Goering,and after one day of intervention of the nazi s aircraft,we would have difficulties to find the Eiffel tower...
 

deaf tuner

Ad Honoris
Oct 2013
12,352
Europix
#24
What is the error of Pétain in 1940 ? To declare that we must stop fighting ? If the government had organized some resistance in Paris-barricades in the latin quarter like in 1968- I am sure that Hitler would have phoned to his good friend Goering,and after one day of intervention of the nazi s aircraft,we would have difficulties to find the Eiffel tower...
Debatable.

We're in the (very subjective) grey zone of the "if".

The remnants of the French army was still willing to fight (the most famous example remains Les Cadets de Saumur - and the difficulties they caused to the largelly outnumbering forces might suggest that it wouldn't had been a sunny ballad for the Germans).

Pétain was in a very special position: he was one of the very few that had the stature to be heard and listened by most of French. IMHO, if he would have asked "la France meurt mais se rende pas" (France dies, but doesn't surrender) he would have been followed.

It would have destroyed largely the France, but the war would have had a different course. IMHO, Germany would have been defeated earlier.

But, as I said, we're in the (very, but very subjective) grey zone of the "if".
 

Sam-Nary

Ad Honorem
Jun 2012
6,704
At present SD, USA
#25
What is the error of Pétain in 1940 ? To declare that we must stop fighting ? If the government had organized some resistance in Paris-barricades in the latin quarter like in 1968- I am sure that Hitler would have phoned to his good friend Goering,and after one day of intervention of the nazi s aircraft,we would have difficulties to find the Eiffel tower...
Petain's post war error was really in what had made him so effective as a tactician in World War I, his defensive mentality and his open hatred of democracy. Petain was not an open supporter of the Third Republic even before World War I, and Horne in The Price of Glory notes the various times that Petain had made some point that was critical of the Republic before WWI along with mistrust of the civilian government during the war. And this was actually something that a fair number of generals in the French army shared. They didn't like or trust the Republic's government for various reasons. Which then lead's to Petain's comment to Franco in 1940 before returning to France as the 1940 campaign went bad, "this is what happens when you get after 25 years of Socialism." In other words, the defeat was entirely on the Left in France and that if he'd been allowed to be dictator over France and control its finances, France would have won...

But when looking at a lot of Petain's 1918 to 1939 activities, that remark to Franco is shown to be false. While he did have his battles with the government over military funding, he also had plenty of conflict with others in the French military, and particularly over tactics. While he was open to the increased use of tanks in the French Army, he opposed Estienne's and later De Gaulle's theories that would have lead to the armored divisions becoming their own fully independent branch. This ultimately left a very heavy divide in France's tank development between the wars and lead to a large number of France's tanks being developed and deployed in small groups as infantry support weapons. Many were often heavily armored and couldn't be easily destroyed by the main German battle tanks, but they also lacked the firepower to damage the German tanks in turn, and since they were kept with the infantry... they didn't have the numbers to deal with massed armored formations when they ran into German tanks in 1940. About the only French Infantry Tank in 1940 that could reliably deal with German tanks was the Char B1bis, which had the SOMUA S35's turret and gun to deal with tanks, should they appear. France would have cavalry tanks, but since the main emphasis was on infantry support, there were fewer of them, and often these cavalry tanks were paired with slower light tanks that were originally intended for the infantry divisions... which then negates the SOMUA S35's mobility advantage over the Panzer III entirely, because the tanks it needs to scout for the SOMUA are not as mobile as the French or German tanks.

One can then add in the arguments with De Gaulle over De Gaulle's ideas for a professional army. The idea would in theory improve the quality of the French army in that it would be all volunteer and with its smaller size would be able to train regularly and improve its effectiveness. But Petain and De Gaulle soon quarreled over many of the details, and as a result, Petain used his rank and influence to essentially keep De Gaulle from gaining any influence over any changes the French army would make between WWI and WWII. And this in turn fueled Petain advancing his defensive minded tactics, and often using the success at Verdun as a means to justify those tactics. It's essentially the heart of the "Maginot mentality" that often is used to blame for France's defeat in 1940, that France ran to a defensive strategy after WWI because of its losses... and that the forts at Verdun withstood the German (and French) bombardments in 1916 that forts would stop the Germans again, and that the alliance with Belgium hurt them. And while the building of the Maginot Line could be viewed as a potential weakness... it was born from the defensive mindset that Petain had BEFORE World War I and the Battle of Verdun even started. The 1916 simply became a good excuse to prove a point.

And Petain's power over the French army after World War I assured that HIS strategies and mentality would be the guiding light of the French army going forward. In this, if the "Maginot mentality" is to be blamed for 1940, it's birth comes from Petain, not from World War I. For Petain was advocating more defensive minded tactics even before the First World War. The fact that he rose to prominence by the end of the war and after it, and that Foch died after WWI would mean that Petain was finally able to make the French Army in his tactical image, which essentially would put it on its back foot by World War II, and that would have been the case regardless of how much money was spent on defense. The Maginot Line could have been extended to the channel even before Belgium left the alliance... or Petain could have gotten the funds to do what he wished with the French army... and the tactical and doctrinal changes the French army NEEDED probably still would not have been made, as many of those changes would essentially reinforce the more offensive minded tactics that Petain had fought against even before WWI.

Which left France in a position where it would be running on tactical doctrines that were 25 years out of date when WW2 began, because Petain found those doctrines better than attacking. And when harnessed to Gamelan's poor strategy in 1940, there was no real wiggle room for the French get out of the mistake that Petain's philosophy on how the army should work helped create.
 
Dec 2011
1,278
Belgium
#26
... I'd say "No", to both.

Pétain, the WWI hero is also Pétain, the WWII colabo. And there's nothing worse for French history, for French politics, for French in general than forgetting it, ignoring it (totally or partially).

I think the current debate in France on that (or on Macron's acts/declarations, as it is what started it) is a bit futile: history must be faced as it was, especially one's own history.
Deaf tuner,

I followed the Macron story as you too perhaps. And I was on a French forum from 2006 on with a Pétainist, the man is sadly passed away in the meantime, but you couldn't argue with the man, Pétain was always right. It is something in my opinion as the German Historikerstreit to put the Holocaust event between the other genocides. We had here a long debate about a comparison between the Hitler regime and the Stalin one to put it on an equal foot. I said then that I found the Stalin regime a "normal" one as it did atrocities for the normal sake of Stalin's power gains, while the Hitler one was a genocide with racial purposes. And the Historikerstreit was highly political in Germany as some historians wanted in some way to smooth over the deeds of the Nazi regime.
The same way is this debate in the nowadays France highly political I think, while the French right and I don't now perhaps real historians too try to smooth over the deeds of Pétain during WWII. I remember from the Pétainist on the French forum some discussion about the fact that France had the most Jews saved from the European countries thanks to the Vichy of Pétain. And I made the comparison with Belgium and the Netherlands and he was right, but as you saw it, it were only the Jews with old French citizenship that he had saved... There seems to be strong tendencies nowadays in the French far right, to soften the historical appearance of the interwar period and the Vichy regime even as in Belgium with the blessing of some part of the Catholic Church...
But it is not limited to France alone, there seems nearly everywhere in the world as in the Thirties a resurrection of the right wing politics even in Russia with the new marriage between church and state, or have I have to say between Putin's state and the church?
Russia: Marriage of Church and State.
The link from the documentary on ARTE is removed but you can find it on ARTE perhaps to pay for.

Kind regards from Paul.
 
Apr 2017
550
Lemuria
#27
Debatable.

We're in the (very subjective) grey zone of the "if".

The remnants of the French army was still willing to fight (the most famous example remains Les Cadets de Saumur - and the difficulties they caused to the largelly outnumbering forces might suggest that it wouldn't had been a sunny ballad for the Germans).

Pétain was in a very special position: he was one of the very few that had the stature to be heard and listened by most of French. IMHO, if he would have asked "la France meurt mais se rende pas" (France dies, but doesn't surrender) he would have been followed.

It would have destroyed largely the France, but the war would have had a different course. IMHO, Germany would have been defeated earlier.

But, as I said, we're in the (very, but very subjective) grey zone of the "if".
This is not debatable at all. Petain made his move with strategic foresight in the interest of France. You just don't understand the nature of this war. Germany and France were like two powerful heavyweight boxers with a glass chin but powerful knock out punch. The first few seconds of contact determine the outcome of the fight. If Petain hadn't acted France today would be more like Poland or Spain than it is now. If not worse. French resistance would have changed the entire dynamic of the war as well. To me, he made the perfect move. Petain was not a traitor or senile. Just because mainstream historians repeat the same nonsense over and over doesn't mean it's true. All this is politicized and romanticized. The mistake was to lose the initial engagement decisively.
 

sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
2,725
Sydney
#28
On Petain and the use of tanks ,
the debate was widespread in all large armies
it was far from clear than letting the armor run riot , leaving the infantry behind was a good idea
there were plenty of argument on the proper use of battle armor and the right size and function of it
for memory , this debate went back and forth between 1937 and 1945 in the light of the Fighting in Spain , Manchuria , north Africa and Europe
with at time diverging conclusion .
one can hardly fault Petain for having views which were in fact widespread at the time in the German army itself
 
Aug 2010
14,475
Wessex
#29
This is not debatable at all. Petain made his move with strategic foresight in the interest of France. You just don't understand the nature of this war. Germany and France were like two powerful heavyweight boxers with a glass chin but powerful knock out punch. The first few seconds of contact determine the outcome of the fight. If Petain hadn't acted France today would be more like Poland or Spain than it is now. If not worse. French resistance would have changed the entire dynamic of the war as well. To me, he made the perfect move. Petain was not a traitor or senile. Just because mainstream historians repeat the same nonsense over and over doesn't mean it's true. All this is politicized and romanticized. The mistake was to lose the initial engagement decisively.
I find this argument simply bizarre. True, it was necessary for someon to reach an accommodation with the Germans after the French defeat; but Petain and his like did not merely reach an accommodation with the Germans, they exploited the sitaution to advance a particular form of right wing politics which was in tune in some significant respects with that of the Nazis themselves. The Petain regime was a vey nasty regime which (from their point of view) madea virtue of necessity. My mother grew up in Paris and her closest friend belonged to a Jewish family which was rounded up and shipped out to its death in an operation in which the Vichy officals went beyond what the Germans were demanding.

Vel' d'Hiv Roundup - Wikipedia
 

Larrey

Ad Honorem
Sep 2011
4,503
#30
What is the error of Pétain in 1940 ? To declare that we must stop fighting ? If the government had organized some resistance in Paris-barricades in the latin quarter like in 1968- I am sure that Hitler would have phoned to his good friend Goering,and after one day of intervention of the nazi s aircraft,we would have difficulties to find the Eiffel tower...
Paris was declared an Open City to spare it in 1940. If concern over Paris is the real problem, then that could have been done as well by a government decided to not seek terms, but fight on in exile and from the colonies. None of it requires some kind of grandiose last-stand gesture in the ruins of the Louvre.
 

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