The Vichy regime from 1940 to 1944 evoked three principal reactions from France: either the French viewed it as a necessary and noble political situation, viewed it as a betrayal of democratic and national principles, or considered it a means of combating the spread of communism.
Many people in France proclaimed the Vichy regime to be an illegitimate puppet government for Hitler. One such person was General Charles de Gaulle, the head of the Free French Movement. In a radio broadcast from West Africa, he denounced the Vichy regime as "miserable men" who had been "bullied into humiliating negotiations by the enemy." (Doc 3). De Gaulle would naturally say this, given the fact that he was a French military officer stationed in a French colony, and therefore more prone to view France as a major imperial power rather than a defeated and reeling nation.
Another critic of the Vichy regime was French cartoonist Jean Pennes, who in an unpublished caricature depicted Hitler riding upon the back of Petain (Doc 4). Such an image was obviously intended to depict the subordinated status of the Marshal to Hitler and to call into question the legitimacy of the Vichy Regime. Jean Pennes, being the polemical and satiristic French cartoonist that he was, would have been given to such political satire, but he was obviously wasn't daft enough to publish it. A more emphatic and violent example of resistance to the Vichy regime lids in Francois Valentin, French Resistance leader, who in a radio broadcast stated that, "not only should [the Vichy Regime] not be obeyed; we have a duty to disobey it." (Doc 7) Valentin was the leader of a resistance movement and a veteran; therefore, he would have naturally favored radical, militaristic solutions to political situations.
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There was even criticism emanating from within the corridors of the Vichy regime itself: Pierre Laval, Vichy Prime Minister, proclaimed that he doubted if "such a great propaganda effort on the behalf of any other man [besides Philippe Petain] was ever undertaken in France." (Doc 11) This, of course, is a remarkable statement given the reign of Napoleon; however, Laval, being as close to Petain as he was, would have naturally become sick of the self-congratulatory songs and marches organized in honor of Petain.
In stark contrast, certain segments of the French populace - largely the Marshall himself - viewed the Vichy regime as noble and necessary. Indeed, Philippe Petain maintained that the Vichy regime was legitimate throughout its four-year reign. In a radio address in 1940, Petain declared, "...the combat must cease. Rally to the Government over which I preside" (Doc 1). In another radio address that same year, Petain proclaimed that "A new order is an absolute necessity for France." (Doc 2).
Even at his trial, Petain declared, "I prepared the way for liberation, by preserving... France." (Doc 10). Petain's comments are easily explained when considering his desire to serve his self and appease his German overlords; he would have wanted the French people to accept a peace dictated by Hitler and to accept he himself as the legitimate ruler of France. Such goals were the purpose of propaganda like the Vichy government poster from 1942. It depicts the the old, free France of democracy and antimilitarism as decrepit; it contrasts this with an image of a robust, new France whose foundations are labor, discipline, courage, and veterans - which all sound eerily like fascist principles. (Doc 6). Obviously, being born of the Vichy regime, the poster was intended to extoll Germanesque principles.
A third reaction to the Vichy regime emerged in France during the occupation: that of viewing it as a means of combating communism. An outdoor wall poster, attributed to no one, proudly proclaims that "By participating in this crusade against the Soviets, French volunteers can earn the gratitude of the entire world..."(Doc 9). This is a naturally reaction, given than the red scare was a phenomenon affecting all democratic and fascist nations, not just the United States.
In a similar tone, French fascist Pierre-Antoine Cousteau declared Petain to be a "valiant and noble soldier" and argued that the German occupation was more agreeable than the spread of communism: "If [the German's] departure opened the door to Communism, the remedy would be worse that the disease. Being the French fascist that he was, which, is in truth, a rather paradoxical combination, Cousteau would have naturally fallen prostrate before Hitler's 'stache, and he would have accepted the occupation as beneficial to France.
There were three principal reactions to the Vichy regime: either the French viewed it as a necessary and noble political situation, viewed it as a betrayal of democratic and national principles, or considered it a means of combating the spread of communism.
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