Vichy France

Vichy France, officially The French State (l'État français), was France during the regime of Marshal Philippe Pétain, during World War II, from the German victory in the Battle of France (July 1940) to the Allied liberation in August 1944. Following the defeat in June 1940, President Albert Lebrun appointed Marshal Pétain as Premier of France. After making peace with Germany, Pétain and his government voted to reorganize the discredited Third Republic into an authoritarian regime.

The newly formed French State maintained nominal sovereignty over the whole of French territory as defined by the Second Armistice at Compiègne. However, Vichy maintained full sovereignty only in the unoccupied southern Zone libre ("free zone"), while retaining limited authority in the Wehrmacht-occupied northern zone, the Zone occupée ("occupied zone"). The occupation was to be a provisional state of affairs pending the conclusion of the war in the west, which at the time appeared imminent. In November 1942, however, the Zone libre was also occupied, with Germany closely supervising all French officials.

Marshal Pétain collaborated with the German occupying forces in exchange for an agreement not to divide France between the Axis powers. Germany kept two million French soldiers in Germany as forced labourers to enforce its terms. Vichy authorities aided in the rounding-up of Jews and other "undesirables". At times in the colonies Vichy French military forces actively opposed the Allies. Despite its pro-Nazi policies, much of the French public initially supported the new government, seeing it as necessary to maintain a degree of French autonomy and territorial integrity.

The legitimacy of Vichy France and Pétain's leadership was constantly challenged by the exiled General Charles de Gaulle, based in London, who claimed to represent the legitimacy and continuity of the French nation. The overseas French colonies were originally under Vichy control, but it lost one after another to de Gaulle's Free French movement. Public opinion turned against the Vichy regime and the occupying German forces over time and resistance to them increased. Following the Allied invasion of France in June 1944, de Gaulle proclaimed the Provisional Government of the French Republic (GPRF).

Following France's liberation in summer 1944, most of the Vichy regime's leaders fled or were put on trial by the GPRF and a number were executed for treason. Thousands of collaborators were killed without trial by local Resistance forces. Pétain was sentenced to death for treason, but his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. Only four senior Vichy officials were tried for crimes against humanity, although more were alleged to have participated in the deportation of Jews for extermination in concentration camps, abuses of prisoners and severe acts against members of the Resistance.

Read more about Vichy France:  Overview, Ideology, Fall of France and Establishment of The Vichy Regime, State Collaboration With Germany, French collaborationnistes and Collaborators, Relationships With The Allied Powers, Creation of The Free French Forces, Social and Economic History, French Colonies and Vichy, German Invasion, November 1942 and Decline of The Vichy Regime, Jewish Death Toll, Historiographical Debates and France's Responsibility: The "Vichy Syndrome", Notable Figures in The Vichy Regime, Notable Collaborationists or Pétainists Not Linked To The Vichy Regime, See Also

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