Vichy after the armistice with Germany adopted an official policy of neutrality. Even so, Vichy supported the NAZI war effot. The French industry supplied the Germans and French workers were consprited to work in Germany. There was a level of cooperation with the Germans beyound economic support. Vichy was allowing German U-boats in the Indian Ocean to resupply at Diego Suarez. Admiral Darlan provided logistical support to the German military in Tunisia and Syria (May 27-28, 1941). Vichy officials after the Totch invasion of North Africa offered to create a Légion tricolore in which French soldiers would fight with the Germans in Tunisia (November 1942). The Germans rejected the Vichy offer. The rejection was consistent with NAZI failure to consider Vichy an ally. Doubtless the possibility of such units defecting to the allies must have been another consideration. Vichy's primary concern was to avoid combat in France and the inevitable destruction of French cities and civilian casualties. For this reason, Vichy was willing to resist by force the Allied Torch invasion of its North African colonies. This meant open conflict with the Allies. Germany's reversals in Russia and North Africa led to an adoption of "Total War". The German economy was finally put on a total war footing. More French workers were demanded from Vichy. Frenchmen were permitted to join the Waffen-SS (July 22, 1943). Few did so, but more importantly Laval was granted permission to create aprar-military Fascist force--the Milice. The Milice proved vital to the Wehrmacht in confronting the increasingly effective Resistance. A small number of Frenchmen joined the NAZI war effort. A Légion des volontaires français contre le bolchevisme (LVF) was formed in the Occupied Zone. About 10,000 men volunteered and were deployed on the Eastern Front in Grman uniforms against the Red Army. This was common practice by the NAZIS who consistently deployedmen recruited in the West to the Eastern Front, not trusting them to fight against the Western Allies. The small numbers of men involved testify to the declining popularity of Vichy and the growing hatred of the Germans. The LVF eventually became a Wehrmacht infantry regiment. After the Allies liberated France, the LVF fought in Germany as part of the SS Charlemagne division.
After Dunkirk, the Germans turned the Panzers south. It is soon apparent that the French Army is broken and will not be able to hold. Refugeees flow out of Paris to the south. The French declared Paris an open city. The Germans entered Paris (June 14). Churchill offered a union of France and Britain. The French Government rejected the offer. [Freidel, p. 337.] French Prime Minister Reynaud resigned (June 16). He was replaced by Marshall Pétain, the hero of Verdun in World War I. The French ask to be released from the commitment to Britain not to make a separate peace. Pétain immediately asked for an armistice (June 17). France capitulated (June 22). Hitler had found the railroad car in which the Germans had signed the World War I Armistice (1918). The the armistice was signed at Compiègne. France was thus out of the War and Britain now faced the Germans alone. The terms of the Armistice are dictated by the Germans. Thgey are harsh, but not as harsh as some had anticipated. The Germans treat France vert ifferently than Poland.The terms of the June 1940 armistice between Germany and France divided France into an occupied and unoccupied zone, with a rigid demarcation or boundary line between the two. The unoccupied zone becoes known as Vichy as aew capital is established there. The French had to agree to hand over anyone the Germans wanted. Former Primeminister Reynaud was among those detained. And they had to pay heavy reparations for starting the War.
The Germans benefitted from the fall of France in many ways. This included desperately needed military equipment. This can not be called Vichy collaboration with the Germans as French military equipment under the terms of the Armistice had to be turned over to the Germans. This included French tanks and perhaps even more importantly trucks and other military vehicles. This helped fill a major weakness of the Wehrmacht which began the War before it was fully mechanized. While this did not stop the Germans in the relatively small battlefields of western Poland (the Soviets invaded estern Poland) and Western Europe with advanced trabsport and communications system, but the Soviet Unioin was a very different matter. To launch Barbarossa, Hitler needed trucks amd other vehickes of all time. And France provided s great deal of what was needed. Here the Germans not only seized French militay equipment, but civilian vehicles as well. The Germans also cointracted for the output of French motor vehicle plants like Renault. Here Vichy did collaborate
Vichy after the armistice with Germany (June 1940) adopted an official policy of neutrality. The British attack on the French fleet at Oran tested that decesion. Many around Pétain wanted to declare war, but Pétain would not hear of it. Hitler hoped to bring both Spain and Vichy into the German war effort, especially his anti-Communist crusade in the East. Pétain again ademently refused. He was not against colaborating with the Germans, even a degreee of military collaboration, but drew the line at war.
It was Pétain humself that coined the term 'collaboration'. It became associated with treason, but he meant it as a necesity for France's preservation. He thought that the Germans had won the war and France's future was to make the country useful to the Germans. France would be a major support if the German war effort. This was not what Hitler had anticipsted. He thought that conquests in the East would unlock aide range of boutiful resources. But it was the conquests in the West, especially France, that was the nmain support of the German war economy. Pétain drew the line, however, at entering the war. Despite the declared neutrality, Vichy supported the NAZI war effot in a variety of ways, both economic and military. If Vichy had no collaborated, the Germans would have seized what they wanted. Vichy collaboration meant, however, that the Germans could more effectively plunder the French economy and with a minimal effort.
One subject that we have not yet been able to properly assess is the extent to which Vichy France economically supported the NAZI war effort. We know that Vichy supported the German war-effort. We do not know just how effective that support was. Pétain on October 24, 1940 met with Hitler at Montoire. At that meeting Pétain and Laval discussed Franco-German cooperation. They were unable, however, to get any commitment from Hitler on key issues such as the post-War border of France and the return of the French POWs. Hitler had not yet made up his mind on these issues. The fact was that Hitler had little respect for France or the potential benefits of a French ally. He had convinced himself that the War was already won. The ally he really wanted was Britain. Vichy did make an important economic contribution to the German war effort, but it seems limited in terms of the potential economic potential of France. Of course the issue of economic collaboration merges into the subject of NAZI exploitation.
Vichy was allowing German U-boats and Japanese submarines in the Indian Ocean to resupply at Diego Suarez. This was a strategically located base at the tip of Madagassar. The western Indian Ocean was extremely distant from German ports or even Japanese ports in the eastern Indian Ocean and Singapore. Having a supply base at Diego Suarez greatly faciltated operations and threatened the supply lines of British forces in Europe, In addition American supplies to the British 8th Army in Egypt flowed around South Africa. This threat was ended when a British force seized Madaggascar.
Hitler attempted to gain support from both Spain and Vichy for his invasion of the Siviet Union. Pétain in a rare show of defiance refused to particioate. Hitler conducted intense negotiations in Fall 1940 while the Battle of Britain was waging. He wanted to obtain Spanish and Vichy support for the upcoming invasion of the Soviet Union. He may have had more success had the Luftwaffe succeeded over Britain. He had extensive meetings with the Spanish Foreign Minister and then met with Franco at Hendaye (October 1940). Faiklibng with Franco, he went on to Montoire to meet with Pétain and Laval. [Fest, p. 640.] Neiter Franco or Pétain would join the Führer in Russia.
After the fall of France. French authorities in Syria, recognized the authority of Vichy Government. This included a military force totling about 40,000 Legioneers and Muslim soldiers backed by 90 tanks and prepared fortifications. Admiral Darlan provided logistical support to the Germans and Italians in efforts to support the Rashid Ali revolt in Iraq. This was a clear violation of Vichy's neutrality. Syria located in the Eastern Mediterranean was of some strastegic importance. The British feared that Vichy would allow the Luftwaffe to establish air bases in the country. This would have threatened the British position in Egypt as well as provided a jumping off point to seize the oil fields in Iraq. Churchill thus ordered Wavell after
putting down the Iraqii Revolt to seize Syria. Degualle assured Wavell that the Vichy garison would come over to the Free French with little resistance. They did not.
The Germans inserted a small force in Libya to prevent the British from defeating the Italians in Libya. This force would become the Afrika Koros. Admiral Darlan provided logistical support to the German military from Tunisia. Darlan signed Franco-German protocols regarding collaboration between the two countries (May 27-28, 1941). Under the terms of the agreement the French government confirmed arrangements to deliver almost 2,000 trucks to the Africa Corps. Here accounts vary. Some sources mention French merchant convoys sailing from Marseille to Tunisia with supplies of Italian military equipment, pricipally trucks destined for the German and Italian forces in Libya. Other sources suggest that the trucks came from depots already in Tunisia. The trucks loaded wuth supplies were driven to Libya and thus were not subject to British interdiction.` This is more important than it sounds. It is tanks that grab the popular imagination. But Rommel needed trucks, lots of them for the lengthy supply lines once he advanced toward Egypt. But trucks for the Germans were in short supply and badly for Barbrossa. So the French trucks made a crucial cintrinytion to the Afrika Korps in the Western Desert.
Vichy officials after the Torch invasion of North Africa offered to create a Légion tricolore in which French soldiers would fight with the Germans in Tunisia (November 1942). The Germans rejected the Vichy offer. The rejection was consistent with NAZI failure to consider Vichy an ally. Doubtless the possibility of such units defecting to the allies must have been another consideration.
Vichy's primary concern was to avoid combat in France and the inevitable destruction of French cities and civilian casualties. For this reason, Vichy was willing to resist by force the Allied Torch invasion of its North African colonies. This meant open conflict with the Allies.
Germany's reversals in Russia and North Africa led to an adoption of "Total War". Hitler recalling the imact of privation on hime front morale during World War I attempted to run the economy without major civilian dislocations or severe rationing. Germany began the War with inadequate resources and industrial base. Hitler's war plan was short wars against individual opponents. The early victories assisted him, because the economies of the occupied countries were looted in various ways both to support the war effort and to main civilian consumption levels. Here France was very important in both regards. This changed when the victories of early-1942 turned into stunning defeats, first at El Alemaine (October 1942) and then Stalingrad (November 1942). The surrender of the Sixth Army, the most potent formation in the Wehrmacht forced a reassment of German war policies. Day after the newly minted Field Marshal Paulis surrendered, Oropaganda Minister Koseg Goebbels spoke at the Sportpalast and demanded 'Total War' (February 18, 1943). As the War went against the NAZIs, Germans saw less of Hitler and more of Goebbels. Goebbels screamed, "I ask you: Do you want total war? If necessary, do you want a war more total and radical than anything that we can even imagine today?" Goebbels was fully aware at the time that the Germans were killing Jews and others in the millions. Hitler's war plan of short wars against unprepared, individual opponents proved to be a dissaster when he made war against not only undefeated Britain, but the Soviet Union and Amnerica, two countries that did have the resources to wage war on an eniormous scale. Albert Speer oversaw major changes in the German war economy which created effiencies tht could have substantially increased German production. Unfortunately for the Germans, America and Britain at the sane time launched the around-the-clock strategic bombing of Germany. Thus Speer's effiencies managed to increase production, even offseting the bomb damage for more than a year. This shows just how inefficently the NAZIs were running the war economy. One impact of Total War was increasing demands on the occupied countries. In France this meant increased requirements fir Vichy to provide workers for war plants in the Reich. The NAZIs were reluctant to bring German women into the war lahts as the Americans, British, and Soviets did), but instead used forced and slave labor from the occupied countries.
The Waffen-SS was the military arm of the SS which after the onset of the War, SS- Reich Führer Himm;er steadily expanded. The SS was a racially exclusive organization. Recruits had to prove Aryan ancestry back to the 18th cebtury. As Himmler expanded the Waffen SS, the racial requirements were ignored. As the Wehrmacht was bled on the Eastern Front, equipment and supplies weere lavished on the Waffen-SS. Frenchmen were permitted to join the Waffen-SS (July 22, 1943). Few did so. Very few wanted to fight for the Germans in the East.
More importantly Laval was granted permission to create a para-military Fascist force--the Milice. The Milice proved vital to the Wehrmacht in confronting the increasingly effective Resistance.
A small number of Frenchmen joined the NAZI war effort. A Légion des volontaires français contre le bolchevisme (LVF) was formed in the Occupied Zone. About 10,000 men volunteered and were deployed on the Eastern Front in Grman uniforms against the Red Army. This was common practice by the NAZIS who consistently deployedmen recruited in the West to the Eastern Front, not trusting them to fight against the Western Allies. The small numbers of men involved testify to the declining popularity of Vichy and the growing hatred of the Germans. The LVF eventually became a Wehrmacht infantry regiment. After the Allies liberated France, the LVF fought in Germany as part of the SS Charlemagne division.
Fest, Joachim C. Hitler (Vintage, 1974), 845p.
Thomas, Martin. "After Mers-el-Kelbir:The Armed Neutrality of the Vichy French Navy, 1940-43," English Historical Review (June 1997).
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