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Joseph Darnand was born in France in 1897. He joined the French Army on the outbreak of the First World War and was awarded seven citations for bravery.
After the war Darnand worked as a cabinetmaker before establishing his own transport company in Nice. He became interested in politics and was a supporter of the royalist group Action Francaise. In the 1930s he moved further to the right and developed neo-fascist political views.
Darnand volunteered for military duty at the beginning of the Second World War and fought bravely along the Maginot Line. He was taken prisoner in June 1940, but managed to escape and went to live in Nice.
In July 1941 Darnand established the right-wing military group, Service d'Ordre Legionnaire. The organization supported Henri-Philippe Petain and the Vichy government and offered its help to round up Jews and to fight against the French Resistance.
In January 1943 the Service d'Ordre Legionnaire was transformed into the Milice the secret police in Vichy. Darnand was given the Waffen SS rank of Sturmbannfuehrer and took a personal oath of loyalty to Adolf Hitler.
Darnand expanded the Milice and by 1944 it had over 35,000 members. The organization played an important role in investigating the French Resistance. Like the Gestapo, the miliciens were willing to use torture to gain information.
In December, 1943, Darnand was named secretary-general for the maintenance of order and head of police in Vichy. The following month he was made secretary of the interior.
After the D-day landings took place the Maquis and other resistance groups emerged to help in the liberation of their country. Darnand fled to Germany where he served as a member of Petain's exiled government at Sigmaringen. Joseph Darnand was eventually captured by the Allies and was returned to France where he was tried and executed in 1945.
Joseph Darnand (19 March 1897 - 10 October 1945) was a leader of the French political far right before and during World War II. His political and military career is checkered. He was a one-time member of Action Francaise, a follower of Jacques Doriot, and the leader of his own Fascist group. After France fell to Germany, Darnand was supportive of the Vichy government for a time, but his anti-German sentiments led him to attempt an alliance with the French Resistance on three separate occasions. Upon his third failed attempt, Darnand cast his lot with the Nazis and became an officer in the SS. Darnand was captured in the last days of the war, tried, and executed by firing squad for treason on 10 October 1945.
The Street of Horrors
11, rue des Saussaies à Paris. One of the Gestapo headquarters. Photo by Erwmat (2013). PD-CCA-Share Alike 3.0. Wikimedia Commons.
Upon entering Paris on 14 June 1940, the Germans and the various military and civilian units began to immediately appropriate hotels, vacated buildings (many by Jewish citizens), French government buildings, vacant embassies, or just kicked out the existing residents of a building they wanted to occupy.
The different departments of the Nazi police system (commonly grouped under one name: Gestapo) annexed many of the buildings on Avenue Foch. It didn’t take long for the Germans to settle into Paris. The Abwehr (German Intelligence Service) had been operating in Paris during the 1930s and it was clear they had “mapped” out the entire city and identified all potential sites for the Germans to occupy.
The building at 84, avenue Foch became the main headquarters for the Gestapo. The sixth floor was converted to torture rooms and cells. Throughout the Nazi Occupation, the neighbors could hear the screams from the victims of Gestapo torture. Parisians quickly determined this street was not a place you wanted to visit.
Avenue Foch became known to the French as The Street of Horrors .
A Timeline of Nazi Occupied Paris: June 14, 1940 to August 21, 1944
The German 18th Army soon followed that lone soldier into Paris by way of Place Voltaire. And the occupation of Paris in the second World War began.
Bus stop at Place Léon Blum, previously Voltaire, June 2017
June 14, 1940 Sometime later that morning, in his study at his home at 18 Rue Weber, Doctor Thierry de Martel took his own life. He had written to William Bullitt, the American Ambassador: “I made you the promise that I wouldn’t leave Paris. I didn’t say whether I would stay in Paris alive or dead.” He had already lost his only son in WWI , a costly war itself in a long line of costly wars between the Germans and the French. Dr. Martel killed himself with a syringe of strychnine. He was best friend and colleague to the American, Sumner Jackson, Chief of Surgery at the American Hospital in Paris. He was also France’s leading neurosurgeon.
Machine Guns were placed at all 12 avenues converging at Place de E’toile surrounding the Arc de Triomphe. Additionally, four cannons were placed at each of the main 4 arteries: Avenues Foch, Victor Hugo, Champs-Élysées, and Marceau.
Imagine machine guns installed by the enemy, pointed out from all points of this French icon of freedom and liberty, along with the national flag of the occupiers billowing overhead.
June 14, 1940 0800 hours , The German Army set up its first Paris HQ at the Hotel Crillon overlooking Place de la Concorde. Simultaneously, a German flag was soon placed over the Arc de Triomphe. General Otto von Stülpnagel, German Wehrmacht (Army) was the Wehrmacht’s new military commandant of Paris.
Place de La Concorde, 2017
The Ritz Hotel, Place Vendôme, Paris 2017
This was the first chosen lunch spot for the German Ambassador to Paris, Otto Abetz. The Ritz was a popular spot for the Nazi command and SS to eat, board, and party. It was also frequented by the French elite collaborators. One such controversial character, Coco Chanel, who certainly did not go hungry during the war, lived in room 227-228 of the Ritz and was a client of Attorney René de Chambrun, (Pierre Laval’s son-in-law). Madame Ritz herself lived in 266-268. French Actress Arletty, born Leonie Bathiat, resided at the Ritz with her Luftwaffe officer lover Hans-Jürgen Soehring. Arletty was also a very close friend of Josée Laval, daughter of the Prime Minister and notorious collaborator, Pierre Laval. Arletty died at the robust age of 94 years old in 1992. Arletty’s famous line in the war was: “My heart is French but my ass is International.” Unbelievably, the controversy still continues today whether or not she collaborated. But I would say the fact that she was sleeping with the enemy (literally), spoke loudly three things. One-it did not help her cause of innocence. And two-if indeed she was sleeping with the enemy, who better to work for the resistance? Yet, she chose to do nothing in the defense of her fellow French men and women who themselves were starving literally, and as well-being shipped off to concentration camps to die for either being Jewish and/or for fighting for their country. And three-she consorted with Josée Laval Chambrun, a known collaborator living the high life in occupied Paris with her father and her husband, everything at her beck and call, while other Parisiennes were queuing for literally hours on end for a few pieces of bread and cheese.
June 22, 1940, 1836 hours, the German/French armistice was signed in a clearing in the forest near Compiègne France . Representing both the discombobulated French Government and Philippe Pétain, was French General Charles Huntziger and for the Germans, Col. Gen. Wilhelm Keitel. Additionally the other “plenipotentiaries” of the French Government present were: Ambassador Noel, Rear Admiral Maurice R. LeLuc, Army Corps General Georges Parisot, and Air Force General Jean-Marie Joseph Bergeret. Hitler and his main entourage of dirty rotten scoundrels were also present, to include Goring, Brauchitsch, Raeder, Hess, and Ribbentrop.
The site in the clearing where the original wagon car of the Armistice was located. The Museum of the Armistice. The Glade of the Armistice, Compiègne France. The Museum of the Armistice.
“Hitler dictates that the French capitulation take place at Compiègne, a forest north of Paris. This is the same spot where twenty-two years earlier the Germans had signed the Armistice ending World War I in front of French General Marshal Foch. Hitler intended to disgrace the French and avenge the German defeat. (Indeed he chose to sit in the very same seat used by his nemesis Marshal Foch in 1918.) To further deepen the humiliation, he ordered that the signing ceremony take place in the same railroad car that hosted the earlier surrender. Under the terms of this Armistice, two-thirds of France is to be occupied by the Germans. The French army is to be disbanded. In addition, France must bear the cost of the German invasion.” (Eyewitness to History: Account of American journalist William Shirer)
An exact replica of the original Marshal Foch wagon used at both the armistice of 1918 and the armistice of 1940. The original wagon was destroyed by the German SS in the town of Ohrdruf in 1945, as the Americans advanced into the region. A replica of the original Marshal Foch wagon inside the Museum of the Armistice.
Subsequently, and in quick order, the French 3rd Republic Government was officially and illegally dissolved. Philippe Pétain became Marshal Pétain of France and established the French Capital in Vichy, France, at this point still a part of the “Unoccupied Zone.” This government of appeasers and collaborators became known as the Vichy State.
June 23, 1940, 6:35 am The morning following the signing of the armistice, Hitler made his one and only visit to occupied Paris during the war. His motorcade came from Le Bourget Airfield into Paris and made its way around the Arc de Triomphe twice, down Avenue Foch, south along the Seine and back out of Paris.
July 11, 1940 Pierre Laval became the 120th Prime Minister of France and “rapidly fostered excellent relations with the Nazi faction in his country.” (“Avenue of Spies,” Alex Kershaw, Page 43) Pierre’s only child, Josée Laval, joined her father in the conspiracy against her own country, and in support of his part in transporting literally thousands of Jews, men, women, and children, as well as resistors to their deaths in German concentration camps.
July, 1940 German Embassy is established at Hôtel de Beauharnais at 78 Rue de Lille
Halle at 78 Rue de Lille, June, 2017.
-Otto Abetz is the German Ambassador (oxymoron perhaps) to Paris and he is married to Suzanne, a French woman. Otto Abetz, at the bequest of General Albert de Chambrun, a member of the board of directors for the American Hospital of Paris, helped supply the American Hospital with necessary food and other items needed to keep the hospital in operation. In this way, both Abetz and the de Chambruns unwittingly helped Sumner Jackson in his cause to smuggle downed allied pilots/soldiers to freedom via the hospital. (See my notes on General de Chambrun at the end of this timeline.) Abetz himself was a die in the wool Nazi whose seemingly kind deeds in aiding the American Hospital with food and supplies was only done as a result of his collaborator relationships with the de Chambruns and Lavals, a relationship deemed very necessary by the Nazi regime for the success of the ongoing occupation of Paris and the round-up of Jews. This was indeed one of the rare times that collaboration benefitted the French Resistance, albeit unwitting on the part of the collaborators and the Nazis.
July-August, 1940 Kammandantur, German HQ Neuilly-sur-Seine – established itself directly across from the American Hospital.
The American Hospital of Paris in the Paris suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine – France, 1906-Present American Surgeon, Sumner Jackson practiced here from 1925 until his capture in 1944. His office was on the 4th floor.
June – July, 1940-1944
Avenue Foch, Paris, FR June, 2017
The Bad Guys on Avenue Foch (See the Book: “Avenue of Spies” by Alex Kershaw)
Avenue Foch was (and still is) lined with wealthy houses or mansions belonging to some of France’s elite upper class. It was and is one of the four main arteries stemming from the Arc de Triomphe. During the occupation, many of those residents had fled the city for safety in the United States or across the channel in the United Kingdom. This left their homes at the mercy of the merciless. The Nazis quickly and notably confiscated these homes for either their own living quarters and/or offices, but also for the much darker purpose of interrogating and torturing those in the resistance. Avenue Foch was known by many names among the Parisiennes. Even before the war, it was known as Avenue Bois (woods) since it is anchored on its Southwest end by Bois de Boulogne . During the occupation, it quickly became knows as either Avenue Boch (Boch was a derogatory nickname for the German occupiers) and as the Avenue of the Gestapo. Avenue Foch literally, was named for Marshal Foch, the French General who had taken the German surrender in the clearing outside of Compiègne in 1918.
19 Avenue De Foch once belonging to Baron Edmond De Rothschild, now occupied by Helmut Knochen (aka Mr. Bones), SS-Schutzstaffel, Geheime Statspolizei, (Secret State Police: Gestapo) and his men. Knochen had a reputation of viciousness and brutality. He was previously known for the “Venlo Incident.”
19 Avenue Foch, June 2017 Office and residences of Helmut Knochen, commander of the Sicherheitspolizei (Security Police) and Sicherheitsdienst in Paris during the Nazi occupation.
31 Avenue Foch, (former home of Madame Alexandrine de Rothschild, a family of bankers) now occupied by Theodore Dannecker, Head of the Gestapo’s Jewish Affairs, colleague to Knochen. Dannecker had a vicious hate for the Jews. From this address, Dannecker would heartlessly send 1000’s of French men and women to the death camp at Auschwitz Concentration Camp.
**A note about the Rothschild family: The Rothschilds are a wealthy European family of bankers dating back to the 16th century. As far as the war is concerned, Philippe de Rothschild (unknown relationship to the Rothschilds who resided at Avenue de Foch, but likely related) was fighting the Germans with the Free French. The Gestapo had arrested his estranged wife (who ironically was not Jewish at all and was now separated from her Jewish husband.) In 1941 she was deported to Ravensbrück concentration camp where she reportedly was thrown into the “oven alive,” after being beaten repeatedly —the cause of her death remains unresolved-Elizabeth Pelletier de Chamber-was the only known member of the Rothschild family, albeit married into that family, to die in the Holocaust. She wasn’t Jewish. But she bore the name Rothschild.
31 Avenue Foch , Also in June, 1942, Adolf Eichmann, SS-Obersturmbannführer, author of “The Final Solution,” the Nazi plan for the extermination of the Jewish nation, arrived in Paris and set up office at this same location.
41 Avenue Foch, Comtesse Hildegard de Seckendorff, code named Mercedes, Knochen’s informer.
70 Avenue Foch , by the summer of 1943 Knochen’s offices had expanded to this address.
72 Avenue Foch, Gestapo HQ, a 5 story Villa, taken by Helmut Knochen.
74 Avenue Foch , occupied by the KRIPO German Police.
76 Avenue Foch , occupied by Hermann Bickler, “Brutal Alsatian,” in charge of the French unit (police) responsible for tracking down resistance fighters.
84 Avenue Foch, occupied by Hans Kieffer , SS Sturmbannführer, SS Counter Intelligence for The Sieherheitsdienst, “Spy Catcher,” (“Avenue of Spies” Quote by Alex Kershaw)
88 Avenue Foch , previously owned by Louis Renault (the car manufacturer) now used by Knochen’s men.
The Good Guys on Avenue Foch
11 Avenue Foch , Ground floor One of the more modest homes on Avenue Foch was inhabited by American Sumner Jackson, his Swiss French wife Charlotte (“Toquette”) and their son Phillip Jackson.
Sumner Jackson was the chief of surgery at the American Hospital of Paris at Neuilly-sur-Seine, a suburb just west of Paris. Sumner was already a decorated WWI hero from the 1st world war. He had worked in primitive tents set up as hospitals at the front lines in the worst of conditions. Now, once again, faced with major involvement in yet another world war, both times-amazingly enough, even before his own country had joined the effort, he was smuggling downed allied pilots and other resistors through the hospital to freedom and back into the fight. His wife Toquette was an active French Resistor, recruited by Frances Deloche de Noyelle, into the network “Goélette. Their home at number 11 was a “drop box” for the resistance. Toquette was code name Colombiers. This is how she fought the war. And her husband Sumner, did so through the hospital. And their only child Phillip was also involved.
Another note on Dr. Jackson: According to all who knew him, he was one of the most humble men among his profession. Quiet and reserved, he never liked being in the spotlight. But in view of his gigantic contribution to the freedoms of his countrymen in two World Wars, it would seem fitting to behold a grand statue matching such grand stature as his. On the other hand it comes as little surprise that the man who embodied so much humility is memorialized in no grand way, but rather with an obscure small plaque at the American Hospital in Paris, which itself in only a few lines, doesn’t begin to tell the story of his life and generosity. Furthermore, even his name and that of his son’s are spelled wrong on the memorial wall at the Camp de Royalieu internment museum in Compiègne. I think he would be amused by this fact and not one bit offended. I am thankful for literary giants like Alex Kershaw and Charles Glass who have so eloquently shared his story with the likes of me, one soul cast among millions, whose freedom has been largely gained by his great loss.
55 Avenue Foch , home of Pierre Wertheimer who fled to the United States prior to the occupation.
Wertheimer was 80% holder of Chanel Perfume dynasty. He put his business and holdings into the hands of an Aryan business partner, prior to leaving Paris. Coco Chanel did all she could to exploit the Nazi occupation in her favor by attempting to strip the Wertheimer brothers of their partnership. She was not successful in that endeavor, thanks to Wertheimer’s prudent decision prior to leaving Paris. But suffice to say, she was, for the remainder of the war, a collaborator in any way that benefited Coco Chanel.
58 Avenue Foch , Banker Nelson D. Jay, President of the American Hospital board of Governors. He also fled Paris prior to the occupation.
75 Avenue Foch Alfred Lindon who also fled to safety prior to the occupation, left 63 privately owned precious paintings at the Chase Bank in Paris. It’s uncertain what became of those paintings. The Nazis both looted famous and precious works of art as well as destroyed them.
May 26 – June 4 1940 The Battle of Dunkirk
September 1940 Battle of Britain (Recommended Reading by Alex Kershaw: “The Few.”) Kershaw’s book is about “a few” American pilots who smuggled themselves into Europe and then to England, violating FDR’s neutrality law forbidding Americans to fight in the European conflict. These pilots joined the RAF in spite of that. They saw a need and recognized they had something to offer, their ability to fly airplanes, in this gallant fight for freedom. Some of them were crop dusters.
September 7, 1940 – May 1941 German Blitzkrieg of London.
September 27, 1940 the Axis powers are formed as Germany, Italy, and Japan become allies with the signing of the Tripartite Pact in Berlin.
October 24, 1940 Marshal Philippe Pétain and Hitler met at Montorie-sr-le-Loir . “And as London suffered the worst of the Blitz (Savage bombing of London which left 1000’s dead and even more homeless) Pétain was photographed shaking Hitler’s hand.” Pétain’s declaration: “It is with honor, and in order to maintain French unity, a unity which has lasted ten centuries, and in the framework of the constructive activity of the new European order, that today I am embarking on the path of collaboration.” (Alex Kershaw’s “Avenue of Spies,” page 44)
December 23, 1940 Jacques Bonsergent was the 1st occupied Parisienne to face Nazi firing squad. His crime? Jostling a soldier at Gare-Saint-Lazare. (a metro train station) The Germans were definitely now making a statement about who was in control of the City of Lights.
June 22 1941 Operation Barbarossa commenced. Germany invaded the Soviet Union. The invasion broke the non-aggression pact signed by Germany and the Soviet Union in 1939. Up until this point, Russia (Stalin) was invested in a neutrality pact with Hitler, Stalin himself eager for the conquest of Europe along side Hitler. Indeed in their pre-war strategizing, Hitler and Stalin had already decided how they would divvy up conquered Europe between them. Now, boom, just like that, this hellacious, volatile, hot bed of human abuse, cruel and vehement Soviet Union, became an Ally to the UK, rather than an enemy. But they were far from “friends.” At the time it was a stroke of luck. Heaven knows how Britain (and later) the US and their allies would have been frightfully pressed fighting on so many fronts, and perhaps the war lost, had Hitler not reneged on his pact with the Russians. But yet, this newfound alliance with Russia…..was rather like consorting with the devil. It was at the time a necessary evil.
May 14, 1941 , Jewish men between the ages of 18 and 40 were called to present themselves to the Paris police. They were summoned using a green postcard, for which this wave of arrests became known as the “billet vert.” More than 5,000 Paris Jews were taken into custody in this first wave of arrests. After their arrest, the prisoners were sent to the detention camps of Pithiviers and Beaune-la-Rolande. Many of these Jews were later released only to be arrested again (and deported) in 1942.
August 20, 1941 about 3,000 Jews were arrested in a sudden operation, undertaken by a joint French-German collaboration. These arrests were enabled by detailed lists of names prepared by French police officers. Many of these Jews were later released only to be arrested again (and deported) in 1942.
August 21,1941 At Barbes Rochechouart metro station, The first German soldier is killed in occupied Paris by 22-year-old member of the French Resistance named Georges Pierre. Beginning on August
Inside the station at Barbes Rochechouart metro, 2017.. Katie Ann at the entrance of Barbes Rochechouart metro station, June 2017
28 and over the next several days, French judges sent eleven innocent Frenchmen to their deaths as a response to this incident. French Vichy Marshal Pétain actually offered for the Vichy to have them publicly guillotined, but the Germans decided to do it in private in an effort to avoid further reprisals.
Fall, 1941 Hundreds of Jewish men were arrested and sent to the Compiègne internment camp, north-east of Paris. In the months that followed they were also released.
October 2, 1941 French collaborators bombed 3 Jewish synagogues in Paris: 330 Rue Notre-Dame de Nazareth Rue de la Victoire and also one at 230 Rue des Tourelles , orchestrated by Helmut Knochen.
October – December 1941 The French Resistance steps up and continues its resistance activities in Paris with multiple saboteur activities.
November – December 1941 Knochen is removed from Paris by the Prussian Wehrmacht General Otto von Stülpnagel, the military commandant of Paris ostensibly for his (Knochen’s) orchestration of the Jewish synagogue bombings and the ensuing chaos.
December 7, 1941 Pearl Harbor is attacked by the Japanese, waking a sleeping Giant. The United states is now drawn inescapably into the war, both theaters, Pacific and European.
December 18, 1941 340 Americans living in Paris are interned in a German prison facility in Compiègne, France.
December 1941 American Sylvia Beach’s book shop, “Shakespeare and Company” at 12 rue de l’Odéon, was the place to go for American Expat writers in the early 20th century. But under the cover of darkness, Sylvia closed her shop down before the Nazis came knocking at her door. Her business boasted the company of “great expat writers of the time—Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Eliot, Pound—including some of the century’s most compelling female voices: Djuna Barnes, Gertrude Stein, Janet Flanner, Kay Boyle, and Mina Loy.” (Shakespeareandcompany.com)
Original location of Sylvia Beach’s book store Shakespeare and Company at 12 Rue de l’Odéon.. Today it is a clothing boutique. If walls could talk. Plaque which is today, above the address at Rue de l’Odéon, honoring Sylvia Beach’s publishing of James Joyce’s “Ulysses.” He couldn’t get it published in America, so he brought it to Sylvia in Paris.
French author André Chamson said that Beach “did more to link England, the United States, Ireland, and France than four great ambassadors combined.” Sylvia was arrested and held at the Garden d’Acclimation at the Bois de Boulogne before being sent to an internment camp in Vittel France. She was transported there in September, 1942 and released in March, 1943.
The current “Shakespeare and Company” bookstore located at 37 rue de la Bûcherie, opened in 1951 by George Whitman and given its new name in 1964 in honor of Sylvia Beach. Le Jardin d’Acclimatation in Bois de Boulogne, Paris, 2017 Sylvia Beach was interned here by the Nazis before being sent to Vittel, France.
1941-1944 The Germans (with the help of Vichy French Government) had established four primary internment camps just outside of Paris where they interned Americans, political dissidents, resisters, and Jews. They were typically housed according to their categorical label. The Jews, unless freed for some obscure reason from the internment camp, were typically always transferred from the camp to concentration camps where survival chances were even slimmer. Those 4 camps were: Compiègne, 50 miles NE of Paris Drancy La Cité de la Muette (Operated by the Vichy until January, 1943) near St. Denis just north of Paris centre and Pithiviers Beaune-la-Rolande and Fresnes. This is a great website for the Drancy Internment Camp: http://drancy.memorialdelashoah.org/en/the-drancy-memorial/presentation/the-history-of-the-cite-de-la-muette.html
Gallery for Additional photos Camp de Royalieu Compiègne, France
March 27, 1942 The first 1000 Jews are deported from French soil at Compiègne camp, Sector C, to Auschwitz Birkenau.
May 5, 1942 Knochen returns to Paris donning the German Iron Cross. He was brought back to Paris by his equally ruthless boss, Reinhard Heydrich, Chief of Reich Main Security Office (RSHA), SS Standartenführer -SS Commander of Gestapo and Criminal Police, KRIPO, nicknamed by Hitler, “The Man with the Iron Heart.”
Simultaneously with Knochen’s reinstatement to Paris, his nemesis, General Otto von Stülpnagel, was removed from his Wehrmacht military command in Paris and replaced by his cousin, General Carl-Heinrich von Stülpnagel.
May 11, 1942 Heydrich leaves Paris
May 27, 1942 Heydrich is killed by 2 Czechoslovakian British trained SOE agents in Prague.
Spring 1942 SS General Karl Otberg and Knochen are fully in charge of Paris Gestapo. Otberg is known as “The Butcher of Paris,” (See “Americans in Paris: Life and Death Under Nazi Occupation,” by Charles Glass.)
June, 1942 These Nazi commanders and the Vichy French government begin plotting the deportation of the Jews from Paris. They initially propagated “A Jewish State in the East,” but assuredly sent them to their deaths. Pierre Laval, Prime Minister of Vichy France: “It would be no dishonor to me if I were to send the countless number of foreign Jews who are in France to this state one day.”
July 4, 1942 Danneker and Knochen in a meeting, decide that René Bousquet, Secretary General to the Vichy and his gendarmes would be responsible for gathering the Jews up, thinking perhaps it would go better for their own countrymen to oust them from their homes, rip them from their children, transport them to internment camps, and then deport them to concentration camps. Their sick and distorted thinking: Better the French do this to the French, then the Germans undertake it and suffer even more resistance.
July 4, 1942 In a meeting later that same day between Danneker and French Prime Minister Pierre Laval, Laval actually recommends to have the children be deported along with their families. Danneker was thrilled with this unprompted offer from Prime Minister Laval.
July 16 – July 17, 1942
Vel’ d’Hiv Monument, Quai de Grenelle, “The Great Round Up,” 2017.
The Grand Raffle (The Great Round Up)
In a relatively short amount of time, 13,152 Jews, including more than 4000 children were herded into the Vélodrome d’hiver (Bicycle Sports Stadium) located at Blvd de Grenelle and Rue Nélaton (Memorial located at the wall near the subway station Bir-Hakeim very near the Eiffel Tower.) The Vélodrome d’hiver was an indoor bicycle track. The Jews were held there in deplorable conditions-no plumbing, scraps of bread for food, with little water- for an average of five days before being deported to concentration camps, most of them to Auschwitz Birkenau. Less than 4% of this group of Jews returned from the concentration camps, and none of those children. The youngest recorded age in the Great Roundup was 18 months old. The French catholic church made a rather belated appeal to Pierre Laval to spare the children. His blunt, cruel reply: “The children must go.” By the end of July, over 14,000 Jews had been deported. Not until 1995 did the French President at that time Jacques Chirac, admit and apologize for French complicity in this tragedy.
At the Bir-Hakeim Metro station is the Grand Raffel Memorial and park (The Great Roundup) 16-17 July 1942. Located at Blvd de Grenelle and the rue Nélaton in the 15th arrondissement of Paris, walking distance to the Eiffel Tower.
By 1942 if not earlier in the occupation, you could no longer tell the difference between a Vichy government collaborator and a Nazi.
September 24, 1942 Sumner Jackson was arrested, not for his yet undetected resistance activities smuggling the allied pilots out of Paris, but rather because he was an American. He was interned at Compiègne-Royallieu, Frontstalag 122B Sector B. Nearby in Sector C was the internment barracks for Jewish prisoners.
October, 1942 General de Chambrun secures Jackson’s release from Compiègne. Sumner returns to his clandestine activities as well as his medical profession at the American Hospital in Paris. His wife and son are both relieved. The Jacksons were very secretive. (Who wasn’t?) There was no trusting de Chambrun with knowledge of their resistance activities. He (de Chambrun) was too aligned with the Vichy government. As were de Chambrun’s son and daughter-in-law, René and Josée (Laval) de Chambrun.
November 1942 Allied Forces invade Vichy controlled Northern Africa.
November 11, 1942 The Germans occupy Vichy, France. Nowthe delusional world of freedom that the collaborating Vichy government had been enjoying up to this point, was clearly hampered.
January 1943, The French Vichy, now at an all time moral low, established their own para military force to be used against their own country men, called the Milice. It was headed up by Joseph Darnand. Darnand, a deportation expert himself, was the organization’s de facto leader. He, in fact, was a puppet of the true leader of the vicious Milice, Pierre Laval, the French Prime Minister. The Milice was merciless and vicious. The Milice’s most famous victim was Politician Georges Mandel. Mandel was Churchill’s first choice for the voice of the French resistance over Charles de Gualle. But Mandel, a Jew, refused to leave France on the pretense that it would appear he was a coward and that his efforts were best served in France, not England. The Vichy are also now forced to hand over operation of the Drancy Internment Camp completely to the Nazis.
February 2, 1943 The Germans were defeated by the Russians at Stalingrad.
September 23, 1943 Gestapo sets up yet another HQ and Gestapo torture/interrogation center at 11 Rue des Saussaies in Paris.
1942- August, 1944 The “Nazi Triangle” as it was called (“Avenue of Spies” quote by Alex Kershaw) consisted of a trifecta of torture chambers, these in addition to the torture that went on at the offices on Avenue Foch. These other three were at 5 Rue Mallet-Stevens, 93 Rue Lauriston, and 180 Rue de la Pompe, The address at 180 Rue de la Pompe was mere blocks from Phillip Jackson’s high school at number 106 Rue de la Pompe.
Phillip Jackson’s high school, Lycée Janson de Sailly, 106 Rue de La Pompe, 1880’s-Present
180 Rue de la Pompe was also previously inhabited by Nazi and Knochen’s top informer Comtesse Von Seckendorrff. She later moved her place of residence to the luxurious address of 41 Avenue Foch. Then, 180 Ave de la Pompe was expropriated by the Nazi Berger Group, headed up by Friedrich Berger, veteran of the Abwehr, working for the Gestapo on Avenue Foch. He actually had three equally sadistic women working for him as well in his torture house. They included a set of sisters who were also his mistresses, as well as a female Iranian taxi driver. These women were as lethal and cruel as their boss. The interesting note about 93 Rue Lauriston, is that this torture house was operated by Frenchman Henri Lafont, (born Henri Chamberlin) a notorious and violent gangster sprung from his French prison by Helmut Knochen, to be recruited to work in Nazi’s brutal attack on Paris citizens and her resistors. Lafont, a loser, by every definition, a self-serving ass, and an expert in criminal enterprise and the black market, espoused the perfect resume for the work Helmut Knochen had in mind.
180 Rue de La Pompe, 2017, site of Berger’s Gestapo Torture chamber during the Occupation and just blocks from Phillip Jackson’s school
March 1944 , Theodor Dannecker dispatched to Hungary to destroy Europe’s remaining Jewish ghettos.
April 21, 1944 The Porte de la Chapelle marshaling yards in Paris were hit by allied bombing. Approximately 600 people were killed and over 30 wounded. An unfortunate fallout of Allied bombing in WWII was the unintentional injury and deaths of civilians. It’s a painful truth about a painful war.
May 24, 1944 The entire Jackson Family, Sumner, Toquette, and their son Phillip are arrested by the French Milice, this time for suspected resistance activities. The family was taken out of Paris, and the men separated from Toquette at the Château des Brosses, near Vichy. This was the French Milice’s main prison.
June 6, 1944 The Allies land in Normandy, France, code name Operation Overlord. The French invasion had begun.
June 10, 1944 “Atrocity followed atrocity as the SS struck back indiscriminately at any community thought to have harbored terrorists. On this day, men belonging to the SS Der Fürher regiment entered the small town of Oradour-sur-Glane and killed 642 people in one of the most atrocious crimes committed in France 207 of the victims were children.” (“Avenue of Spies,” Pg. 129 Alex Kershaw)
June 10-11, 1944 The Jacksons are moved to the Hôtel du Portugal, the Gestapo’s torture house in Vichy, France located on the Boulevard des Étas-Unis, (United States Blvd.)
July 7, 1944 Phillip and his father Sumner were transported to the Camp de Royalieu internment camp at Compiègne where Sumner had been interned before. This time though they were held in a different place, reserved for enemies of the 3rd Reich.
July 15, 1944 Toquette is taken to a prison in Romainville.
July 15, 1944 Phillip and Sumner are deported to a labor concentration camp in Neuengamme, Germany, 10 miles SE of Hamburg.
July 20, 1944 Attempted assassination by Von Stauffenberg of Hitler at the Wolf’s Lair. The attempt fails, but before Stauffenberg is aware of that, he calls General Carl-Heinrich von Stülpnagel in Paris and tells him, he was in fact successful with the assassination, and orders the General to carry out his part of the coup in Paris. Stülpnagel ordered the arrest of 1200 SS and Gestapo men in Paris, including Knochen and Otberg and all their henchmen. “Then came a sound never to be forgotten,” (Alex Kershaw) and that was the sound of Hitler’s menacing voice on a radio in hotels and public places announcing the failed attempt on his life. And just like that the Coup was over. The Wehrmacht Generals in Paris were forced to stand down by the likes of Knochen and Otberg, and the Nazi reign of terror continued. The only reason the German Wehrmacht leaders were not executed was that Knochen and Otberg both agreed this would be too distracting from their task at hand. Given the push of the Allies toward Paris, they felt more than ever, the need to continue to hunt down resistors in Paris and those opposing the Nazi’s horrific goals.
August 10, 1944, A petite 5’3” 23 year old British SOE agent Violette Szabo, (mother of a two-year old girl) is arrested and tortured by the Gestapo at 84 Avenue Foch. She never. gave. up. one. piece. of. information. And I wonder “what would I have done? What would my daughter had done? Szabo ended up at Ravensbrück with Toquette Jackson and a host of other women resistors. Sadly on February 5, 1945 Szabo was executed with two other young women, also SOE agents, Lilian Rolfe and Denise Bloch.
August 17, 1944 The Bois de Boulogne murder of 35 resistance fighters who walked into a trap and were gunned down by Friedrich Berger and his gang of killers. In a clearing near the fortress in Mt. Valérien overlooking Bois de Boulogne, there is a site now preserved as a monument to resistant fighters who were shot there.
Grand Cascade Bois de Boulogne, June 2017
August 17, 1944 Pierre Taittinger, who had become President of the Municipal Council of Paris in 1943-1944, meets with von Dietrich von Choltitz, the city’s now German military governor, a Prussian General himself who had been ordered by Hitler, given the onslaught of the Allies landing at Normandy and on their way to liberate Paris, “to crush all attempts at an uprising.” (“Avenue of Spies,” Alex Kershaw, Pg. 162) **After the liberation of Paris, the Drancy internment camp was used to detain suspected collaborators, among them, writer-director Sacha Guitry, opera singer Germaine Lubin as well as Pierre Taittinger.
August 18, 1944 Knochen leaves Paris along with SS general Karl Otberg and all of their loyal Nazi subordinates. Ironically, later that day, Knochen and the Gestapo officers arrived at Vittel for their first retreat destination, the same town where Sylvia Beach had been interned for being an American in Paris.
August 20, 1944 Toquette is moved from the Romainville prison and eventually arrives and is imprisoned at Ravensbrück Germany concentration camp.
August 22, 1944 Hitler orders General von Choltitz, “Paris is to be transformed into a pile of rubble.” Neither General von Choltitz or General Hans Speidel, whose office had received and transmitted Hitler’s order, “had any intention of being remembered by history as the destroyer of Paris.” (“Avenue of Spies,” Alex Kershaw, Pg. 166) Both of them had only recently been posted in Paris. However, future claims on the part of Choltitz that he singularly saved Paris from burning are controversial. It would seem highly unlikely that he could have done so given the large presence of the Americans and French resistance in the city in August 1944, and the sudden lack of the resources or German military personnel to execute such an order. The Nazis were in full retreat from Paris at the time, and other remaining Germans were surrendering to the Allies in droves. It is likely Choltitz capitalized on the moment to show himself in the most positive light possible to his Allied captors, thereby possibly protecting himself from war crimes. And indeed he was never prosecuted for war crimes.
August 1944 Knochen was demoted to Private by Heinrich Himmler, Supreme Commanding Head of the SS and moved to the Russian front.
August 24, 1944 The Liberation of Paris: The French Resistance at 0900, soon followed by their American Allies of 2nd Armored Division, liberated Paris, France. Later in the evening, both the Tri color French Flag and the Stars and Stripes were raised side by side over the Eiffel Tower.
October 21, 1944 Aachen Germany is the first German city to fall into Allied hands. Aachen is a beautiful city to visit and is located a mere 30 to 45 minute drive from our previous home in Schierwaldenrath GE, where we lived for 4 years.
April 21, 1945 Sumner and Phillip along with some 15,000 other Neuengamme inmates were transported to the Baltic port of Lübeck, to be placed on prison ships. They are both suffering from malnutrition, beatings, and exhaustion. They arrived at Lübeck and within a day or so were placed on the prison ship “Thielbek,” crammed into the hold of the ship with the other beaten down, many of them dying, prisoners. Dr. Jackson continued to treat his patients. His son worked with him. They refused to leave the patients in the hold when it was announced that all French-speaking prisoners in the hold could go up to the deck. Michael Hollard, a resistor prisoner on the ship, referred to his friend, Sumner Jackson, as “the devoted American.”
April 25, 1945 Toquette is released from Ravensbrück along with other French female prisoners as a result of the negotiations between the Swedish chairman of the Red Cross, Count Folke Bernadotte, and Heinrich Himmler, Chief of German Police in the Reich Ministry of the Interior and a leading Nazi responsible for helping to orchestrate the Holocaust. Toquette is literally saved in the 11th hour. She was transported to Malmö, Switzerland and began her long road to convalescence. Of the 550 women departed with her from France on August 15, 1944, she was only one of 17 who survived.
**Toquette Jackson continued to suffer from health issues related to her imprisonment and hard labor the remainder of her life. Sadly she lost her beloved husband in the conflict. She died in 1965-the same year I was born. It is strange to think that partly because of her courage in that war, that in the very year she died, I was born into freedom.
May 3, 1945 Sumner Jackson, along with his son Phillip still on the prison boat, set sail. The prison boats are subsequently shot by fighter pilots of the RAF, not realizing that the allied prisoners are inside. Phillip survives the ordeal. His father does not. Sumner Jackson was seen by another prison floating in the water on a piece of wood. Later he was presumed drowned. Phillip was herded into the city of Neustadt with the survivors. Many of the prisoners were shot dead by the SS on the shore as they escaped the sinking prison ships. Phillip was fortunate enough to be only one of 50 people out of 2750 on the Thielbek that survived. The next day Neustadt was liberated by the British.
**Phillip Jackson, immediately the day of his liberation, began serving in the British military as a translator. It would be a year before he was reunited with his mother. Phillip Jackson recently died in December, 2016 at his residence at the Hôtel des Invalides in Paris, France.
Plaque in The American Hospital of Paris memorializing Sumner Jackson.
May 7,1945 At SHAEF headquarters in Reims, France, the Chief-of-Staff of the German Armed Forces High Command, General Alfred Jodl, signed the unconditional surrender of all of Germany to the Allied forces. The war officially ended on May 8, 1945.
Other Notable Addresses During the Occupation and Why?
85-87 Rue du Baubourg St. Martin, Lévitan, a well known Jewish furniture store was requisitioned in July 1943 for sorting items stolen by the Nazis and intended for Nazi use either in their requisitioned homes and offices in Paris or else to be sent to destinations in Germany.
Pierre La Chaise Cemetery The burial places of André Wang and Georges Dudocks, both members of the resistance.
Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris Photo taken in February 2013
79 Avenue Victor Hugo : Otto Burearu: A Nazi Office for the censoring of Books, including Shakespeare.
129 Avenue de Malakoff, Salon and home of American Florence Gould, a favorite of Knochen for Thursday afternoon’s soirée. Gould was a French divorcee and dancer who caught the eye of Frank Jay Gould. Her husband spent World War II on the Riviera, but she “quickly returned to Paris, and in no time was cultivating Wehrmacht officers and Gestapo officials,” according to Frederic Spotts’s book, “The Shameful Peace: How French Artists and Intellectuals Survived the Nazi Occupation.”
122 Rue de Provence : One of the most popular wartime brothels, particularly for the Nazis in occupied Paris during the war.
58 Rue de Vaugirard, overlooking Luxembourg Gardens:
Home of General Albert de Chambrun (direct descendent of the Marquis de Lafayette) and his wife Clara Longworth, an American.
58 Rue de Vaugirard, 2017. During the Occupation: Home of General Albert de Chambrun and his wife Clara Longworth de Chambrun, an American.
(Clara’s brother, Nicholas Longworth was married to Alice Roosevelt, only child of Teddy Roosevelt) General de Chambrun had fought, by all accounts gallantly, for his country in WWI. His American wife, Clara, ran the American Library in Paris and kept it open during the occupation. This was both astounding and suspect, considering the Nazi’s book censorship at the time. After all, Sylvia Beach was also an American. Yet, her book shop Shakespeare and Company was doomed from the start, and she was interned at an American internment camp. The de Chambrun’s only child René de Chambrun was collaborator Marshal Pétain’s Godson and lo and behold, married to Josée (Laval) de Chambrun, daughter of Collaboration King himself, Pierre Laval, Prime Minister of France. One has a love hate relationship with General Albert and Clara de Chambrun. Chambrun was thought by many to be a collaborator. But he also was instrumental in keeping the American hospital open and out of Nazi hands. He also tried very hard but failed to gain the release of the Jacksons after they were all arrested in May, 1944. On the other hand, he was friends with a brood of French aristocrat who were decidedly collaborators and the enemy who occupied his city. Clara’s biggest crime undoubtedly was her ignorance. Her stubborn defense and adoration of both Pétain and Laval speak volumes about her inability to take her head out of the aristocratic sand where she had it embedded. The de Chambrun’s only child, son René and his wife Josée were even more suspect for their collaboration activities, and in particular Josée. She reveled in high society living and spared no expense indulging that life even during the occupation as she hobnobbed with both the Aryan (Non Jewish) French aristocrats as well as the top brass of the Nazi occupiers. She was her father Pierre Laval’s right hand woman. René de Chambrun was an attorney who represented many questionable characters, the cast of which included Coco Chanel. It should be noted also that if you want to defend this family’s honor, then take into hearty consideration 2 important factors: 1 that while most of Paris was literally dying from starvation or from exposure to the elements, and while other Parisiennes were being tortured and deported, and killed for their resistance activities against the Nazis, this family enjoyed relative calm, plenty of food, and no shortage of parties attended with high-ranking members of the Nazi establishment including the Nazi Ambassador Otto Abetz. And 2 There is nothing, no evidence in the annals of history, revealing this family intervening on behalf of a single Jew being deported to death camps. And why would they? Their beloved Pétain and Laval were instrumental in the support and success of those murders. Yes, when trying to decide if the de Chambruns were collaborators, there is much to consider.
1 Rue de Traktir, (about 100 yards from the Jacksons’ home at 11 Avenue de Foch) Home of Francis Deloche de Noyelle, the young 23-year-old who recruited Toquette Jackson into the French resistance work, the Goélette network, just one circuit under the umbrella of the broader resistance organization, The BCRA (Central Bureau of Intelligence and Operation)
1 Rue de Traktir, 2017. During the occupation, home of Francis Deloche de Noyelle, resistance fighter.
OTHER NOTABLE QUOTES:
“As long as Gestapo is carrying out the will of leadership (Hitler) it is acting legally,” Werner Best, Knochen’s colleague.
“That college is a nest of assassins! It should be torched. The Gestapo is much too soft on these types. I looked into the case of this director and you can rest assured he won’t be released.” Otto Abetz, Nazi Ambassador to Paris during the occupation, Re: A Paris University professor who had refused to hand over names of students thought to have joined the resistance.
“Indignation can move mountains,” Germaine Tillion, Ravensbrûck survivor, on women’s role in the French Resistance.
“Je ne regrette rien.” (I regret nothing,) Toquette Jackson in a statement she made years after the war.
“I want you to know that I never ceased to be in love with Sumner, for whom I had forever a great admiration and respect. He has such big qualities,” Toquette Jackson, in a letter she penned to Summer’s sister after the war.
“We were lucky to still have each other….I was a kid until I was arrested and spent time in a concentration camp, which made me into an adult, but I had no adolescence. I had skipped from child to adult.” Phillip Jackson on losing his father in the war, but surviving with his mother.
“To die is nothing. What is sad is to die without seeing the liberation of the country and the restoration of the Republic,” Georges Mandel, French Jewish politician and leader in the Resistance, just before he was murdered by the French Milice.
“We’ll all be hanged for what the Milice have done. I don’t mind hanging but not with Darnand,” Josée (Laval) de Chambrun to her father, Pierre Laval, with regard to the French Milice and Milice commander Joseph Darnand, and their viciousness as she speculated on what might happen to collaborators after the war.
What happened to the Collaborators?
General Albert and Clara Chambrun were arrested immediately following the liberation of Paris. Essentially their release was only secured by Chambrun’s brother, Pierre Chambrun, who ironically in June, 1940 had been the only one of 84 Parliamentarians who voted against Pétain and the forming of the Vichy government. They were removed from their leadership roles at the American Hospital and the American Library respectively and maintained a low profile for a long time in fear for their safety.
René and José (Laval) Chambrun, assumed false identities and hid with wealthy friends in the country. Later they fled Paris all together until they felt it safe to return. Ironic isn’t it?
Initially on August 17, 1944 just before Paris was liberated, Knochen had both Laval and Pétain arrested and moved to Germany. Ironically, the collaborators finally fell victim to their occupiers for whom they had towed the line at the expense of thousands of French. However, their captivity evolved into somewhat of a hopeful and contrived escape from the new French Government. But, By April, 1945 they were retrieved by the Americans from Germany and turned over to the presiding French Government to stand trial for treason.
At the end of Philippe Pétain’s trial, he was convicted on all charges. The jury sentenced him to death. Due to his advanced age, the Court asked that the sentence not be carried out. General Charles De Gaulle, who was President of the Provisional Government of the French Republic at the end of the war, commuted the sentence to life imprisonment due to Pétain’s age and his military contributions in World War I. After his conviction, the Court stripped Pétain of all military ranks and honors save for the one distinction of Marshal of France.
Pierre Laval was tried and was found guilty and killed by firing squad in October, 1945.
Henri Lafont was picked up on a farm just outside of Paris. On December 27, 1944 in a prison cell, he told his lawyer, “I don’t regret a thing. I’ve had four years surrounded by orchids, dahlias, and Bentleys-that was worth it. I have lived ten lives so I can afford to lose one. Tell my son not to go to night clubs…” He was killed by firing squad that same day with a cigarette between his lips as usual.
Joseph Darnand, head of the French Milice was killed by firing squad for treason.
René Bousquet was head of the French Police during the Paris occupation and responsible for helping to orchestrate the Great Roundup of Jews on July 16, 1942, the vast majority of which never returned from Auschwitz concentration camp. Bousquet was (surprise surprise) an old friend of René de Chambrun. He somehow escaped justice in the immediate aftermath of the war. Bousquet had many other high-ranking friends including François Mitterrand who was a member of the Vichy government himself and later President of France, (Socialist party,) from 1981-1995. Many collaborators did indeed escape justice. But according to Alex Kershaw’s report in “Avenue of Spies,” pg. 222, regarding Bousquet, “He was sensationally killed in 1993, just weeks before he was finally to be tried for war crimes, by a 51-year-old man who then pled not guilty to murder, arguing that Bousquet had so obviously deserved to die.”
By the end of the war, 3.5 million denunciations had been made by the French against the French. (“Les Parisiennes”, Pg. 157, Anne Sebba) I thought about making a list of “What happened to the Nazi leaders of Occupied France?” but first of all, I think any rendering of information should not tell the reader everything there is to know about a topic. It should tell them as much as necessary to ignite in them an interest to further research such facts on their own so that they might also be learners, not just readers. And also given the two groups, it is the collaborators, not the occupiers, with whom I identify the most. Of course, as free citizens ourselves, there is a prima facie case for most of us to identify with the resistors. But in the words of Anna Sebba, in her book, Les Parisiennes: How the Women of Paris Lived, Loved, and Died Under Nazi Occupation, “For some women, the choice involved little more than a decision to wear an outrageous hat or to walk out of a restaurant. For others it involved making a deal or a sexual exchange. But surviving in occupied Paris, for many women, demanded some sort of choice, some sort of decision, about how would they would accommodate living with the Germans. It is not for the rest of us to judge but, with imagination, we can begin to try to understand.”
I would hope that I would have the courage of Violet Szabo, Toquette or Sumner Jackson, or any number of mothers, daughters, wives, husbands, or fathers who gave their all to protect their children and their countries for the cause of freedom. Perhaps we don’t know for certain what our reaction would be when faced with torture or starvation, but it is still a relevant question today for all of us to ask ourselves, “What would I have done?” And “What would I do?” The answer is not clear until we are surely tested in that way. But here’s a thought: Nowadays in the relative comfort and peace of our American homes, we are tested other ways with this same question. When my children act a certain way that is unloving, hateful, cowardly, what shall I do? When I am faced with an opportunity to forgive or to be bitter, what shall I do? When my child is faced with the opportunity to take a stand for justice, what will their decision be based on the model I have shown them? What will their decision be indeed? What will I do in any number of relationship situations where I have the opportunity to exert influence, assistance, or hope? What are our choices in those instances? If nothing else, the answer to that reveals perhaps a little about what our choices might have been had we been an American or a Frenchman in occupied Paris.
Interested in visiting Paris and seeking some unforgettable adventure of your own? Read my blog for the best detailed information on the “how to” of navigating this beautiful city. Explore either of these links:
This list of occupied Paris collaborators and their ends is a tiny tiny portion of all the information and record that is out there. Please continue to search out new facts and new stories. Remembering those, who today we literally must thank for our freedom, is a small task for us compared to the gargantuan task that they faced every single day of that tumultuous occupation. Winston Churchill’s words for the pilots of the RAF during the Great Battle of Britain, ring true here as well. “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”
**Nothing in this blog is intended to reflect the views or opinions of any person or entity other than the author of this blog.
The Vichy Regime’s Bizarre Final Months in a German Castle
France’s collaborationist Vichy government retreated en masse to a dramatic cliffside stronghold in Sigmaringen, Germany, in 1944 as the Third Reich’s fortunes on the Western Front crumbled.
(Albert Harlingue/Roger Viollet via Getty Images)
From the imposing stronghold of Sigmaringen, a toxic blend of French collaborators ran a government-in-exile.
ON THE AFTERNOON of S eptember 8, 1944, an open limousine bearing a distinguished white-haired gentleman stopped at a grand turreted castle in southwest Germany. It was none other than French war hero and head of state Marshal Henri Philippe Pétain. Despite his commanding presence at a venue fit for a king, this old soldier was facing not another victory but a humiliating retreat—together with his German captors and some of France’s most ruthless traitors. For Pétain was leader not of the French Allies fighting Hitler, but of Vichy France, the Nazi puppet regime that drew its dying breath in a collapsing Germany.
For eight bizarre months near the end of World War II, this towering palace at Sigmaringen, a sleepy burg on the river Danube, became the unlikely seat of the Vichy France government-in-exile under Marshal Pétain. Here, their days numbered, French sympathizers of Vichy desperately clung to their dwindling power and hallucinatory dreams of “recapturing” France and creating a “New Europe” under German management.
But in vain. Rather than a place of refuge, Sigmaringen turned out to be a trap for France’s wartime collaborators—an open prison whose inmates went through the motions of governing while waiting for the hangman to arrive.
France turned to lionized World War I hero Marshal Philippe Pétain to lead it after the country surrendered to Germany in June 1940. (Paul Popper/Popperfoto via Getty Images)
IN JUST SIX WEEKS during May and June 1940, the Germans defeated Allied forces to conquer France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. The 84-year-old Pétain, a former war minister and celebrated hero of World War I’s Battle of Verdun, was named French prime minister on June 16 after a cabinet crisis on whether to continue fighting the Germans or lay down arms. At this point, Pétain believed the French military was outclassed and urged his countrymen to cooperate with the Germans to prevent further bloodshed. France surrendered and was split into an occupied north run by the Germans and a “free” (unoccupied) south, based in the spa town of Vichy and administered by French collaborators. In mid-July, Pétain was also named “chief of state” of the Vichy government with the explicit approval of the Nazi invaders, who saw in the popular Pétain an ideal figurehead who would lend instant legitimacy to the puppet regime. From 1940 to 1942, Marshal Pétain wielded authoritarian power under the Germans, issuing new constitutional acts that abolished the presidency and indefinitely adjourning parliament. But by 1942, the Nazis grew impatient with the slow progress toward absolute cooperation by the French and increasingly felt the wrath of underground French Resistance fighters. To tighten their grip over the country after the Allied invasion of French North Africa, the Germans took direct control of Vichy France and cut back Pétain’s powers.
On June 6, 1944, the Allies launched the D-Day invasion of Normandy and sped toward Paris. Two months later, the Allies invaded the south of France, and German resistance crumbled on both fronts. Their control of France slipping away, the German army evacuated top French officials from Vichy in mid-August and brought them to the town of Belfort, in the French Alsace region near the German border.
The Allied advance across France was so swift, however, that the officials had to be dispatched to a new destination just two weeks later—this time across the German border to a picturesque town some 20 miles north of Lake Constance. Steeped in German history and symbolism, Sigmaringen was a stronghold of the Hohenzollern dynasty that ruled Germany for eight centuries it boasted an imposing hilltop castle ideal for exiled rulers. At Hitler’s personal request, it now became the French capital-in-exile.
The Gestapo kicked Prince Friedrich Wilhelm von Hohenzollern and his family out of the castle and installed the Vichy leaders in their place, with lesser ranks settling in the town below. These French followers of Hitler’s Germany were accompanied by their wives, mistresses, and a colorful mix of artists, intellectuals, and hangers-on. By late September 1944, a 2,000-strong French enclave had settled into this community of 5,000 souls, prompting the Gestapo to commandeer extra housing for their guests from across the Rhine.
Among the most famous of these exiles was Louis-Ferdinand Céline, a qualified physician who was better known as a brilliant but crazed novelist and fervent anti-Semite. For Céline, Sigmaringen made a perfect backdrop for a Wagnerian drama with a pinch of Hollywood glamor, and he chronicled events with his trademark grotesque humor. In his popular postwar novel, Castle to Castle, Céline described the vain rivalries among Vichy’s top brass as a “ballet of crabs” who were always on the verge of knifing one another with the dining room cutlery. At the castle, the author would appear in layers of disheveled lumber jackets, his beloved cat, Bébert, strapped to his belly in a haversack.
An eclectic array of artists and intellectuals accompanied the Vichy leaders to Sigmaringen, including Louis-Ferdinand Céline, an eccentric physician and novelist who later described the dysfunctional government-in-exile as a “ballet of crabs.” (Bridgeman Images)
AS IN A REAL CAPITAL, the Vichy government exchanged ambassadors with what was left of Germany’s allies, including the Japanese and the shreds of Mussolini’s Italian Social Republic. To keep up appearances of a fully working French state, the German embassy in Paris moved its headquarters to Sigmaringen, where it shared the premises with the editorial offices of a government newspaper, La France, and a radio channel, Ici la France!, which broadcast a steady diet of opera between bursts of propaganda.
On October 1, 1944, a host of officials inau-gurated the sham capital in a solemn ceremony at the castle gates in Sigmaringen. A unit of French militia presented arms to a flourish of drums played by German soldiers, while the Tricolor French flag was raised over the castle. Fernand de Brinon, representative to the German High Command in occupied Paris, read the opening speech. “We stand side by side with the marshal, the only legitimate head of the French state,” de Brinon intoned—even though Pétain himself was not present, having boycotted the event.
After leaving Vichy, both the marshal and prime minister Pierre Laval assumed the role of “passifs,” claiming they had been taken to Sigmaringen against their will and refusing to fulfill any official functions. Laval and Pétain loathed each other apart from fundamental differences in personality (the meticulous Pétain found Laval’s working methods slovenly), the marshal had dismissed Laval as prime minister in December 1940 because Pétain did not want to cooperate as closely with the Nazi regime as Laval demanded.
Pétain severed all formal contacts with German officials and communicated with the outside world exclusively through Dr. Bernard Ménétrel, his personal physician, adviser, and de facto bodyguard. Others in the Vichy cabinet, such as education minister Abel Bonnard, also had no intention of defending the glory of France alongside Germany in the face of certain defeat and simply went on strike.
Among the competing Vichy ministers in Sigmaringen were prime minister Pierre Laval (above) and the avidly pro-German Fernand de Brinon (below, on right), both of whom clashed with Pétain. (Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)
(Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)
THINGS HAD CHANGED A LOT since the summer of 1940, when Pétain became something of a father figure to France in the wake of the military, political, and moral collapse of its Third Republic. Initially, the avuncular marshal’s popularity was undimmed: the hit song “Maréchal, nous voilà!” (“Marshal, we are behind you”) became the de facto national anthem, and his image was everywhere. But there was no disguising the fact that Pétain had signed a humiliating armistice with the Germans and had become a willing executor of the decimation of France’s Jews and Resistance fighters while expanding his own authority toward the absolute. The Allies quickly branded the marshal a traitor, and his younger rival, Charles de Gaulle, became their negotiating partner for the future of France.
Before the war, Pétain was widely admired by French nationalists who remembered his battlefield courage in World War I and his strategic acumen later as Minister of War. After his leading role in France’s capitulation became apparent, the marshal lost the nationalists’ support but found favor with the collaborators. From 1942 onward, however, the more fanatical collaborators, or “ultra-collaborators,” accused the marshal of playing a waiting game that would cheat France of a place at the table in a “New European Order,” as they saw it, following a German victory. Under pressure from Berlin, ultra-collaborator Laval—who scored points with the Nazis by saying, in a radio broadcast, that he “wished for a German victory” to prevent Communism from spreading—replaced Pétain as prime minister in 1942. The marshal, however, officially remained chief of state until the war’s end, even after he ceased performing his duties in August 1944.
As a “prisoner,” Pétain led a privileged existence. In this cavernous castle of 300-plus rooms, amid royal tapestries and portraits of long-forgotten Hohenzollerns, Vichy’s reluctant chief occupied the palatial seventh floor (he called it “Olympus”) with his wife and aides. Unlike the French underlings in the lower town, who got by on a diet of potatoes and cabbage, the marshal dined lavishly thanks to ration cards six times the normal allowance. Every day, Pétain took long walks after lunch with an SS escort, who followed in a black Opel saloon car at a respectful distance. Pétain would pretend not to see Laval if he passed the prime minister in the courtyard, according to historians such as Henry Rousso in his seminal work, Un Château en Allemagne (A Castle in Germany).
In keeping with the hierarchy, Laval and the other Vichy ministers lodged just below Pétain on the sixth floor. With no official functions to perform, the passif Laval spent part of every morning in his blue silk–lined study, preparing his defense for the day when he would face de Gaulle’s new High Court of Justice on charges of treason. Back in 1931, Laval had been chosen Time magazine’s “Man of the Year” for his part in high-profile international debt talks with U.S. President Herbert Hoover. He must have wondered where things had gone wrong.
Pétain remained popular, especially early in the war his image appeared in public spaces all over France. Jacques Doriot (below) led the fascist French Popular Party and was a Nazi favorite to succeed Pétain.(Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)
(Roger Viollet via Getty Images)
IN THE FALL OF 1944, Pétain’s and Laval’s lack of engagement invited a putsch among Vichy’s ultra-collaborators, led by the scheming de Brinon. The first French journalist to interview Hitler after his rise to power, de Brinon was a minor aristocrat who had headed the pro-German, appeasement-oriented France-Germany Committee between the wars he still enjoyed considerable influence.
After a meeting with the Führer in September 1944, de Brinon got the green light to head a new “government commission,” a pseudo- cabinet that aimed to fill the power vacuum until Pétain’s successor was identified. Endowed with precious little power or responsibility, the commission met on the castle’s third floor. Jacques Doriot, the fanatical leader of the fascist Parti Populaire Francais (French Popular Party), had been Nazi foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop’s favorite candidate to succeed Pétain as French head of state however, with the marshal technically still in office and unwilling to endorse a Nazi-backed successor, Ribbentrop decided to buy time and have the commission work toward a regime led by Doriot. Doriot was a gifted speaker and a physically imposing figure who had fought in Stalingrad alongside the Germans, earning him an Iron Cross. “The man of the hour was neither Pétain, nor Laval, nor de Brinon,” recalled Paul Marion, a former Vichy information minister at his trial for treason in 1948. “The French star of the Reich was Jacques Doriot.”
Although Pétain disdained the commission, de Brinon eventually wrung a carefully worded statement from Pétain saying he “had no objections to Mr. de Brinon carrying out the tasks to which he had been assigned, namely concerning imprisoned [French] civilians.” (At the time, two million French lived in Germany, many in detainment and concentration camps.) De Brinon quickly packaged Pétain’s words as an endors-ement—hoping it would score points with Hitler, who believed the French would accept only Pétain or a leader sanctioned by him as legitimate—and declared himself the marshal’s rightful representative in the French government. The marshal was enraged by the deceit, but he could do little beyond forbidding de Brinon from using his name for official government business.
The ultra-collaborators of the commission jealously defended their notional turfs even as the war’s end loomed. After de Brinon, the commission’s most influential member was propaganda minister Jean Luchaire, a newspaper baron who had more than 200 staffers at his disposal to run the French media in Sigmaringen (“although 15 would have been sufficient,” he later said at his trial in Paris). Tall, blond, and elegantly dressed, a cigarette always dangling from his lips, the suave Luchaire had been the darling of the Parisian press circuit during the occupation and earned a fortune from the various pro-German publications he managed. De Brinon reportedly despised him.
Among other key commission members, labor minister Marcel Déat, founder of the pro-Nazi Party Rassemblement National Populaire (National Popular Rally) in occupied Paris in 1941, rarely showed his face in Sigmaringen, preferring to flit around war-torn Germany to hold lectures and attend conventions. The only thing allying him with de Brinon, according to a number of historians, was a mutual desire to prevent Doriot from becoming leader of the exiled French state.
Joseph Darnand was the minister for interior affairs (“except there’s no interior and no affairs,” quipped de Brinon, according to his biographer Gilbert Joseph). A decorated World War I hero, far-right activist, and SS Sturmbahnführer, in 1942 Darnand had founded the forerunner of the Milice (militia), a French version of Germany’s paramilitary SS that was just as violent. Darnand was based not in Sigmaringen but in the nearby city of Ulm, where he had assembled 10,000 militia for a last defense against the Allies.
Pétain famously shook hands with Adolf Hitler on October 24, 1940 (above), signaling the beginning of the Vichy era of cooperation and collaboration with the Germans. While some embraced it, like these young French SS recruits departing for their garrison (below), a growing number of others opted to resist the occupiers. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
(Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
IN THIS CLAUSTROPHOBIC world of Sigmaringen, the commission officials and their wives all took their meals in the Hohenzollerns’ ancient dining room, where vast windows of stained glass illuminated towering wood carvings, heavy curtains, and a cluttered, lived-in décor. At 12:30 p.m., the lunchtime gong sounded, whereupon a castle butler handed out the printed daily menu with great pomp—although the fare was consistently mediocre, according to Otto Becker, a historical archivist who keeps a collection of Sigmaringen menus from the era.
Once seated, the urbane Luchaire generally took the lead in conversations with a story meant to be witty or provocative. But the socially-minded de Brinon, as commission head, saw himself obliged to intervene if he sensed a chat headed in the wrong direction, according to the memoirs of G.T. Schillemanns, a physician who frequented the castle.
“No, Luchaire, General [Philippe Leclerc] de Hauteclocque is neither an adventurer nor a poor soldier, as you say,” was how de Brinon rebuked his propaganda minister at one meal, adding: “What you are saying is inept!” (Leclerc’s forces had participated in the liberation of Paris and Strasbourg.) Commission members regularly traded barbs in the dining hall, within the little political alliances they observed Déat once half-joked to Luchaire that his propaganda rag Ici la France! might be renamed Peau de Zébi, a vulgar French expression meaning “That’s nothing” in order to attract more shock-value financing from the German hosts.
After dinner, commission members gathered in the adjacent Salon des Dames, not to share each other’s company (on the contrary) but because it was warm, unlike much of the rest of the castle in the frigid winter of 1944-45. Darnand smoked his pipe in silence and read the papers. The ladies played cards. Some guests frequented the huge castle library where Déat would read and play lexicon—a version of Scrabble—for hours on end.
In the evening, after the transmissions of Ici la France! had shut down, the exiles listened to Allied-run Radio Paris. The news was grim. De Gaulle’s vow to put to death journalists and writers who had bolstered the Vichy government was no idle threat—on November 9, they learned that a prominent collaborator journalist, Georges Suarez, had been executed in Paris. On February 6, it was the turn of scribe Robert Brasillach, whose sarcastic last words before the firing squad were “Long live France, anyway!” These writers had no command responsibility and no state functions yet they were shot, merely on account of their publications. The castle’s denizens were well aware that when it was all over, they could expect no mercy.
AS GERMANY’S MILITARY plight worsened in the latter stages of the war, internal rivalries in Sigmaringen did little to aid the sympathizers’ cause. In line with their mutual enmity, Pétain took the private elevator that bypassed Laval’s floor in order to avoid any contact. De Brinon, Luchaire, Déat, and Darnand all fought among themselves but were united in their hatred of Laval, who in turn plotted against Pétain. De Brinon went so far as to have Pétain’s doctor-adviser, Ménétrel, arrested by the Gestapo in an attempt to break the marshal’s resistance to legitimizing a new regime.
Ultimately, such maneuvering proved futile. Hopes soared briefly in December 1944, when Sigmaringen’s French lapped up reports of a daring German foray into the Ardennes mountains in Belgium and Luxembourg. After several weeks, however, the Allies chased the Third Reich’s panzers back into the Rhineland, and that was that. Officially, the Vichyist regime stuck like glue to the belief that Hitler would win the war with secret weapons such as a new, smarter V-2 rocket, a rumor apparently spread by Ribbentrop. But in private, most exiles were dusting off their escape plans.
In February 1945, Doriot, the Germans’ first choice to replace Pétain, was finally named head of a new French “liberation committee”—effectively the successor to de Brinon’s government commission, although the latter was never formally dissolved. As his first grand plan, Doriot aimed to recruit (by force, if necessary) the two million French prisoners of war in Germany to retake the “Americanized” fatherland of France and create a “New Europe.” This effort was to be backed up by guerrilla units of Darnand’s brutal militia, parachuted into France in the dead of night. But this scheme evaporated after February 22, when two Allied warplanes (or possibly German, according to a version of possible Gestapo assassins cited by historian Jean-Paul Cointet) strafed Doriot’s car near his residence on Lake Constance, killing him instantly. For the exiles, it was now crystal-clear there would be no glorious return to France.
French general Jean de Lattre de Tassigny’s First French Army liberates the city of Belfort, near the German border, in late 1944. A few months later the army crossed the Rhine and took Sigmaringen. (AFP via Getty Images)
French soldiers herd German prisoners into the castle grounds after the stronghold fell to de Tassigny’s troops. (Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)
AMONG THE FIRST TO BOW to the inevitable was Céline, who departed Sigmaringen in early March 1945 and headed to Denmark with his wife and beloved cat—a complicated journey that took them through the shattered ruins of bombed-out Germany. Before the author left, Laval, to repay Céline’s house visits as doctor in Sigmaringen, promised him an obscure job as governor of Saint Pierre and Miquelon, a French archipelago off the coast of Newfoundland.
As the Allies closed in on Sigmaringen during the war’s final weeks, the French puppet regime ground to a halt, its toothless councils ceasing to meet, its mouthpiece radio station and newspaper falling silent. On April 1, 1945, the army of French general Jean de Lattre de Tassigny crossed the Rhine and advanced across Germany south of the Danube, joining up with the U.S. Army coming the other way. On April 21, the handful of French still in Sigmaringen lowered the Tricolor and exited the stage, just to have de Tassigny’s army come and hoist it over the castle the next day.
Only Pétain voluntarily returned to France to go on trial, turning himself over to French authorities at the Swiss border on April 24. That August, the marshal was convicted of treason in the French Supreme Court and sentenced to death, but de Gaulle immediately commuted the punishment to life in prison due to Pétain’s advanced age and his heroic Great War record. Stripped of all his ranks and honors (apart from the title “Maréchal de France”) and suffering from dementia, the old soldier spent his remaining years confined to a French prison island off the Atlantic coast. He died there in 1951, aged 95.
Old and infirm, Pétain was put on trial and found guilty of treason in 1945. De Gaulle commuted his death sentence to life imprisonment, and the once-proud marshal lived out his remaining days in a French prison. (AFP via Getty Images)
Laval finagled a Luftwaffe flight to Barcelona, but Spanish dictator Francisco Franco—pressured by de Gaulle—sent Laval back to Innsbruck, Austria, where the Americans handed him over to the French. Pétain’s defense had maintained that Laval, not the marshal, was responsible for Vichy’s crimes, and Laval’s fiery court statements did little to dismiss that impression. He claimed that his notorious comment from 1942, “I wish for a German victory,” was intended to lull the Nazis into a sense of false security. The jury, however, was not fooled for a minute. Following a failed suicide attempt with cyanide retrieved from his jacket stitching (perhaps a parting gift from Céline?), the 62-year-old Laval, wearing a Tricolor scarf around his neck, was shot by firing squad on October 15, 1945.
Of Sigmaringen’s other notorious collaborators, only Déat and Bonnard, Vichy’s education minister, succeeded in cheating the executioners. Déat found refuge in a monastery near the Italian city of Turin under an assumed name, while Bonnard was granted asylum in Spain. Céline lay low in Denmark but was tried in absentia in France, where he received a one-year prison sentence that was later commuted. The French authorities allowed Céline to return to Paris in 1951, where he continued to write and publish until his death 10 years later. ✯
This article was published in the February 2020 issue of World War II.
Joseph Darnand, head of the pro-Nazi pol
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Gestapo Torture Kitchens
As the Occupation wore on and especially after the Germans invaded Russia, French resistance increased. As resistance activities grew, so did the reprisals by the Germans. If you were arrested for things as menial as a curfew violation, you’d be held in prison as a hostage. When there were actions against the Germans, especially assassinations, they would randomly pick hostages to be executed.
However, many of the arrested foreign agents (e.g., SOE agents), resistance members (e.g., Jean Moulin, Pierre Brossolette), and others deemed as enemies of the Third Reich underwent excruciating torture.
The methods of torture included near drowning, breaking of limbs with a spiked ball, merciless beatings until one fell unconscious, or having fingernails removed with hot irons or other sharp instruments. If the victim didn’t talk (which was rare), they would be shipped off to one of the death camps – survival was rare.
The Gestapo called their torture rooms “kitchens.”
French Milice and Joseph Darnand
Post by ''X'' » 30 Dec 2006, 01:38
Any more information about the milice and/or Darnand ?
Post by Daniel Laurent » 30 Dec 2006, 04:20
And, more complete but in French :
And happpy new year to everybody !
Post by ''X'' » 30 Dec 2006, 17:42
Did they have any connections with the LVF
Post by ''X'' » 30 Dec 2006, 18:41
Here a milice pic i found
Post by Daniel Laurent » 02 Jan 2007, 04:31
Are you sure this photo is from the milice ? I have never seen any where they wear gloves and the litlle flag is curious ?
No, they were no direct links between the LVF and the Milice.
Some Milicians volunteered for the Eastern front but were mainly incoporporated in the W-SS Sturmbrigade, as per the "deal" Darnand made with the SS in exchange of weapons for his men.
Post by zabrali » 02 Jan 2007, 20:29
it' the G.S.S. or G.S. " groupe spécial de sécurité " created towards the end of 1943
to provide protection for senior Milice leaders and carry out " spécial assignments"
and fighting résistantin 1944 to limousin,auvergne, dordogne, Annecy at the farm de Vaurier near from Lyon
in french: organisation mouvements et unités de l'état Français , P.P Lambert-G Le Marec p 145
in english: Foreign légions of the third reich vol.1 Norway, Denmark, France by David Littlejohn p 177
Joseph Darnand, head of the pro-Nazi pol
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Seconde Guerre mondiale
« Au moment de la déclaration de guerre, en septembre 1939 , […] il s’engage aussitôt comme combattant volontaire. Il constitue un corps franc et s’illustre encore aux combats [ 3 ] . » Il est affecté, comme lieutenant, dans un corps franc de 150 hommes du 24 e bataillon de chasseurs de la 29 e division, chargé d’actions de commando et de renseignement derrière les lignes ennemies [ 28 ] . À la suite d'une mission de renseignement, les 7 [ 7 ] et 8 février 1940 , à Forbach, il est nommé « premier soldat de France » et fait officier de la Légion d’honneur [ 35 ] , par le général Georges, pour être retourné chercher aux mains de l'ennemi le corps de son chef et ami, le capitaine Agnely [ 28 ] . La couverture de Match [ d ] , [ 28 ] du 21 mars 1940 lui est consacrée [ 36 ] , [ 37 ] . Après de nombreux combats lors de la bataille de France, de la Somme à la Loire [ 28 ] , il est fait prisonnier le 19 juin 1940 , il parvient à s’évader du camp de Pithiviers en août 1940 et à rejoindre Nice [ 28 ] , [ 3 ] . Après la Libération, Georges Bernanos dira : « s’il y avait eu plus de Darnand en 1940, il n’y aurait pas eu de miliciens en 1944 » [ 38 ] .
Pétain et le SOL
Après l'arrivée au pouvoir de Pétain, en juin 1940 , Joseph Darnand se rallie à lui sans hésitation, en raison du prestige de Pétain puis adopte les principes de la Révolution nationale [ 39 ] . À l’automne 1940, il prend la tête de la nouvelle Légion française des combattants (LFC) dans les Alpes-Maritimes [ 40 ] , [ 39 ] , laquelle comptera jusqu'à 70 000 adhérents dans ce département [ 39 ] . Après l’ouverture de la LFC aux jeunes partisans du régime qui n’ont jamais combattu, il fonde en août 1941 , dans son département, un Service d'ordre légionnaire (SOL) [ 41 ] , [ 42 ] , où s’introduisent certains éléments du milieu niçois. Ce SOL, étendu ultérieurement à toute la zone non occupée (le 12 décembre 1941 [ 42 ] ) et à l’Afrique du Nord, prône la Collaboration active avec l’occupant allemand [ 41 ] . Plusieurs chefs et militants des SOL se livrent à des actions brutales contre les adversaires réels ou supposés du régime et déclenchent une vague de délation qui n’épargne ni les autorités civiles, ni les autorités religieuses de l’État français.
Lorsque le commandement national du SOL est attribué à Darnand, en février 1942 [ 43 ] , il s’installe à Vichy et il affiche des positions ouvertement collaborationnistes et racistes [ 44 ] , tout en restant toujours très proche de Pétain [ 41 ] , [ 45 ] , [ 17 ] , [ 46 ] . Darnand devient en août 1942 délégué permanent de la Légion auprès du gouvernement [ 47 ] .
En juin 1942 , au retour d'un voyage en Pologne à l'invitation des Allemands, il adhère à la Légion des volontaires français contre le bolchevisme (LVF) [ 48 ] , [ 49 ] .
Selon le résistant Claude Bourdet [ 50 ] , des résistants des Alpes-Maritimes tentèrent en 1940 de convaincre Darnand d'entrer dans la dissidence et de fonder les groupes-francs de la Résistance. Un instant hésitant, Darnand refusa au nom de son allégeance absolue à Pétain. En 1943, dans un moment de négociations difficiles avec Laval et les Allemands, Darnand, un temps découragé, fit quelques sondages en direction de la France libre [ 51 ] , [ 52 ] , puis abandonna définitivement toute idée de changer de camp selon Jean Lacouture (qui, dans sa biographie de De Gaulle, cite Louis Vallon), à la suite du signalement fait par le BCRA de la demande de Darnand, le général de Gaulle s'y était opposé violemment en ces termes : « Eh quoi ? Si Darquier de Pellepoix se faisait circoncire, il faudrait que je l'accepte, lui aussi [ 53 ] ! »
En septembre 1942 , Darnand est à Espalion et assiste aux obsèques de Louis Canaguier, légionnaire aveyronnais [ 54 ] .
Lors du débarquement allié du 8 novembre 1942 en Afrique du Nord, Darnand donne l'ordre aux SOL de résister [ 55 ] . La Phalange africaine est créée en Tunisie le 23 novembre 1942 sur suggestion des Allemands et Darnand prononce un discours appelant les jeunes Français à s'enrôler pour combattre à leur côté par « patriotisme » pour ne pas « livre[r] les territoires à l'étranger » [ 55 ] . Bon nombre des officiers de la Phalange africaine proviennent du SOL [ 55 ] .
Dans un message aux Français du 5 janvier 1943 [ 56 ] , Pétain déclare que les SOL lui « ont donné le témoignage de leur dévouement et de leur dynamisme [ 56 ] » et que ceux d'Afrique du Nord, « en versant leur sang pour la Patrie, [lui ont] prouvé que leur fidélité les rendait capables d'aller jusqu'au sacrifice suprême [ 56 ] » . En réalité, lors des opérations de novembre 1942 , seules quelques dizaines des hommes de Darnand, sur des milliers, se sont battus contre les Alliés à Oran et au Maroc, tandis qu’à Alger les SOL se sont tous laissé capturer sans résistance.