The interview Montoire was a meeting held on 24 of October of 1940 between the French Marshal Philippe Petain and German dictator Adolf Hitler during World War II in the train station of Montoire-sur-le-Loir , French town in the Department of Loir-et-Cher.
The meeting had been prepared by the French Foreign Minister and head of government of Vichy France , Pierre Laval , and the German ambassador to Vichy, Otto Abetz, in coordination with Hitler and the German Foreign Minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop , To lay the basis for future relations between the Third Reich and Vichy France . The day before, on October 23 , Hitler had celebrated the Hendaya interview with the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco , and it was projected that, by taking advantage of the railway network between Hendaye passing through Montoire-sur-le-Loir, And Petain.
Choice of place
The railway station of Montoire-sur-le-Loir was chosen because of its proximity to the main railway line Paris-Bordeaux-Hendaye, plus four kilometers of the station Saint-Rimay railway tunnel was, able to shelter The official train of Hitler in case of aerial attack. After the interview, the tunnel was reinforced with cement slabs to transform it into Hitler’s campaign headquarters , one of almost twenty similar sites built in Germany and Nazi-occupied Europe , but the Saint-Rimay tunnel was never Used by Hitler.
Interview and results
When Hitler arrived with the German delegation, he was received on the platform of the station by Marshal Pétain , greeting both leaders with a handshake. Immediately they both passed to Hitler’s personal car, where the interview was conducted, without any written records of it being kept.
The interview was conducted with official translators, with the only interchange of words between Pétain and Hitler. Although no written records of the conversation were kept, Petain’s later testimonies showed that the French marshal had accepted ” within honor … entering the path of collaboration ” with Nazi Germany. In the wake of the Franco-German armistice of June 1940 , a Franco-German “joint commission” had been set up to discuss the solution of political and economic questions after the end of hostilities. Hitler insisted that the “armistice commission »The channel by which the French requests are transmitted to the German Government, avoiding communications or petitions through the ambassador Abetz.
In this sense, Hitler offered no specific concession to Pétain and the old French marshal did not succeed in impressing the Führer with his reputation as a World War veteran and winner of Verdun . Although Pétain had expressed his pleasure at a “meeting between soldiers”, he already abstained from friendly words to the Third Reich in Montoire and showed that Hitler’s intransigence prevented a normalization of Franco-German relations.
According to the verbal testimony of the German translator of Hitler, Paul-Otto Schmidt , Petain offered the support of Vichy France for military actions of the Axis against the United Kingdom , but this offer did not receive any enthusiasm on the part of Hitler. The German dictator, on the other hand, accepted French offers to increase the degree of political and economic collaboration; As a result, the Vichy France delivered to Germany the gold reserves of Belgium which were guarded in French West Africa .
In exchange for this handover, Hitler agreed to release a few hundred French prisoners to garrison the French African colony of Chad against British incursions, but without setting a date for it. Pétain had arrived in Montoire with a set of rather specific orders, which were the basis of the Vichy France’s propaganda towards its population: the liberation of several tens of thousands of French prisoners of war (mostly recruits still held in Germany for forced labor ), To make more fluid the transit of people and goods through the ” demarcation line ” (the “internal border” imposed by the Wehrmacht between Vichy France and France occupied since July 1940), as well as allowing the reinstallation of the Government French in Versailles if not in Paris. All these orders were quickly rejected by Hitler. Thus, Pétain ended the interview without practical results to offer to France, so the final result was far from a French diplomatic triumph although it served to prove the severity that Nazi Germany would show towards the French.
The only concrete concession of the Germans was to return to France the remains of the Duke of Reichstadt , Napoléon Bonaparte’s son died in Vienna in 1832, to be transferred to Paris , which was fulfilled on December 15 , 1940 .
While Marshal Pétain hoped that a ” between-soldier ” conversation would finally fix the conditions of peace between France and Germany and alleviate the difficult French situation, Adolf Hitler only wanted to ensure that Vichy France maintained political and economic collaboration with the Nazis , Supported without reservation the economic exploitation of France by Germany and, above all, militarily protected the French colonial empire against attacks by the United Kingdom or the ‘ free French ‘ (sparing this work to the Wehrmacht ), but without the Pétain Government To get some reward for all these services.
Similarly , Hitler showed no interest in the fact that the Vichy France participated again in the war, not even as a simple subordinate of Germany, when it implied a French rearmament that was not convenient for the Reich and that could cause strong suspicions in the fascist Italy , still regarded by Hitler as a far more valuable ally than France.
In the end, Hitler refused to grant the French requests and successfully pressured Pétain to accept collaboration with the Nazis as the only policy to be followed by the Vichy government . While Petain hoped that his international fame and prestige would serve to bring about improvements in the French political and economic situation (and this had offered Vichy propaganda to the French), German warlike power exacerbated Hitler ‘s position of granting no improvement to Defeated France and ensure its complete subordination to Germany at the least possible cost to the Reich .
The absence of effective achievements for France in Montoire gave Pétain a justification to marginalize Pierre Laval , who favored unreserved collaboration with Nazism , Pétain pointing out that such an extreme position was as humiliating as it was unsuitable. On the contrary, Laval and his supporters emphasized that Montoire’s interview was a great manifestation of the German power that would force the French collaborators to execute a totally pronazi policy.
- Delpla.org, “Montoire: les raisons d’une cécité” Article published in the French magazine Guerres Mondiales et conflits contemporains , number 220 October 2005.
- Delpla.org, Montoire: a carrefour de mythes