Pierre Laval

Pierre Laval ( Châteldon , 28 of June of 1883 – Fresnes , 15 of October of 1945 ) was a politician French famous for his participation in the Third Republic and the Vichy Regime . His participation in World War II , which stood out for his collaboration with Nazi Germany , cost him the death penalty at the end of the conflict.


Early years

Born on June 28, 1883 in Châteldon , 1 in the French region of Auvergne , he graduated as a lawyer in his youth in 1909 , defending workers and unions. He adhered to the Socialists in 1903, 2 following the doctrines of Georges Sorel , although Laval always postulated that his socialism was more ” emotional than rational” and he was not interested in theoretical discussions about philosophy or politics.

Political career

During World War I Laval was Deputy in the National Assembly, by the department of the Seine within the French socialist party of that time . From this position he supported the French war effort in August 1914, but at the same time encouraged efforts to reach a peaceful conclusion of the conflict; Even faced other socialists when Laval defended in the French Parliament workers who declared strikes in the midst of the German offensives of 1916 , which damaged their chances of continuing to rise in the Socialist Party due to their lack of obedience to the hierarchs.
In the elections of 1919 Laval was not reelected to the parliament but still in 1920 Laval stood out like member of the French Section of the International Working one like socialist leader, nevertheless soon evolved towards positions more and more conservative, breaking with the socialists and presenting itself In 1922 as independent candidate to the National Assembly, without success. The following year he became mayor of Aubervilliers , an important suburb north of Paris , but in 1924 he vowed to the French parliament with the Socialists. His conversion to more conservative positions caused Laval to distance himself from his former companions; In 1930 he was even Minister of Labor in the centrist cabinet of André Tardieu .

In the 1930s Laval was a minister, and even in 1931 he was head of government of France , establishing cordial relations with the Italian leader Benito Mussolini and showing increasing concern, and then admiration, for the power of Nazi Germany and the Fascist Italy . When he was Minister of Foreign Affairs of France in 1936 , Laval fought in the League of Nations to avoid economic sanctions against Italy after fascist troops invaded Ethiopia in 1935 , also showing a strong distancing with Great Britain .

Questioned by his sympathies towards the Third Reich , Laval became a strong supporter of French collaboration with Nazism and became convinced of the weakness of democracy and political liberalism, establishing links with far-right groups . When World War II broke out in September 1939 , Laval again supported the French war effort, but he did not fail to point out that the conflict could have been avoided by diplomatic means, and he was again a member of the French National Assembly.

Regime of Vichy

In June 1940, Laval pressed his colleagues in the National Assembly so that the government of President Paul Reynaud would accept the total victory of Germany in the Battle of France and seek an armistice, showing himself as a sincere supporter of voluntary cooperation with the III Reich and taking advantage of the pessimism of the Council of Ministers and the General Staff of the Army, led by General Maxime Weygand . In that sense he fully supported the old Marshal Philippe Pétain in his decision to take office as president of the government on June 14, 1940, to dissolve the National Assembly and to end the Third French Republic, remaining in France after the German victory and consequent Occupation of Paris .

In this way Laval managed to be main protagonist in the puppet regime of Vichy , in constant struggle with other collaborators pro German, but enjoying the confidence of the Nazis to be the French politician more useful in serving the German interests. Despite his lack of popularity even among the leaders of the Vichy Regime , Laval was appointed President of the Council of Ministers in July 1940 and was characterized by always showing a tenacious confidence in the final victory of Nazi Germany , being considered by Hitler as The most effective collaborator in France.

The intrigues of other collaborators managed to remove Laval from power in December 1940 , when a cabinet led by Admiral François Darlan was formed . It soon became clear to the Nazis that there was no other political leader similar to Laval and with similar efficacy in administrative management, while Darlan showed open hostility against Britain and the USSR but avoided full collaboration with the Nazis in the degree he craved Hitler. In fact it was by German pressure that Laval managed to attain the leadership of Vichy from April 1942 until September 1944 , despite Pétain’s reluctance.

Pierre Laval and the head of the SS in France, Carl Oberg , during an official act in Paris in 1943 .

Laval did not defraud the confidence of the Nazis and collaborated loyally in all the demands made by the Third Reich , from the persecution of the Jews residing in France to the deportation of thousands of French workers to Germany for forced labor, along with the implementation of various rules to place the industry French service of the German military demands to the detriment of the local economy. He also helped and protected the French Militia as a tool of repression against the Resistance and as a means of gaining the goodwill of the Nazis as a “fighter against the judeo-bolshevism. ” In 1943, Laval delivered a famous speech on French radio Of French history that began with the words ” I desire the victory of Germany, because without it Bolshevism would take over all of Europe .” Such words were used after the war to measure their intense degree of collaboration with the Nazis, even against the interests of France , and were one of the main tests used in the process that was formulated to him.

After the Battle of Normandy in June 1944 , Laval tried to keep the Vichy regime alive, still relying on the final German triumph or at least a negotiated peace, but the swift withdrawal of the German troops prevented it. Laval and other leaders of the Vichy France were taken by troops of the SS to the city of Belfort , on the border with Switzerland on August 20, 1944 but before the rapid Allied advance French collaborationists were taken almost immediately by the Gestapo To Germany.

Laval and his colleagues settled in the Castle of Sigmaringen with the rest of the French collaborators, in a French government imitation called ” Government Commission for the defense of the French interests in Germany “, from September of 1944 . In May 1945 the troops Americans take Sigmaringen and warn that the French captured there would be handed over to the Free French . Laval then asked the then foreign minister of Spain, José Félix de Lequerica, who had known his ambassador to Vichy as his ambassador to Franco for political asylum. Laval, who arrived in Barcelona on 2 May 1945 by plane, 3 was in the castle of Montjuich with other ministers of Vichy such as Abel Bonnard and Maurice Gabolde . 4 The pressure of the French Government had the effect that Franco accepted the repatriation of Laval, unlike that of other French collaborators exiled in Spain. 5 It would be returned to France on July 30, 1945 to be tried. Imprisoned since August 1, he was called to testify on day 3. 6

Judgment and execution

The process of Laval began on 4 October 1945 in July in Paris and was characterized by a burst of popular fury, shared by Socialists, Gaullists and almost all factions of the French Resistance , to the point that the judges led the process under strong Popular pressure to condemn Laval. He maintained his innocence and before court sessions seemed convinced that he could resume his political career after being acquitted, if the trial was conducted with fairness.

However, this hope disappeared in Laval when the accusatory jury (established under French criminal law) erupted in fury and attacked him screaming as guilty in the middle of the sessions, even requesting the execution of the accused, to the point that at the hearing of 6 October a jury chided him that ” France had already tried .”

Laval refrained from exercising defense through his lawyer and attending court sessions in the hope of delaying the process and securing the installation of another court later, accusing the judges of failing to be impartial. That tactic did not work and on October 9 , in absence, Laval was condemned to death by treason ; days later he was shot in Fresnes on 15 October as as 1945 .

See also

  • Castle of Sigmaringen
  • Collaborationism
  • France of Vichy
  • German Occupation of France


  1. Back to top↑ Cole, 1963 , p. 18.
  2. Back to top↑ Cole, 1963 , p. 2. 3.
  3. Back to top↑ Cole, 1963 , p. 299; Pike, 1982 , p. 394.
  4. Back to top↑ Dulphy, 2002 , p. 96.
  5. Back to top↑ Pike, 1982 , p. 394.
  6. Back to top↑ Beigbeder, 2006 , p. 189.
  7. Back to top↑ Brody, 2010 , p. 2.