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Thread: Perfidious French?

  1. #16
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    Default Re: Perfidious French?

    Back to term "perfidious". You missed Churchill's explanation of French historical mentality somewhere in his book 3 I believe around time Darlan was killed.
    He explained there was not 1 but 2 French mentality in effect as result of unfortunate historical events. First French mentality was revolutionary as has always been since time of Bastille with De Gaull being last offspring. With so many revolutions, growing number of French had fear of radical changes and favoured 2nd French mentality which was concilliatory and transitional and favoured stability. This 2nd mentality was supported by public service and French officialdom in general. Hard to understand for someone not being French.

    Having in mind French losses in WW1 I would not call French perfidious.
    France feud with Germany goes back to German unification in 1871 which irreversably allied her to England and which as it tuned out was Europes greatest disaster. Kaiser's Germany on the other hand should have made France an ally rather than primary target in WW1 which only cemented things afterwards. Germany's and Europe's primary and natural enemy was Asia and Russia because of all threats and resources there.

  2. #17
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    Default Re: Perfidious French?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rising Sun* View Post
    The biggest difference which informs my comments on France compared with the Netherlands is that France chose to go to war with Germany but the neutral Netherlands was invaded by Germany. Yet the Netherlands pretty much exhausted its scarce military resources before surrendering while France came to a negotiated surrender reasonably favourable to it, or technically signed an armistice, and inimical to its former ally Britain long before exhausting its relatively abundant military resources.



    Sorry for the lack of clarity. I had in mind primarily the very substantial and critical contribution made by the Dutch in 1942-43 with the naval and, more critically, merchant ships they kept from the Japanese in the Netherlands East Indies, without which merchant ships MacArthur’s (essentially Australian at that stage) land campaigns could not have succeeded.



    See my opening paragraph in this post.



    I’m far from sure that France had excellent military forces at that time.

    France had very good army equipment, but the army it put up against the Germans had many recent conscripts who were poorly led at all levels and who had little or no commitment to laying down their lives for Poland. See, for example, the diaries of Alan Brooke, the commander of II Corps of the British Expeditionary Force where he recounts dismay at slovenly, undisciplined, sullen and generally most unimpressive French soldiers, and their complete breakdown in discipline (to the extent of murdering one of Brooke’s senior officers) in disorganised retreat. No doubt there were excellent French units which performed consistently well and even under the worst circumstances, but I suspect that the army as a whole fell well short of excellent.



    Britain, under Churchill. There were others in Britain who would have done the same as France. Lucky for France that Britain was under Churchill, or they’d still be occupied by the Germans.

    I don’t have a problem with France trying to salvage something from the ashes of almost certain defeat. My problem is with France abandoning Britain in the interests of its own survival and creating strategic problems for Britain in continuing the war France and Britain had both embarked upon in the expectation that both would stay the course. For example, the terms of the armistice allowed the Germans to occupy northern France for the specific purpose of prosecuting Germany’s war against Britain, while the Vichy government ensconced itself safely in the south.

    My emphasis
    http://avalon.law.yale.edu/wwii/frgearm.asp



    No, there’s no cut and dried answer, but on balance I think the Dutch did better.

    The Vichy government abandoned its citizens in the occupied zone. It had the best of both worlds: surrendering but staying in France to govern part of it. The Dutch government can equally be said to have abandoned its citizens and, unlike Vichy, all of them in the Netherlands, but it did so in the face of defeat rather than, like Vichy, negotiating a deal to preserve itself in France and give up fighting before it was defeated in the field. The Dutch government never surrendered and continued to fight. I think it was a more noble action than what Petain did but, then again, the Dutch didn’t have a choice. However, Petain did, and he chose the path of least resistance, which I would probably have endorsed if I was in France and didn’t want the war to continue to no ultimate advantage to France. But I’m looking at it more from the wider perspective of the strategic consequences of France’s actions.



    We likely do. But it becomes problematic when we compare the French and Dutch on the Holocaust. At an individual and community level the Dutch were often heroic in resisting what became the Holocaust, but the Netherlands was also highly efficient in exporting Jews to the concentration and death camps and, IIRC, much more so than France in the proportions of their respective populations. But the comparison again is between different circumstances as the Dutch had a German government imposed upon them while the French didn’t, at least while Vichy existed.

    Continued ....
    I don't have the numbers, but I do know that there was at least one B-25 Squadron piloted by Dutch aviators flying out of England and Dutch fighter pilots as well. I do not know what warships, if any, escaped to England, but the Dutch fought valiantly (if somewhat fruitlessly) in the Dutch East Indies. Many of their biggest ships - cruisers - lie at the bottom of the Sunda Strait along with Australian ships and the USS Houston (which location is now known exactly). Dutch submarines escaped to Australia and continued to fight for the duration of the war on the allied side.

  3. #18
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    Default Re: Perfidious French?

    From the English and American points of view, the French were quite irritating during WW2. This didn't begin with DeGaulle; the French leadership up until the surrender was quite *****ly, peevish and difficult and lacked simple items such as telephones with which to maintain contact with their own soldiers. It looked like the internal structure of the French military was feeble and perhaps more than a little rotten. Still, we saw what happened to the Poles, Belgians and Dutch before the German onslaught, so perhaps we shouldn't be too surprised or too condemning of the French, or even of the British expeditionary force in the face of startling new German tactics. And we should not forget that it was the resolute and completely sacrificial French defence of the Dunquerque beachhead that allowed 300,000+ troops to get away by the skin of their teeth. If this seems like small beer to the scoffers in here, you might remember that when the Germans lost 200,000+ men at Stalingrad, they suffered a loss from which they never recovered. One of the great ironies of the battle of France is that the Maginot Line did exactly as it was intended - keep the Germans from attacking it, only to have them attack France where it wasn't.

    And finally, I have to wonder if it had been the English who owned FRance and the French who owned England, would the British have fared any better? Maybe. Maybe not.
    Last edited by royal744; 10-08-2014 at 07:10 PM.

  4. #19
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    Default Re: Perfidious French?

    My first visit to this most interesting thread. If I may offer a few comments ...

    One aspect of French "perfidy" that should not be underrated is the "perfidy" committed by the French on each other. French constitutional history, at least since they chopped King Louis' head off, has been complex and troubled, at least until relatively recently. The Third Republic was a particularly fraught period. Political society was sharply polarized between Republicans - who, by and large, supported the Constitution - and extreme Conservatives, radical Right-wingers and Royalist reactionaries who had little time for the Republic or for democracy. A further faction - tending heavily towards the Right position - consisted of military officers and the huge French bureaucracy that had little real loyalty to the Republic and tended to have what we would now call a "managerial" mentality; "what's best administered is best". The whole system was further poisoned by anti-Semitism. This was not, in the grand view of History, a very French thing, but it had been promoted by the migration of large numbers of eastern European Jews fleeing Tsarist pogroms to France, and brought into sharp focus by the disgraceful Dreyfus Affair, which sent an innocent officer to rot on Devil's Island for what turned out to be no substantial reason except being Jewish. When the Germans attacked in 1940, they may have been facing "the strongest army in the world" but (leaving the reality of that label aside), they were also kicking a very fragile political structure, riven and corroded by extreme polarization for many decades.

    As the Germans headed for the coast, the Renaud government effectively imploded. Not surprising - Renaud had already been forced to take a number of anti-Republican persons into cabinet, and this complexion of government could hardly be expected to survive in these circumstances. This left a vacuum - but the Third Republic might still have survived, and even perhaps fought on, were it not for the "perfidy" of Right-wing and Reactionary politicians who now grasped the levers of power. Headed by Pétain - who had been recalled to ministerial duty from an ambassadorial post in an effort to use his prestige to help steady the disintegrating ship of state - these people engineered a situation in which Republican deputies were deceived into fleeing (many to North Africa) with a view to holding a reconstituted session of the Chamber of Deputies beyond German reach. What actually happened was a convocation of the Assembly composed of Right-wing and Reactionaries who put in place a Rightist-Reactionary emergency "government" that formed the basis of what became the anti-Republican "État Francais". This entity lacked any real constitutional legitimacy. Given its composition, and given the support of the basically conservative "managerial" bureaucracy, it is hardly surprising that this entity chose to do business with the Germans, a course that promised the destruction of democracy and the French Republic. Whether there was any great notion of what form, exactly, the anti-Republican régime would take is debatable. What they ended up with is "monarchy without a king". Clearly, Pétain did not regard himself as a common-or-garden President; he regarded himself as an embodiment of the new "State", untrammeled by any democratic or constitutional constraints. The actions of the new régime left a far greater vacuum even than before; in one of the cradles of democracy, there was now no legitimate French state. While it is clear that most French people, at least initially, were willing to accept this situation in the interests of enjoying a reasonably quiet life, it is hardly surprising that the minority who maintained the fundamental Republican ideals dating from the Revolution wholly rejected the Vichy option and appealed to those ideals to support their resistance. They were responding to the "perfidious" behavior of their fellow Frenchmen. More to follow, I'm afraid ...Yours from the Place de la Revolution, JR.

  5. #20
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    Default Re: Perfidious French?

    Quote Originally Posted by JR* View Post
    Clearly, Pétain did not regard himself as a common-or-garden President; he regarded himself as an embodiment of the new "State", untrammeled by any democratic or constitutional constraints. The actions of the new régime left a far greater vacuum even than before; in one of the cradles of democracy, there was now no legitimate French state. While it is clear that most French people, at least initially, were willing to accept this situation in the interests of enjoying a reasonably quiet life, it is hardly surprising that the minority who maintained the fundamental Republican ideals dating from the Revolution wholly rejected the Vichy option and appealed to those ideals to support their resistance. They were responding to the "perfidious" behavior of their fellow Frenchmen. .
    Very astute observations, which neatly sum up the conflicts in France at the time, and which explain in large part the actions of Petain which were contrary to the interests of France per se and especially the interests of France in supporting Britain to defeat the Nazis and expel them from France, e.g. keeping the French navy under Vichy control rather than releasing it to aid Britain. Which, essentially, reflects the defeated and defeatist attitudes of Petain et al and, in no small part, their own fascist tendencies which, in fairness to France, mirrored widespread fascist tendencies in much of Europe and Britain.

    Petain's conduct also exemplifies the consequences of placing power in the hands of an unconstitutionally legitimate leader, as with other dictators and the like.
    ..
    A rational army would run away.
    Montesquieu

  6. #21
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    Default Re: Perfidious French?

    Apropos the Dutch - who have occupied a fair place in this thread - the constitutional system of constitutional monarchy had (by contrast with the French situation) been pretty stable since (ironically) Napoleon had erected one of his brothers as King of the Netherlands. With Napoleon gone, the dynasty of Orange-Nassau (which had ruled as "Stadthoulders" - albeit not without challenge or misfortune, since the 16th century) stepped into the new and newly-vacant throne with the support of the anti-Bonaparte "allies", and had been there, on a reasonably stable basis, since then. Dutch politics showed relatively little of the polarization or instability that characterized French (even Belgian, once they had broken away) in the same period. It was therefore something of a misfortune for the Germans that the deliberate effort to capture the Queen and her government was badly botched, and that the heads of the Netherlands administration got to England largely as a result of a number of lucky breaks. (Another occurred when Queen Wilhelmina's determination to join the main Dutch defensive forces in Zeeland was frustrated by the unexpectedly rapid arrival of the main German invasion force in the Dutch "national redoubt" with the result that major fighting broke out, persuading her British Royal Navy rescuers that it would be much safer for her and her ministers to be brought to England.) If the Royal Family had been captured, it would have removed one very irritating thorn from Germany's side. At the same time, it is not clear that the Queen would have been willing to play the game of limited co-operation even to the limited extent exhibited by King Albert "the Handsome" of the Belgians. Maybe she would have been almost as bad a liability on their hands than she proved to be in London.

    It is also only fair to say that Dutch forces fought bravely and, on occasion, effectively against the Germans. Their military capacity at the time, however, in terms of men, training and equipment, was generally conceded to be very, very limited. Their basic strategy of concentrating most of their military resources in a relatively small "national redoubt", any German advance on which was supposed to be delayed by the flooding of the countryside in much of southern Holland, amounted to a concession of this by the Dutch themselves. Nonetheless, they did fight bravely. The attempt by German airborne infantry to capture the administrative capital, Den Haag, and with the Queen and government, was badly botched by the Germans but, once they had recovered from the shock, the Dutch Army resisted strongly. While they could not prevent the capture of Den Haag, they did delay and disrupt the German effort, eventually surrounding the hapless German forces who were only relieved by the Dutch surrender. Even in the "redoubt", strong actions of resistance occurred, notably the one-day defence of Dordrecht which cost the Germans 20-30 panzers. Unfortunately for them, there were limits to the ability of an undermanned, undertrained, poorly equipped, immobile force to resist the German assault, even if the German forces and commanders involved did not make a very good job of it. When one criticizes the Netherlands forces, one should bear this in mind.

    One consequence of the Queen's absence was that the Germans were forced into what amounted to a form of direct rule (with increasingly marginal assistance from Dutch Nazis). In fact, it came close to a form of SS direct rule. In the circumstances, it is hardly surprising that most Netherlanders may (with the exception of the odd political strike) seem barely to have tolerated the new dispensation, and remained loyal to the government-in-exile as their lawful government, even showing this loyalty publicly (at considerable risk) at times. There was even a resistance movement from an early stage, in a country scarcely suitable from its geography for military resistance. That the Dutch resistance movement had a somewhat unfortunate history in some respects does not mean that it was some sort of waste of time. The Queen eventually returned as a heroine; unlike De Gaulle, she had never ceased to have such status.

    Sorry for being a bit unhistorical - but I do admire the conduct of the majority of Dutch people during the war. Yours from the Count's Stockade, JR.
    Last edited by JR*; 12-12-2014 at 11:52 AM.

  7. #22
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    Default Re: Perfidious French?

    Quote Originally Posted by JR* View Post
    It was therefore something of a misfortune for the Germans that the deliberate effort to capture the Queen and her government was badly botched, and that the heads of the Netherlands administration got to England largely as a result of a number of lucky breaks.R.
    Can't recall exact circumstances and quote, but at a critical early point after the Queen and her somewhat less solid cabinet had evacuated to Britain and were temporizing at best in the face of the Queen's determination to fight on, Churchill said of her something along the lines "The Queen is the only man in the Dutch Cabinet."
    ..
    A rational army would run away.
    Montesquieu

  8. #23
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    Default Re: Perfidious French?

    Wow, a lot of text here...I only came to the first pages of extensive text of Rising Sun and the commentors on him.
    RS makes very good points. Are you Dutch as to know so much about it ?

    I like to make this addition in the discussion between the 2 pro and against comparisons Dutch vs French (being in comparable situation yes/no but choosing different outways):
    It all comes down to the will power to resist and/or accept Germany (as a partner) or get usurped into the allied (with only Britain) camp.
    And the French simply didnot have that resistance. With another French cabinet it might have had it..but that is just the bad luck for a nation in crisis: your actual once elected governement in all its inadequacies has the authority.

    The french were politically long before divided into favouring UK or Germany (after France itself ofcourse). There was not much "love" for UK anyway.
    Especially if UK could "continue the fight" safe on an island, and France contributing by being turned in a full prison camp. After, in their eyes, being insufficiently backed by the british with a meagre expedionary force and effectively no fighter support over France.
    And weren't the french themselves also not highly anti-Semitic ?

    So, it seems that France (with half the country "free") had a tempting way out (same as with the Nato/communist example), whereas the Netherlands (being fully occupied..safe for Middelburg) did not have that option.
    If you copy that opportunity around to the Dutch ; imagine Zeeland would be 40% of the country, and the Dutch Government could stay there but keep their ships and people away from joining the allies in material and finance and have an armistice with Nazi Germany, I am NOT SO SURE that the pussy dutch government AND Queen would still move to britain and continue the fight (also in the NL they requested UK back-up in fighters and landing troops and a nearby UK destroyer, that were denied on many different occasions...).

  9. #24
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    Default Re: Perfidious French?

    SOmeone made a link to this:
    http://stonebooks.com/history/vichyvsjapan.shtml

    How the Vichy french did resist to the Japanese initial incursions in IndoChina.
    (I did not know that).
    But I found this interesting bit of info:
    General Nishihara returned to Haiphong on the 29th but was soon replaced as head of the Japanese mission by General Sumita who seems to have been more able to satisfy Vichy amour-propre. By the middle of October all POWs had been exchanged except 200 German legionnaires of 5th REI who remained in Japanese custody. Japan took possession of airfields at Gia Lam, Lao Kay, and Phu Lang Thuong and stationed 900 troops in the port of Haiphong and a further 600 in Hanoi.

    Why were these German Legionnaires kept in JAp pow and why didn't the french or nazi germans tried to get them back as well ?
    What happened with these men ? did they survive the war ?

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