Laval, Pierre

18 November, 2007
Fontaine Thomas

Pierre Laval had been an experienced politician under the Third Republic– he had been a parliamentarian, a minister in several governments and even président du Conseil, or Prime minister – but he also succeeded in destroying this regime in July 1940. A dissident Socialist, he “had many scores to settle.” (J.P. Azéma, 1979: 81) Once he was head of the new Vichy government, he immediately set his stakes on reaching an understanding with Germany, and on a collaboration policy, before the armistice had even been signed. But Marshal Pétain’s entourage was hostile to Laval and brought about his fall from power by December 13, 1940, to his great surprise. He set about preparing his comeback by preserving his good rapport with Otto Abetz, the German ambassador in , and establishing close relationships with the collaborationist parties. The war becoming harsher and the increase in German pressure in April 1942 hastened his return. Laval then held considerable powers – he was not only head of the government, but also controlled three key ministries – and appointed a circle of loyal followers, including René Bousquet as chief of police. He reiterated his wish to see Germany triumph, “because otherwise, Bolshevism [would] develop everywhere at once,” and pushed France further along the path of collaboration in the fields of policing, anti-Jewish action, manpower, etc. But he avoided neither the invasion of the southern zone in November 1942, nor the radicalization of the regime in 1944. His played an essential part in the implementation of the “final solution” in France. Laval eventually found himself isolated in Sigmaringen, then judged by the French High Court of Justice and executed on October 15 at the Fresnes jail (F. Kupferman, 1987; J.-P. Cointet, 1993).

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Fontaine Thomas, Laval, Pierre, Mass Violence & Résistance, [online], published on: 18 November, 2007, accessed 17/05/2021,, ISSN 1961-9898
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