client state (1940–1944) of Nazi Germany, administering the Free Zone in southern France and French colonial possessions
Vichy France (French: Régime de Vichy) is the common name of the French State (État français) headed by Marshal Philippe Pétain during World War II. Evacuated from Paris to Vichy in the unoccupied "Free Zone" (zone libre) in the southern part of metropolitan France which included French Algeria, it remained responsible for the civil administration of France as well as the French colonial empire.
From 1940 to 1942, while the Vichy regime was the nominal government of all of France except for Alsace-Lorraine, the Germans and Italians militarily occupied northern and south-eastern France. While Paris remained the de jure capital of France, the government chose to relocate to the town of Vichy, 360 km (220 mi) to the south in the zone libre, which thus became the de facto capital of the French State. Following the Allied landings in French North Africa in November 1942, southern France was also militarily occupied by Germany and Italy to protect the Mediterranean coastline. Petain's government remained in Vichy as the nominal government of France, albeit one that collaborated with Nazi Germany from November 1942 onwards. The government at Vichy remained there until late 1944, when it lost its de facto authority due to the Allied invasion of France and the government was compelled to relocate to the Sigmaringen enclave in Germany, where it continued to exist on paper until the end of hostilities in Europe.
After being appointed Premier by President Albert Lebrun, Marshal Pétain's cabinet agreed to end the war and signed an Armistice with Germany on 22 June 1940. On 10 July, the Third Republic was effectively dissolved as Pétain was granted full powers by the National Assembly. At Vichy, Pétain established an authoritarian government that reversed many liberal policies and began tight supervision of the economy, calling for "National Regeneration", with central planning a key feature. Labour unions came under tight government control. Conservative Catholics became prominent and clerical input in schools resumed. Paris lost its avant-garde status in European art and culture. The media were tightly controlled and promoted anti-Semitism, and, after June 1941, anti-Bolshevism.The French State maintained nominal sovereignty over the whole of French territory but had effective full sovereignty only in the unoccupied southern zone libre ("free zone"). It had limited and only civil authority in the northern zones under military occupation. The occupation was to be a provisional state of affairs, pending the conclusion of the war, which at the time (1940) appeared imminent. The occupation also presented certain advantages, such as keeping the French Navy and French colonial empire under French control, and avoiding full occupation of the country by Germany, thus maintaining a degree of French independence and neutrality. Despite heavy pressure, the French government at Vichy never joined the Axis alliance and even remained formally at war with Germany.
Germany kept two million French soldiers prisoner, carrying out forced labour (service du travail obligatoire). They were hostages to ensure that Vichy would reduce its military forces and pay a heavy tribute in gold, food, and supplies to Germany. French police were ordered to round up Jews and other "undesirables" such as communists and political refugees. Much of the French public initially supported the government, despite its undemocratic nature and its difficult position with respect to the Germans, often seeing it as necessary to maintain a degree of French autonomy and territorial integrity. In November 1942, the zone libre was also occupied by Axis forces, leading to the disbandment of the remaining army and the sinking of France's remaining fleet and ending any semblance of independence, with Germany now closely supervising all French officials.Most of the overseas French colonies were originally under Vichy control, though a few rallied to Charles de Gaulle's Allied-oriented Free France. Following the Allied invasion of North Africa in November 1942, Vichy progressively lost control of the colonies to Free France. Public opinion gradually turned against the French government and the occupying German forces over time, when it became clear that Germany was losing the war, and living conditions in France became increasingly difficult. A resistance movement, working largely in concert with de Gaulle's movement outside the country, increased in strength over the course of the occupation. Following the Allied invasion of Normandy in June 1944 and the liberation of France later that year, the Free French Provisional government of the French Republic (GPRF) was installed as the new national government, led by de Gaulle. Under a "national unanimity" cabinet uniting the many factions of the French Resistance, the GPRF re-established a provisional French Republic, thus apparently restoring continuity with the Third Republic. Most of the legal French government's leaders at Vichy fled or were subject to show trials by the GPRF, and a number were quickly executed for "treason" in a series of purges (épuration légale). Thousands of collaborators were summarily executed by local communists and the Resistance in so-called "savage purges" (épuration sauvage).The last of the French state exiles were captured in the Sigmaringen enclave by de Gaulle's French 1st Armoured Division in April 1945. Pétain, who had voluntarily made his way back to France via Switzerland, was also put on trial for treason by the new Provisional government, and received a death sentence, but this was commuted to life imprisonment by de Gaulle. Only four senior Vichy officials were tried for crimes against humanity, although many more had participated in the deportation of Jews for internment in Nazi concentration camps, abuses of prisoners, and severe acts against members of the Resistance.
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