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Who were the Leaders of the Vichy Government in France

Updated on November 5, 2012
Vichy Town Hall
Vichy Town Hall | Source

The Vichy was the government of France between July 1940 and August 1944. It is widely regarded as a collaborationist government; in that it worked with the Nazi German authorities.

Throughout the period the Vichy government was headed by Field Marshall Petain who was an elderly man, a hero from World War one. Vichy government policies were enacted all over France although until 1942 the northern area around Paris was occupied by German troops whilst the middle and southern areas were not. In 1942 the German troops moved into the occupied zone but the Vichy government was still seen as the head of state enacting Nazi friendly policies.

The purpose of this article is a brief examination of the leaders in Vichy, who were the movers and shakers in Vichy France and who in Occupied France influenced their actions.

Pierre Laval with German Commanders in Paris
Pierre Laval with German Commanders in Paris | Source

Raphael Alibert -Vichy minister of justice. He was responsible for the first anti-Jewish legislation. After the war he was sentenced to death in his absence. Alibert was given amnesty in 1959 and returned to France where he died in Paris in 1963

Admiral Gabriel- Paul Auphan- Advisor and confidant of Marsha Petain. He was one of the seven man committee named to govern in case of Petain’s incapacity. He was sent by Petain to contact de Gaulle in August 1944, for legal transfer of power in that he would become leader of France, but this overture was turned down by De Gaulle. Fleeing France after the Allied Invasion he was sentenced to life imprisonment at hard labour in his absence. The admiral surrendered himself in 1955 when he was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment with probation and 5 years of public degradation which treated him as a second class citizen with less than equal rights and stripping him of his naval rank.

Paul Baudouin -Vichy minister of foreign affairs. He was at the heart of government when the French agreed to an armistice and transmitted the message to Germany requesting that hostilities between France and Germany cease and an armistice be negotiated. In fact it was Baudouin’s suggestion that the government move to Vichy. He resigned from government in January, 1941, and became Chairman of the Bank of Indochina. In 1947 he was sentenced to five years hard labour but served only two years after his sentence was commuted.

Jacques Benoist-Mechin - Vichy undersecretary of state. Advocate of French military collaboration with the Nazis. After the war he was sentenced to death which was commuted to life imprisonment. He was later given an amnesty and was able to leave prison.

Jean Bichelonne - Vichy minister of production and communications. He was taken under German guard to Sigmaringen with the rest of the Vichy government after the Allied Invasion of France. He died mysteriously during operation in S.S. hospital I December, 1944. His death was recorded in the hospital as by Pulmonary Embolism

Major Bonhomme - He was Petain’s aide de camp. He died in an ambush in 1944.

Able Bonnard-Vichy minister of Education. Escorted to Sigmaringen by the Germans after the Allied Invasion from where he fled to Spain. He was sentenced to death in his absence but returned to France in 1960 when that sentence was reduced to ten years banishment- he had already been absent from France for a longer period so the sentence was academic.

Rene Bousquet in Marseille with the German army in the round of Jews
Rene Bousquet in Marseille with the German army in the round of Jews | Source

Rene Bousquet - Vichy secretary general of police, although involved in the round ups for the deportations he personally suspended some categories of deportation such as orphans under 18 and families with children under 5 years of age. He was the last French man to be tried by the war courts in France in 1949. He was sentenced to a minimum sentence of 5 years degradation which was suspended because of his service to the Resistance.

Yves Bouthillier-Vichy minister of finance. After the war ended he was sentenced to three years imprisonment.

General Bridoux- Eugene-Vichy minister of war. He was a member of de Brinon’s National Committee for the Protection of French Interests in Sigmarigen. He escaped to Spain where he died in 1955.

Fernand De Brinon- Vichy ambassador to the occupation authorities. Head of “National Committee for the Protection of French Interests in Sigmaringen , He was captured by advancing Allied forces and tried for war crimes sentenced to death by firing squad.

Jerome Carcopino- Vichy minister of education; not prosecuted

Camille Chautemps- French statesman who was on four occasions premier of France, he was vice- premier in Reynaud and Petain cabinets. Chautemps left the Vichy government after ten days and made his way to America where he lived for the rest of his life. He was condemned to five years imprisonment in absentia. Died in 1963

Jacques Chevalier - Vichy minister of education. Sentenced to twenty years hard labour

General Louis Colson- Vichy minister of war, retired in 1940 soon after the government was formed; not prosecuted

Admiral Francoise Darlan-Navy minister, vice premier and head of all armed forces under Vichy. He was assassinated in Algiers, December 24th 1942.

Poster for the Millice, headed by Joseph Darnand
Poster for the Millice, headed by Joseph Darnand | Source

Joseph Darnand- He was a combat hero of both world wars. In August 1943 he joined the SS and took an oath of loyalty to Hitler. He was the Vichy secretary of the Interior and head of the Milice an organisation which targeted members of the resistance. After the Invasion he fled to Italy where he was captured by allied forces and tried in France for war crimes. He was subsequently executed in October 1945

Louis Darquier - He was the head of the General commission for Jewish questions, an extreme anti Semite. Sentenced to death in absentia by the French courts and lived in Spain where he was protected by Franco. He was perhaps one of the first holocaust deniers stating that the gas chambers in Auschwitz were not used to kill Jews but only the lice that lived on them

General Henri-Fernand Dentz - He was the general who surrendered Paris to the Germans in June 1940. He defended Syria against the Allies for which he was sentenced to death ; a sentence that was later commuted, however he died in prison.

Pierre Etienne Flandin - French statesman who succeeded Laval as vice-premier in December 1940 and was ousted by Darlan in January 1941. Tried in France after the war and sentenced to five years national degradation which was suspended.

Rene Fonck- World War I Flying Ace
Rene Fonck- World War I Flying Ace | Source

Colonel Rene Fonck- French ace of aces in World War one, still holds the title of All time Allied Ace of Aces (75 validated kills). He was Petains liaison with Goering(whom he had got to know during the inter war period) during the occupation, but he was a firm supporter of the resistance and a post war enquiry cleared him of any collaboration charges- indeed he was awarded a certificate of resistance in 1948.

Philippe Henriot -Vichy minister of propaganda and information. The star of “Radio Paris”. Killed by the Resistance in June 1944

BENOIT Leon Fornel de la Laurence -General – Vichy ambassador to the occupied zone until December 1940. Later joined the Resistance, for which he was interned by Petain

Pierre Laval
Pierre Laval | Source

Pierre Laval - French stateman, twice premier, firstly in 1931 and after a visit to America and negotiations with President Hoover, Laval was awarded Times Magazine “man of the year” for 1931. His second period of office was in 1935 when he exhibited anti German policies regarding Germany as France’s natural enemy. Vichy vice –premier (1940) Head of government (1942) Actively pursued policy of collaboration with Nazi Germany and implemented anti Semitic measures. After the Invasion he was taken to Sigmaringen by the Germans. Fled to Spain, but returned to France 1945. Tried and condemned to death by the high court. He tried to cheat the firing squad by taking a phial of poison before he was due to die but was resuscitated sufficiently to face their guns- he was executed on 15th October 1945, one of three Vichy officials who were executed.

Paul Marion - Ex-communist, later member of Doriot’s Partie Populaire Francais. Vichy minster of information. Fled to Sigmaringen with the rest of the now powerless Vichy government. Sentenced to ten years in prison in 1948 but this was commuted in 1953 owing to his ill health, he died the following year.

Dr Bernard Menetrel- He was Petain’s physician and later his political advisor. He was killed in car accident in 1947, shortly after his release from prison.

Henri Du Moulin De Labarthete - Head of Petain’s civil cabinet in 1940-1942. Dismissed when Laval returned in April 1942, he went to Switzerland as financial attaché . I have been unable to trace what happened to him when the war ended.

Hitler meeting Field Marshall Petain
Hitler meeting Field Marshall Petain | Source

Phillipe Petain- Marshall Petain was a hero from the First Word War, known as the “Victor of Verdun”, Commander in chief of French armies 1918. He became the head of the Vichy government from July 1940 to August 1944 and oversaw the armistice with Germany. After the war he returned to France to stand trial for treason. Condemned to death, but perhaps owing to his age and his brilliant military career this sentence changed to life imprisonment on the Ile d’Yeu where he died in 1951 aged 95. Although he was stripped of his medals he could not be stripped of his title of Marshall of France as that was conferred by Parliament.

Admiral Rene Platon – ( I have seen variations on his name from Rene, Charles to Jean)

Vichy member for colonies and an ultra collaborationist. He was shot after being captured by French Interior Forces who arranged an ad hoc court martial in August 1944

Pierre Pucheu-Vichy minister of the Interior in 1941. He had a “hands on” approach, personally selecting 89 hostages for execution in 1941. Left government after Laval’s return and went to Algiers which at that time was ruled by the Vichy. He was captured in Casablanca and was arrested, tried and condemned by a Gaullist court in Algeria he was shot in March 1944

Georges Ripert- Vichy minister of education until December 1940. Not prosecuted


If I have missed anyone associated with this government, I apologise and please let me know so that I can investigate. I must stress that some Vichy ministers did not welcome collaboration with the German authorities whilst some did it simply in a deluded sense of duty to the French people.


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    • Just History profile image

      Just History 5 years ago from England

      UnamedHarald- another area where I knew nothing and am reading voraciously

    • UnnamedHarald profile image

      David Hunt 5 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Yes, Just History, a nice Who's Who. I will be referring to this in future.

    • Just History profile image

      Just History 5 years ago from England

      Judi Bee- Thanks for your visit; needless to say there will be a few more hubs on this subject!

    • Judi Bee profile image

      Judith Hancock 5 years ago from UK

      I am very ignorant of Vichy France, so thanks for this, very interesting indeed.

      Voted up, of course!