December 15

When France surrendered to the German invaders in the summer of 1940, the Third Republic collapsed. The National Assembly, meeting in the resort town of Vichy outside of the Wehrmacht zone of occupation, reconstituted the French government, giving dictatorial powers to the aged hero of the Great War, Marshal Philippe Pétain. His regime, known to its opponents as Vichy France, was authoritarian, paternalistic, ultra-Catholic, and collaborationist. Vichy attempted to portray “le Maréchal” as a grandfatherly figure and built a cult of personality around him. The unofficial national anthem became “Marshal, Here We Are!”

A sacred flame
Rises from the native soil,
And France enraptured
Greets you, Marshal!

All your children who love you
And worship your years,
To your supreme call,
Have responded: Present!

Marshal, here we are!
Before you, France’s saviour,
We swear, we your guys [“nous tes gars”],
To serve and follow your feats

Marshal, here we are!
You regave us hope
The Fatherland will be reborn,
Marshal, Marshal,
Here we are!

You fought unceasingly
For the common salvation
We speak tenderly
About Verdun’s hero…

By giving us your life,
Your genius and your faith,
You save the homeland
A second time.

Vichy France suffered economic hardship from the occupation and faced a bleak Christmas with millions of fathers away in prison of war camps or forced labour. The regime resorted to the same excuse as the Confederacy had given for the lack of presents for children by telling them that Père Noël was concentrating on giving good things to the imprisoned.

At Christmas 1941, children were encouraged to send the Marshal a drawing of the attractions of their region of France. Ten winners were selected to present their work to Pétain.

2 thoughts on “December 15”

  1. The Germans did not invade France. The French invaded Germany, and the Germans retaliated. Either way, France is a dystopia now.

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