This week in the War, 9–15 December 1940: Laval dismissed

On 13 December 1940, Pétain fired vice-président du Conseil Pierre Laval from the number 2 spot in Vichy France. (They are pictured to the left).

It served the scruffy 80-a-day chain-smoking anti-Semitic Laval right for blowing smoke in the Maréchal’s face once too often.

No one in Vichy’s upper echelons (e.g. Maxime Weygand or the Maréchal himself) liked Laval too much. Perhaps he was too collaborationist. (He is shown in the picture to the right with Nazi Police Chief, Carl Oberg).

Closer to the truth: Laval was a collaborationist who had failed to deliver. French prisoners-of-war still languished in German POW camps. A peace treaty had not been signed, only an armistice.

Hitler, at the Montoire meeting, preferred Pétain—relating to the old soldier ahead of the sleazy politician. (Lucky for Laval he didn’t blow smoke on the Fuehrer). Even so, Hitler was not pleased at Laval’s fall from grace. The German ambassador and a contingent of SS were dispatched to free Laval, who was under arrest in Vichy, and to bring him back to Paris.

In April 1942, Hitler insisted that Laval get his old job back.

He was fired permanently after the war, being tried and shot for treason, 15 October 1945. Even de Gaulle admitted that Laval died bravely.

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