French National Assembly Honors ‘Vichy 80’ Who Defied Marshal Pétain’s Pro-Nazi Regime
The French National Assembly cast its attention back to the four-year Nazi German occupation during World War II on Thursday, as the legislative body honored the 80 parliamentarians who, at enormous risk to themselves, voted against granting full powers to the puppet regime of Marshal Philippe Pétain in July 1940.
National Assembly President Richard Ferrand hailed the “bold spirit” of the group who became known as the “Vichy 80.”
The parliamentarians had demonstrated “a clear and unequivocal refusal to compromise, to submit” to Pétain and his German masters, Ferrand said.
On July 10, 1940, the 80 liberal and left-wing parliamentarians — led by Léon Blum, the Jewish socialist former prime minister who remained in France after the Nazi invasion and was later imprisoned in the Buchenwald concentration camp — voted against the the constitutional change that replaced the Third Republic with Pétain’s authoritarian regime based in the city of Vichy.
The group’s courage was best symbolized by the fact that 569 of their parliamentary colleagues voted in favor of granting full powers to Pétain. Although the promised new constitution was never delivered, the adoption of dictatorial powers by Pétain enabled the swift passage of anti-Jewish laws that mirrored the racist laws imposed by the Nazis on Germany’s Jewish community. Between the “Jewish Statute” of Oct. 1940 and the defeat of the Nazi occupation in 1944, Pétain’s regime deported nearly 76,000 of France’s 350,000 Jews to Nazi concentration camps.
Ferrand ended his address on Thursday by calling on today’s French parliamentarians to be “worthy of the 80.”
Concluded Ferrand: “In politics, you have to say no … to violations of democratic principles, no to racism, no to antisemitism.”