François Lehideux

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François Lehideux
Born (1904-01-30)January 30, 1904
Died June 21, 1998(1998-06-21) (aged 94)
Occupation Industrialist
Employer Renault
Ford Motor Company
Known for Official in Vichy France
Title Minister of Industrial Production
Term July 1941 - April 1942
Relatives Fernand Renault (father-in-law)

François Lehideux (born 30 January 1904 in Paris - died 21 June 1998 in Paris) was a French industrialist and member of the Vichy government.

Car industry[edit]

Lehideux was married to the daughter of Fernand Renault and soon became a leading figure in the Renault car company. He was assistant to Louis Renault and in this position convinced the head of the company to employ André Lefèbvre within the development department, Lehideux admiring Lefèbvre's bold ideas and feeling that Renault needed to modernise its designs in order to continue to lead the way in French automobile manufacture.[1]

During his time with Renault, Lehideux made no secret of his ambition. A year after the outbreak of war Louis Renault held a meeting, on 3 September 1940, with the country's new leader, the Marshall Pétain, at which Renault received the reassurance he sought that the government wished him to remain at the head of his company.[2] Renault at this time was greatly concerned that his brother's son in law, François Lehideux, was scheming with political contacts to take the top job at Renault.[2] The incident also reflects the extent to which the right wing government of Pétain shared the interventionist approach to industry that had been evident in his left wing predecessor, prime minister Léon Blum, five years earlier. Government interventionism would be an important part of the story of the French auto-industry, most particularly regarding the Renault business itself, in the post-war decades. Following his unsuccessful pitch for the top job it was Lehideux who now left the company.[3]

Vichy[edit]

In October 1940 Lehideux was appointed to the headship of the COA,[4] an organisation charged with smoothing relations between the German authorities and French auto-makers.[2][5] He is credited with having successfully intervened in 1943 to block German plans to crate up Ford's newly completed car plant at Poissy for shipment to the company's Cologne location.[2]

Along with the likes of Jacques Barnaud, Jean Bichelonne and Pierre Pucheu Lehideux was a member of a group of technocrats who were important in the early days of the Vichy regime.[6] These individuals, sometimes known as jeunes cyclistes, advocated extensive economic reform in order that France could become a leading player in a the German-led Europe that they saw emerging.[7] Along with Pucheu and Paul Marion Lehideux expressed this view to Otto Abetz when they signed a memorandum to him in March 1941 stating that they hoped to make France "Europe's bridgehead" in the new German-led order.[8] William D. Leahy, the United States ambassador to France reported to his friend Franklin D. Roosevelt that Lehideux was part of a coterie of strongly pro-Nazi Germany figures that Philippe Pétain had surrounded himself with.[9]

In 1941 he was given charge of a new body, the Direction Générale de l'équipement nationale, the purpose of which was to improve the economy and overcome high unemployment. In his role as leader of this body Lehideux produced a ten-year plan for the economic development and growth of Vichy France.[10]

Lehideux served as Minister of Industrial Production and worked closely with Nazi Germany, providing parts for their tanks and organising repairs, all of which were carried out by Renault, a company that he had married into.[11] He held his ministerial portfolio from July 1941 to April 1942,[12] resigning when Pierre Laval returned to government.

Post-war[edit]

He was arrested after the Second World War but freed in 1946. On 17 February 1949 all charges against him were dropped[11] by the High Court of Justice on grounds of "insufficient evidence":[13] he had provided protection for members of the OCF.[14] By now he was returning to a successful career in business.[15] Indeed the Ford Motor Company appointed him managing director of their French operations in 1950[2] in succession to Maurice Dollfus, a controversial decision which sparked a hostile reaction that encouraged Ford to sell its French arm to Simca in 1954.[16]

Lehideux defended his involvement in Vichy after the war, stating as late as 1997 that "extenuating circumstances justified Vichy policy".[11] He also became involved the Association for the Defence of the Memory of Marshal Pétain, a group that campaigned for a reassessment of Petain.[17] Lehideux's death at the age of 95 in June 1998 saw the end of the Vichy clique as he was the final minister of the regime left alive.[11]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Gijsbert-Paul Berk, Andre Lefebvre and the Cars He Created at Voisin and Citroen, Veloce Publishing Ltd, 2009, pp. 54-55
  2. ^ a b c d e "Automobilia". Toutes les voitures françaises 1940 - 46 (les années sans salon) (Paris: Histoire & collections). Nr. 26: Pages 37 & 60. 2003. 
  3. ^ http://www.louisrenault.com/index.php/articles/histoire-sociale-et-politique
  4. ^ Comité d'organisation de l'automobile
  5. ^ Nord, France's New Deal, p. 92
  6. ^ Michael Curtis, Verdict on Vichy, Phoenix, 2003, p. 79
  7. ^ Curtis, Verdict on Vichy, p. 259
  8. ^ Charles Williams, Petain, Little, Brown, 2005, p. 377
  9. ^ Williams, Petain, p. 398
  10. ^ Philip G. Nord, France's New Deal: From the Thirties to the Postwar Era, Princeton University Press, 2010, p. 94
  11. ^ a b c d Curtis, Verdict on Vichy, p. 269
  12. ^ Julian Jackson, France: the dark years, 1940-1944, Oxford University Press, 2003, p. 148
  13. ^ Henry Coston, Dictionary of French Politics, vol 2, 1972. See p.297 for high court decisions relating to the post-warLegal Purge.
  14. ^ Captain Marc O'Neill, a resistance network member, requested the Interior Minister, André Le Troquer, to free Lehideux back in 1944 because of help provided by him over transferring materials across into the Free Zone.
    See also on this Histoire orale. Inventaire analytique des sous-séries 3K et 4K, vol 1, p.100 and 102, available on the website of the Ministry of Defence.
  15. ^ Curtis, Verdict on Vichy, p. 356
  16. ^ Simon Reich, The fruits of fascism: postwar prosperity in historical perspective, Cornell University Press, 1990, pp. 297-298
  17. ^ James Shields, The extreme right in France: from Pétain to Le Pen, Routledge, 2007, p. 330