Paul Reynaud

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Paul Reynaud
Paul Reynaud 1933.jpg
Paul Reynaud (1933)
118th Prime Minister of France
In office
21 March 1940 – 16 June 1940
Preceded by Édouard Daladier
Succeeded by Philippe Pétain
Personal details
Born (1878-10-15)15 October 1878
Barcelonnette, France
Died 21 September 1966(1966-09-21) (aged 87)
Neuilly-sur-Seine, France
Political party Democratic Republican Alliance

Paul Reynaud (French pronunciation: ​[pɔl ʁɛjno]; 15 October 1878 – 21 September 1966) was a French politician and lawyer prominent in the interwar period, noted for his stances on economic liberalism and militant opposition to Germany. He was the penultimate Prime Minister of the Third Republic and vice-president of the Democratic Republican Alliance center-right party.

Refusing to participate in the Vichy government, he resigned and was arrested in June 1940 by Philippe Petain's administration. First held at Fort du Portalet, Reynaud was transferred to German custody in 1942 and held in Germany until the end of the war. Elected to the Chamber of Deputies in 1946, he became a prominent figure again in French political life, serving in several cabinet positions. He favoured a United States of Europe. He participated in drafting the constitution for the Fifth Republic and resigned from government in 1962.

Early life and politics[edit]

Reynaud was born in Barcelonnette, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence. His father had made a fortune in the textile industry, enabling Reynaud to study law at the Sorbonne. He entered politics and quickly became active.

Reynaud was elected to the French Chamber of Deputies from 1919 to 1924, representing Basses-Alpes, and again from 1928, representing a Paris district. Although he was first elected as part of the conservative "Blue Horizon" bloc in 1919, Reynaud shortly thereafter switched his allegiance to the center-right Democratic Republican Alliance party. Reynaud later became the vice-president of his party.

In the 1920s, Reynaud developed a reputation for laxity on German reparations, at a time when many in the French government backed harsher terms for Germany. In the 1930s during the Great Depression, particularly after 1933, Reynaud's stance hardened against the Germans at a time when all nations were struggling economically. Reynaud backed a strong alliance with the United Kingdom and, unlike many others on the French Right, better relations with the Soviet Union as a counterweight against the Germans.[1]:517

Reynaud held several cabinet posts in the early 1930s, but he clashed with members of his party after 1932 over French foreign and defense policy. He was not given another cabinet position until 1938. Like Winston Churchill, Reynaud was a maverick in his party and often alone in his calls for rearmament and resistance to German aggrandizement. Reynaud was a supporter of Charles de Gaulle's theories of mechanized warfare in contrast to the static defense doctrines that were in vogue among many of his countrymen, symbolized by the Maginot Line. He strongly opposed appeasement in the run-up to the Second World War.

He also clashed with his party on economic policy, backing the devaluation of the franc as a solution to France's economic woes. Pierre Étienne Flandin, the leader of the Democratic Republican Alliance, agreed with several of Reynaud's key policy stances, particularly on Reynaud's defense of economic liberalism.

Return to government[edit]

Reynaud returned to the cabinet in 1938 as Minister of Finance under Édouard Daladier. The Sudeten Crisis, which began not long after Reynaud was named Minister of Justice, again revealed the divide between Reynaud and the rest of the Alliance Démocratique; Reynaud adamantly opposed abandoning the Czechs to the Germans, while Flandin felt that allowing Germany to expand eastward would inevitably lead to a conflict with the Soviets that would weaken both. Reynaud publicly made his case, and in response Flandin pamphleted Paris in order to pressure the government to agree to Hitler's demands.[1]:519 Reynaud subsequently left his party to become an independent. Reynaud still had Daladier's support, however, whose politique de fermeté was very similar to Reynaud's notion of deterrence.

Reynaud, however, had always wanted the Finance ministry. He endorsed radically liberal economic policies in order to draw France's economy out of stagnation, centered on a massive program of deregulation, including the elimination of the forty-hour work week.[1]:503 The notion of deregulation was very popular among France's businessmen, and Reynaud believed that it was the best way for France to regain investors' confidence again and escape the stagnation its economy had fallen into. The collapse of Léon Blum's government in 1938 was a response to Blum's attempt to expand the regulatory powers of the French government; there was therefore considerable support in the French government for an alternative approach like Reynaud's.

Paul Marchandeau, Daladier's first choice for finance minister, offered a limited program of economic reform that was not to Daladier's satisfaction; Reynaud and Marchandeau swapped portfolios, and Reynaud went ahead with his radical liberalization reforms. Reynaud's reforms were successfully implemented, and the government stood down a one-day strike in opposition. Reynaud addressed France's business community, arguing that "We live in a capitalist system. For it to function we must obey its laws. These are the laws of profits, individual risk, free markets, and growth by competition."[1]:504

Reynaud's reforms proved remarkably successful; a massive austerity program was implemented (although armament measures were not cut) and France's coffers expanded from 37 billion francs in September 1938 to 48 billion francs at the outbreak of war a year later. More importantly, France's industrial productivity jumped from 76 to 100 (base=1929) from October 1938 to May 1939.[1]:505 At the outbreak of war, however, Reynaud was not bullish on France's economy; he felt that the massive increase in spending that a war entailed would stamp out France's recovery.

The French Right was ambivalent about the war in late 1939 and early 1940, feeling that the greater threat was from the Soviets.[1]:522–523 The Winter War put these problems into stark relief; Daladier refused to send aid to the Finns while war with Germany continued. News of the Soviet-Finnish armistice in March 1940 prompted Flandin and Pierre Laval to hold secret sessions of the legislature that denounced Daladier's actions; the government fell on 19 March. The government named Reynaud Prime Minister of France two days later.

Prime minister and arrest[edit]

Although Reynaud was increasingly popular, the Chamber of Deputies elected Reynaud premier by only a single vote with most of his own party abstaining; over half of the votes for Reynaud came from the French Section of the Workers' International (SFIO) party. With so much support from the left – and the opposition from many parties on the right – Reynaud's government was especially unstable; many on the Right demanded that Reynaud attack not Germany, but the Soviet Union.[1]:524 The Chamber also forced Daladier, whom Reynaud held personally responsible for France's weakness, to be Reynaud's Minister of National Defense and War. One of Reynaud's first acts was to sign a declaration with British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain that neither of the two countries would sign a separate peace.

Reynaud abandoned any notion of a "long war strategy" based on attrition. Aiming at diverting German attentions from France, Reynaud entertained suggestions to expand the war to the Balkans or northern Europe; he was instrumental in launching the allied campaign in Norway, though it ended in failure. Britain's decision to withdraw on 26 April prompted Reynaud to travel to London to personally lobby the British to stand and fight in Norway.[1]:533

The Battle of France began less than two months after Reynaud came to office. France was badly mauled by the initial attack in early May 1940, and Paris was threatened. On 15 May, five days after the invasion began, Reynaud contacted Churchill and famously remarked, "We have been defeated... we are beaten; we have lost the battle.... The front is broken near Sedan." Indeed, such was the situation regarding equipment and morale that Reynaud received a postcard found on the body of an officer who had committed suicide in Le Mans. It stated: "I am killing myself Mr President to let you know that all my men were brave, but one cannot send men to fight tanks with rifles."[2]

Charles de Gaulle, whom Reynaud had long supported and one of the few French commanders to have fought the Germans successfully in 1940, was promoted to brigadier general and named undersecretary of war.[3] On 18 May Reynaud removed commander-in-chief Maurice Gamelin in favor of Maxime Weygand.

As France's situation grew increasingly desperate, Reynaud accepted Marshal Philippe Pétain as Minister of State. Pétain, an aged veteran of the First World War, advised an armistice. Soon after the occupation of Paris, there was increasing pressure on Reynaud to come to a separate peace with Germany. Reynaud refused to be a party to such an undertaking, and was among the few in the cabinet to support accepting the British proposal on 16 June to unite France and the United Kingdom to avoid surrender. Discouraged by the cabinet's hostile reaction to the proposal and its preference for an armistice, and believing that his ministers no longer supported him,[4] Reynaud resigned that evening.

Pétain, who became the leader of the new government (the last one of the Third Republic), signed the armistice on 22 June. On 28 June, Reynaud and his mistress the Comtesse Hélène de Portes were involved in a road accident in the south of France. The car Reynaud was driving left the road and hit a tree. De Portes was killed instantly; Reynaud suffered a head injury. It has been suggested they were fleeing to Spain,[5] but were travelling to Reynaud's holiday home on the Riviera. Hospitalized at Montpellier, Reynaud allegedly told Bill Bullitt, American ambassador, 'I have lost my country, my honour and my love'.[6] After his discharge from hospital, Reynaud was arrested on Pétain's orders and imprisoned at Fort du Portalet.[7]

Pétain decided against having him charged during the Riom Trial, and transferred him to the Germans. They held him as prisoner until the end of the war. Reynaud was liberated by Allied troops after the Battle for Castle Itter with other French prisoners in the Itter Castle near Wörgl, Austria, on 7 May 1945.

Postwar life[edit]

After the war, Reynaud was elected in 1946 as a member of the Chamber of Deputies. He was appointed to several cabinet positions in the postwar period and remained a prominent figure in French politics. His attempts to form governments in 1952 and 1953 in the turbulent politics of the French Fourth Republic were failures.

Reynaud supported the idea of a United States of Europe, along with a number of prominent contemporaries. Reynaud presided over the consultative committee that drafted the constitution of France's (current) Fifth Republic. In 1962, he denounced his old friend de Gaulle's attempt to eliminate the electoral college system in favour of direct vote. Reynaud left office the same year.

Marriage and family[edit]

By his first marriage, in 1912, to Jeanne Henri-Robert, he was the father of a daughter, Collette. The marriage ended in divorce in 1913.

Reynaud married Christiane Mabire (who was previously one of his office assistants) in 1949 at the age of 71 and fathered three additional children (two sons and a daughter).

He died on 21 September 1966 at Neuilly-sur-Seine, leaving a number of writings.

Reynaud's government, 21 March – 16 June 1940[edit]

Three French cabinent ministers, Édouard Daladier, Georges Monnet and Paul Reynaud c.1940

Changes

  • 10 May 1940 – Louis Marin and Jean Ybarnegaray enter the Cabinet as Ministers of State
  • 18 May 1940 – Philippe Pétain enters the Cabinet as Minister of State. Reynaud succeeds Daladier as Minister of National Defense and War. Daladier succeeds Reynaud as Minister of Foreign Affairs. Georges Mandel succeeds Roy as Minister of the Interior. Louis Rollin succeeds Mandel as Minister of Colonies. Léon Baréty succeeds Rollin as Minister of Commerce and Industry.
  • 5 June 1940 – Reynaud succeeds Daladier as Minister of Foreign Affairs, remaining also Minister of National Defense and War. Yves Bouthillier succeeds Lamoureux as Minister of Finance. Yvon Delbos succeeds Sarraut as Minister of National Education. Ludovic-Oscar Frossard succeeds Monzie as Minister of Public Works. Jean Prouvost succeeds Frossard as Minister of Information. Georges Pernot succeeds Héraud as Health Minister, with the new title of Minister of French Family. Albert Chichery succeeds Baréty as Minister of Commerce and Industry.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Imlay, Talbot C. "Paul Reynaud and France's Response to Nazi Germany, 1938–1940," French Historical Studies 26.3 (2003)
  2. ^ Regan, Geoffrey. Military Anecdotes - The End of The Line (1992) p.159 ISBN 0-85112-519-0
  3. ^ http://www.spartacus-educational.com/2WWreynaud.htm
  4. ^ Shlaim, Avi (July 1974). "Prelude to Downfall: The British Offer of Union to France, June 1940". Journal of Contemporary History. 3 9: 27–63. doi:10.1177/002200947400900302. Retrieved 3 September 2010. 
  5. ^ Servan-Schreiber, P. (1991). Passions. Hachette, Paris. ISBN 287645101.
  6. ^ Moss, N. (2003). 19 Weeks. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York. ISBN 0-618-10471-2.
  7. ^ http://www.tourisme-aspe.com/fort-du-portalet.html

Additional references[edit]

  • Noel Barber, The Week France Fell (1976)
  • Paul Reynaud, In the Thick of the Fight, 1930–1945 (1955)

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Charles Dumont
Minister of Finance
1930
Succeeded by
Louis Germain-Martin
Preceded by
Théodore Steeg
Minister of Colonies
1932
Succeeded by
Louis de Chappedelaine
Preceded by
Vice President of the Council
1932
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Léon Bérard
Minister of Justice
1932
Succeeded by
René Renoult
Preceded by
Marc Rucart
Minister of Justice
1938
Succeeded by
Paul Marchandeau
Preceded by
Paul Marchandeau
Minister of Finance
1938–1940
Succeeded by
Lucien Lamoureux
Preceded by
Édouard Daladier
President of the Council
1940
Succeeded by
Philippe Pétain
Preceded by
Édouard Daladier
Minister of Foreign Affairs
1940
Succeeded by
Édouard Daladier
Preceded by
Édouard Daladier
Minister of National Defense and War
1940
Succeeded by
Maxime Weygand
Preceded by
Édouard Daladier
Minister of Foreign Affairs
1940
Succeeded by
Philippe Pétain
Preceded by
René Mayer
Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs
1948
Succeeded by
Christian Pineau
Preceded by
Minister of Relations with Partner States and the Far East
1950
Succeeded by
Jean Letourneau
Preceded by
Vice President of the Council
with Henri Queuille and Pierre-Henri Teitgen
1953–1954
Succeeded by