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Petain: How the Hero of France Became a…

Petain: How the Hero of France Became a Convicted Traitor and Changed the…

by Charles Williams

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Very interesting bio of Petain ( )
  bookalover89 | Feb 12, 2011 |
Mr. Williams needs only 42 of the 272 pages of Maréchal Pétain’s life from his birth until his expected retirement. In these years, Mr. Pétain had made an inconspicuous career as a competent military administrator and as a strategist at the École de Guerre. This all changed drastically during France’s disastrous first episode of the Great War. Many generals were fired due to incompetence, and Mr. Pétain could rise to become the Victor of Verdun, commander in chief and maréchal. A great lover of women and a vain man, the Maréchal greatly enjoyed his popularity among the French people.

Interbellum politics in France were as messy as ever, and did not impress the military man positively. This combined with a certain lack of understanding for political processes led to an authoritarian right-wing view on politics. Mr. Pétain was more impressed with the Franco regime in Spain than with his own nation’s leadership.

This turned out to be fatal for the old hero during the World War 2. Given the near-collapse of the French army and its British ally, Minister of War Pétain received the role of prime minister and tried to save France by concluding an armistice with Nazi Germany against the wishes of that other great general, Charles de Gaulle. In his 80’s and with his energy and judgement deteriorating but with an unbeaten sense of vanity and self-esteem, Pétain became more and more a puppet of the Nazis, resulting in a death sentence and subsequent imprisonment until he died at the age of 95.

This well written, balanced biography clarifies this tragic process painstakingly. A highly recommended book, with just one remark: unlike the publisher suggests, my conclusion is that the Maréchal precisely did not change the course of history, not even his own country’s. ( )
2 vote mercure | Mar 21, 2010 |
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