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Léon Blum (1872–1950)

Author of A l'échelle humaine

Includes the names: Leon Blum, Blum Léon, Léon Blum

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Léon Blum was the first Jewish prime minister of France, a position in which he served three terms. He was born into an Alsatian-Jewish family and educated at the École Normale Supérieure. He studied law at the Sorbonne University, graduating in 1894 with the highest honours. He became recognized as a brilliant literary and dramatic critic. The Dreyfus affair stimulated his entrance into politics, and in 1904 he joined Jean Jaurès’s French Socialist Party. Blum was first elected to the Chamber of Deputies in 1919. He led the Socialist Party through the 1920s and 1930s, and was also editor of the party's newspaper, Le Populaire. By 1932 he had developed a program of pacifism, nationalization of French industry, and measures against unemployment that led to the electoral alliance of the political left known as the Popular Front, which in the elections of April and May 1936 won a large majority in the Chamber. Blum became premier as leader of the Popular Front government of June 1936. A year later, he resigned after the conservative majority in the Senate blocked his efforts to deal with France's financial difficulties. Modified Popular Front governments were formed in which Leon Blum served as vice-premier, and he was again named prime minister in March 1938. In 1940, after the German Occupation of World War II, Blum was indicted by the Vichy government and sent to the concentration camps at Dachau and Buchenwald. After the liberation of France by the Allies, Leon Blum emerged again as one of France’s leading statesmen, and in December 1946-January 1947 he led an all-Socialist transitional French government, prior to the election of the first president of the new Fourth Republic. Leon Blum retired from public life in 1947 but served as vice-premier in André Marie’s ministry of August 1948.
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