France History - 1940-1958

France History: 1940-1958

Second World War: État Français and Resistance (1940–1945)

Protected by the Maginot Line, the French army behaved largely passively (“drôle de guerre”) and suffered a military defeat against the attacking German Wehrmacht in May / June 1940 (World War II). On the basis of the armistice agreement signed by Marshal Pétain as Prime Minister (1940-42) on June 22, 1940, the greater part of France, including Paris, was occupied by German troops. Alsace and Lorraine were in fact incorporated into the German Empire and the population was forced to serve in the Wehrmacht.

In unoccupied France, Pétain established an authoritarian system of government based in Vichy. On July 11, 1940, he assumed the title of “Chef de l’État Français” (Chief of the French State). When he met A. Hitler in Montoire-sur-le-Loir (Loir-et-Cher department; October 24, 1940), French cooperation with the German Reich was established. After the Allies landed in North Africa, German troops occupied the previously unoccupied zone of France on November 11, 1942. The Vichy regime, in which, in addition to Pétain v. a. Laval became more and more prominent, developed into a dictatorial system of government that offered no resistance or even assistance to the German occupying power (especially in the persecution of resistance fighters and the deportation of Jews).

In a radio address on June 18, 1940, General C. de Gaulle spoke out from London for the continuation of the war on the British side. At the head of Free France, he only got a political foothold in French Equatorial Africa (Governor General: F. Eboué) and in the French Pacific possessions. In September 1941 he formed the Comité National Français (CNF) in London, which was replaced in June 1943 by the Comité Français de Liberation Nationale (CFLN) in Algiers. In May 1943 J. Moulin, de Gaulle’s representative in occupied France, succeeded in bringing together the resistance organizations of the motherland in the Conseil National de la Résistance (CNR) (Resistance). In August 1943, Great Britain, the United States and the USSR recognized the CFLN as the official French government. The majority of the French territories outside the mother country submitted to his authority. On June 3, 1944, de Gaulle transformed the CFLN into a provisional government led by him, at the head of which he moved into liberated Paris on August 25, 1944 after the Western Allies landed in Normandy (June 6, 1944). French troops, emerging from the “Free French Armed Forces”, took part in the final battles against Germany. At the end of the Second World War, France mourned around half a million deaths.

Fourth Republic (1945-1958)

According to thesciencetutor, the history of the Fourth Republic begins with the establishment of de Gaulle’s provisional government in Paris and its confirmation by the 1st Constituante (Constituent Assembly) elected on October 21, 1945. Communists, socialists and the Christian Democratic People’s Republicans (Mouvement Républicain Populaire, MRP) were the strongest political forces and supported the various governments (»tripartisme«) from 1945-47. Domestically, the government combined the reconstruction of the economy and society with the fight against the supporters of the Vichy regime (collaboration). She initiated social reforms (including nationalization of basic industries, big banks, shipping and airlines), decided on social measures and set up a planning authority (for the targeted use of state investments) (J. Monnet). The constitutional question was at the center of the domestic political discussion. After de Gaulle had not prevailed with his ideas of a strong executive, he resigned in January 1946. In May 1946 the population rejected the draft constitution of the 1st Constituency and in October 1946 approved the modified constitutional text of a 2nd Constituent with a narrow majority. With the creation of the French Union At the same time, this constitution sought a new constitutional relationship with the colonies. The President of the French Republic (1947–54 V. Auriol, 1954–59 R. Coty) was also President of the French Union.

Under the pressure of the worsening East-West conflict, Prime Minister P. Ramadier, a socialist, excluded the communists (under M. Thorez) from government responsibility in 1947. While the Gaullists, who had found a political platform for the first time in the Rassemblement du Peuple Français (RPF), and the Communists had been in fundamental opposition to the Fourth Republic since 1947, the parties of the “third force” (People’s Republicans, Socialists, Radical Socialists, from 1951 also the Independent Republicans and Peasants) the government. Temporary significance was given to Fr Poujade led protest movement, the »Poujadists«. In the elections of 1951 and 1956, diverging tendencies in domestic and foreign policy resulted in the loss of the parliamentary basis of the state-supporting parties, their fragmentation and the rapid change of governments, among other things. under the Prime Ministers G. Bidault, R. Schuman, R. Pleven, A. Pinay, P. Mendès-France, E. Faure and G. Mollet.

In foreign policy, the governments of the Fourth Republic successfully sought an equal role for France in international diplomacy (winning a permanent seat on the UN Security Council) and in the occupation of Germany and Austria (establishment of a French occupation zone in both areas). In addition, French representatives took part in all major international conferences. Against the background of the worsening East-West conflict, France gave up the attempt in 1947/48 to follow its own foreign policy line between the USA and Great Britain on the one hand and the USSR on the other, and joined the alliance system led by the USA (1949 co-founding of NATO, 1954 of SEATO). If the French governments initially advocated extensive decentralization (“fragmentation”) of Germany, they later approved the establishment of the Federal Republic of Germany and its integration into the European integration process. France participated in the founding of the Council of Europe (1949), the coal and steel union (1951) as well as of the EEC and EURATOM (1957, Treaty of Rome). The supranationally organized European Defense Community proposed by Pleven failed due to resistance from the National Assembly.

Involved in the Indochina War from 1946–54, the Mendès-France government had to break the constitutional ties with the states of this region at the Geneva Indochina Conference in 1954 and consent to the partition of Vietnam.

In 1956 Morocco and Tunisia were granted independence. In 1956 the Anglo-French attempt to reverse the nationalization of the Suez Canal by Egypt through military intervention failed (Suez Crisis). The unsuccessful attempt to preserve Algeria as part of the French state and to put down the uprising of the Front de la Liberation Nationale (FLN) (Algerian War, since 1954) triggered a coup by French armed forces and settlers in Algeria in May 1958. In order to resolve the national crisis, the constitutional institutions appointed de Gaulle as Prime Minister on June 1, 1958 and gave him great powers.

France History - 1940-1958

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