In 1942, Laval, a French politician who had advocated collaboration with Nazi Germany, came to power. His government drafted laborers for German factories, cooperated in the deportation of Jews to death camps, and instituted a rule of terror. After France was liberated by the Allies, Laval fled. He was eventually captured and returned to France, where he was convicted of treason and executed. How was Laval’s attempt to escape execution thwarted by his jailers? More… Discuss
Laval and Pétain in Frank Capra documentary
film Divide and Conquer (1943)
Although Pierre-Henri Teitgen, the minister of justice in de Gaulle’s cabinet, personally appealed to Laval’s lawyers to have him attend the hearings, he declined to do so. Teitgen freely confirmed the conduct of Mongibeaux and Mornet, professing he was unable to do anything to curb them. The trial continued without the accused, ending with Laval being sentenced to death. His lawyers were turned down when they requested a re-trial.
The execution was fixed for the morning of 15 October. Laval attempted to cheat the firing squad by taking poison from a phial which had been stitched inside the lining of his jacket since the war years. He did not intend, he explained in a suicide note, that French soldiers should become accomplices in a “judicial crime”. The poison, however, was so old that it was ineffective, and repeated stomach-pumpingsrevived Laval.
Laval requested his lawyers to witness his execution. He was shot shouting “Vive la France!”. The whole prison shouted, “Murderers!” and “Long live Laval!” He “died bravely”, de Gaulle remarked in his memoirs. Laval’s widow declared: “It is not the French way to try a man without letting him speak”, she told an English newspaper, “That’s the way he always fought against – the German way.”
The High Court, which functioned until 1949, judged 108 cases, pronouncing eight death penalties, including one on Pétain but asking that it not be carried out because of his age. Only three of the death penalties were executed: Pierre Laval, Fernand de Brinon, Vichy’s Ambassador in Paris to the German authorities, and Joseph Darnand, head of the Milice.
Share this: But before....ask for permission!