chapter  2
16 Pages

Vichy and collaboration: from the National Revolution to Hitler’s revolution

Vichy is a tranquil, pleasant and unsuspecting town. In geographical terms it is almost the exact centre of France. It is famous for its spa water and its genteel way of life, and in the mid-1990s it was being marketed under the soundbite ‘La Ville est une fête’—a totally ironic slogan given the wartime history of the place.2 In 1940 the small provincial town was the administrative HQ of the pro-German regime headed by France’s most decorated soldier, Marshal Philippe Pétain.3 It had been chosen for its convenient geographical location, excellent communications and ample hotel space. It was, if you like, the French equivalent of Cheltenham, Harrogate or Tunbridge Wells. However, a visitor to the town in the early twenty-first century would have to dig long and hard before unearthing any reference to Vichy’s notoriety in the 1940s. The fact is that today the town is quietly embarrassed about its wartime infamy.