- Georges Mandel
Georges Mandel (
June 5, 1885— July 7, 1944) was a French politician, journalist, and French Resistanceleader.
Born Louis George Rothschild in
Chatou, Seine-et-Oise, the son of a tailor: his family (not related to the Rothschild banking dynasty) was Jewish, and had fled from Alsacein to preserve their French citizenship when Alsace-Lorrainewas annexed by the German Empireat the end of the Franco-Prussian War.
Mandel began working life as a journalist for "
L'Aurore", the paper of Émile Zola, Georges Clemenceau, and the defenders of Alfred Dreyfus, during the Dreyfus Affair. Clemenceau brought Mandel into politics when he was Minister of the Interior. Mandel also helped Clemenceau control the press and the trade unionmovement during the First World War.
He was elected to the
Chamber of Deputiesfrom Girondein 1919, and lost his seat when the " Cartel des Gauches" swept the 1924 elections, but returned to office in 1928. He kept the position until the World War IIdefeats and the Nazi German military occupation of France in 1940.
In 1934, Mandel entered the government as Minister of Posts (1934-1936), and oversaw the first official
televisiontransmission in French. During the 1936 Albert Sarrautgovernment, Mandel served as both Minister of Posts and High Commissioner for Alsace and Lorraine. After the fall of the Popular Front government, he served as Minister of Overseas France and her Colonies (1938-1940).
Mandel was an economic conservative and, perhaps not unexpectedly, an outspoken opponent of
Nazismand Fascism. In the 1930s, he played a similar role to Winston Churchillin the United Kingdom, highlighting the dangers posed by Adolf Hitler. He opposed Pierre Laval's plan to partition Ethiopiafollowing its invasion by Benito Mussolini's Italy(the Second Italo–Abyssinian Warof 1935-1936). Mandel also became a strong advocate of a military alliance with the Soviet Union, and opposed the Munich Agreementand the policy of appeasementit exemplified.
World War II and German invasion
In September 1939, after the outbreak of the German-Polish War, Mandel argued that the
French Armyshould fight an offensive war, instead of the Phony Warfavored by other politicians. Mandel was accused by some on the right of being a warmonger; it was also alleged that he was placing his Jewish ancestry above France's interests.
Mandel was Minister of Interior in
Paul Reynaud's government from 18 May to 16 June 1940, just before the commencement of the Vichy regimeled by Philippe Pétain. Mandel opposed to the Armistice with the rapidly advancing Germans. On June 16, in Bordeaux, British General Edward Spears, Churchill's military liaison officer, offered Mandel the chance to leave on his plane, together with Charles de Gaulle, but Mandel declined, saying: "You fear for me because I am a Jew. Well, it is just because I am a Jew that I will not go tomorrow; it would look as though I was afraid, as if I was running away".
Mandel sought to persuade the President of the Republic,
Albert Lebrun, the Presidents of the Chamber and of the French Senate, and as many members of the Parliament as possible to travel to French North Africa, in order to continue the fight against the Germans. Ultimately though, only 25 other Deputies embarked with Mandel on the "Massillia" on 21 June.
Capture, detention, and death
On 8 August, Mandel was arrested in
Moroccoby General Charles Nogues, on the orders of Laval (who had become a Vichy leader), and then conveyed to the Château de Chazeron, where Reynaud, Edouard Daladierand General Maurice Gamelinwere also being held prisoner. Churchill, who described Mandel as "the first resister" (and would arguably have preferred him over Charles De Gaulleto lead the Free French Forces), tried unsuccessfully to arrange his rescue. All four were sentenced to life imprisonmentby Marshall Pétain on November 7, 1941, following trials in Riom.
Mandel and Reynaud were given over to the
Gestapoafter the occupation of the Vichy territory in November 1942. He was deported first to Oranienburgthen to Buchenwald, where he was held with Léon Blum. Mandel was returned to Parison July 4, 1944as a hostage, and placed in the custody of Joseph Darnand's Milice. Three days later he was taken to the Forest of Fontainbleau - where he was murdered in retaliation for the assassinationof the Vichy Minister of Propaganda, Philippe Henriot, by members of the Maquis.
A monument to Mandel's memory is set up near his place of execution, alongside the road linking Fontainebleau to
Nicolas Sarkozy, "Georges Mandel, moine de la politique", 1994. Adapted into a television film ( [http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0218932/ "The Last Summer"] ) starring Jacques Villeretin the title role.
* [http://www.sdv.fr/judaisme/perso/gmandel.htm "Mandel on "Alsatian Judaism"] (in French)
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