The Legacy of the French War Hero Who Betrayed His Country and Its Jews

In 1918, Marshal Philippe Pétain was the most revered man in France—the heroic general who saved his country from the German onslaught at the battle of Verdun and led the army to its eventual victory. In the summer of 1945, at the age of eighty-nine, he was condemned to death by a special tribunal in Paris, although the sentence was commuted to life in prison. The crime of which he was tried and convicted was treason, but any moral reckoning would include his overseeing of the Vichy government’s enthusiastic efforts to deliver French Jewry to Hitler. Allen Lane reviews a “splendid” new book on the trial by Julian Jackson:

For four years, from the fall of France to the liberation, [Pétain] had steered the Vichy regime created from the wreckage of defeat into collaboration with the new continental hegemon, Adolf Hitler. Now, after eight months of wandering to escape the advancing Allies through eastern France to the castle of Sigmaringen in Germany and finally to Switzerland, he was in the custody of General de Gaulle’s provisional government.

His prestige and the popular confidence he inspired as French forces collapsed before the German Blitzkrieg were crucial to establishing the Vichy regime. The son of a peasant, he had a calm, grandfatherly presence and carefully cultivated his image as the embodiment of unchanging rural France, which underwrote the legitimacy that Vichy enjoyed. Whether, or to what extent, he became senile over the four years following the establishment of the Vichy government remains a controversial issue. He barely spoke at his trial, sometimes appeared confused and made great play of his deafness, yet these handicaps miraculously disappeared at key moments in the proceedings. His brutal disavowal of his old comrade-in-arms, the blind General Lannurien, who stumbled in his testimony for the defense, is a case in point. As Jackson pithily puts it, “Pétain was never shy of ditching his most devoted followers if necessary.”

In the longer term, the trial was intended to condemn Vichy France itself and its extreme right-wing ideology of authoritarianism, exclusive nationalism, and racism. Here it did not entirely succeed. Official France, of course, continues to repudiate the Vichy state as an illegal regime born of military defeat. Yet there are signs today that the “Vichy taboo” may be lifting. The most obvious evidence is the candidature of the extreme nationalist Eric Zemmour in the 2022 presidential election.

Read more at Literary Review

More about: Eric Zemmour, Vichy France, World War II

Iran’s Program of Subversion and Propaganda in the Caucasus

In the past week, Iranian proxies and clients have attacked Israel from the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, and Yemen. Iran also has substantial military assets in Iraq and Syria—countries over which it exercises a great deal of control—which could launch significant attacks on Israel as well. Tehran, in addition, has stretched its influence northward into both Azerbaijan and Armenia. While Israel has diplomatic relations with both of these rival nations, its relationship with Baku is closer and involves significant military and security collaboration, some of which is directed against Iran. Alexander Grinberg writes:

Iran exploits ethnic and religious factors in both Armenia and Azerbaijan to further its interests. . . . In Armenia, Iran attempts to tarnish the legitimacy of the elected government and exploit the church’s nationalist position and tensions between it and the Armenian government; in Azerbaijan, the Iranian regime employs outright terrorist methods similar to its support for terrorist proxies in the Middle East [in order to] undermine the regime.

Huseyniyyun (Islamic Resistance Movement of Azerbaijan) is a terrorist militia made up of ethnic Azeris and designed to fight against Azerbaijan. It was established by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps . . . in the image of other pro-Iranian militias. . . . Currently, Huseyniyyun is not actively engaged in terrorist activities as Iran prefers more subtle methods of subversion. The organization serves as a mouthpiece of the Iranian regime on various Telegram channels in the Azeri language. The main impact of Huseyniyyun is that it helps spread Iranian propaganda in Azerbaijan.

The Iranian regime fears the end of hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan because this would limit its options for disruption. Iranian outlets are replete with anti-Semitic paranoia against Azerbaijan, accusing the country of awarding its territory to Zionists and NATO. . . . Likewise, it is noteworthy that Armenian nationalists reiterate hideous anti-Semitic tropes that are identical to those spouted by the Iranians and Palestinians. Moreover, leading Iranian analysts have no qualms about openly praising [sympathetic] Armenian clergy together with terrorist Iran-funded Azeri movements for working toward Iranian goals.

Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

More about: Azerbaijan, Iran, Israeli Security