Georges Mandel

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Georges Mandel (1932)

Georges Mandel (June 5, 1885—July 7, 1944) was a French politician, journalist, and French Resistance leader.

Biography

Born Louis George Rothschild in Chatou, Yvelines, was the son of a tailor. His family was Jewish[1], and had left Alsace to preserve their French citizenship when Alsace-Lorraine was annexed by the German Empire at the end of the Franco-Prussian War in 1871.

Early career

Mandel began working life as a journalist for L'Aurore, the paper of Émile Zola, Georges Clemenceau, and other 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 union movement during the First World War, described as "Clemenceau's right-hand man"[2]

Mandel was an economic conservative and an outspoken opponent of National Socialism and Fascism. In the 1930s, he played a similar role to Winston Churchill in the United Kingdom, highlighting the dangers posed by Adolf Hitler. He opposed Pierre Laval's plan to partition Ethiopia following its invasion by Benito Mussolini's Italy (the Second Italo–Abyssinian War of 1935-1936). Mandel also became a strong advocate of a military alliance with the Soviet Union and opposed the Munich Agreement.

Inter-war period

He was elected to the Chamber of Deputies from Gironde in 1919. He, in September that year, was delegated to try to draw the government out of its noncommittal attitude towards the bastardized system of proportional representation passed by both houses of parliament earlier in the year.[3] He lost his seat when the Cartel des Gauches swept the 1924 elections but returned to office in 1928 and, by 1932, had become the Chairman of the Chamber's universal suffrage committee, which eventually led to votes for women, regardless of the fact that it was an anathema to the Senate.[4]

In 1934, Mandel entered the government as Minister of Posts (1934–1936) and oversaw the first official television transmission in French. During the 1936 Albert Sarraut government, Mandel served as both Minister of Posts and High Commissioner for Alsace and Lorraine. After the fall of the Popular Front government, he served from 1938 as Minister of Overseas France and her Colonies until 18 May 1940, when Premier Paul Reynaud appointed him, briefly, as Minister of the Interior.[5]

German invasion

In September 1939, after the outbreak of the German-Polish War, Mandel argued that the French Army should fight an offensive war. Mandel was accused by some on the right of being a warmonger placing his Jewish ancestry above France's interests.

Mandel opposed 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 of Deputies and of the Senate, and as many members of the Cabinet as possible to travel to French North Africa, to continue the fight against the Germans. Ultimately though, only 25 other deputies and just one senator embarked with Mandel on the Massilia on 21 June, including Pierre Mendès France and the former Popular Front education minister, Jean Zay, both of whom had Jewish backgrounds like Mandel. Most of those on the ship were Socialists or Radicals.[6],

Capture, detention, and death

The grave of Mandel in Paris

Mandel was arrested on 8 August 1941 in Morocco by General Charles Nogues on Laval's orders, and was conveyed to the Château de Chazeron via Fort du Portalet[7], where Paul Reynaud, Édouard Daladier and General Maurice Gamelin were also being held prisoner. Churchill, who described Mandel as "the first resister" and is believed to have preferred him over Charles de Gaulle to lead the Free French Forces, tried unsuccessfully to arrange his rescue. Following pressure from the Germans, all four were sentenced to life imprisonment on November 7, 1941, following trials in Riom.

In November 1942, Mandel and Reynaud were given over to the Gestapo after the Germany Army moved into unoccupied France to counter the threat from the Allies that had just landed in North Africa. Mandel was deported to Germany, first to Oranienburg then to Buchenwald, where he was held with Léon Blum. In 1944 the German Ambassador in Paris, Otto Abetz 'suggested' to Laval that Mandel, Blum, and Reynaud, should be shot by the French government at Vichy in retaliation for a collaborationist who had been shot by the Algiers Committee. Mandel was returned to Paris on July 4, 1944, supposedly as a hostage. While being transferred from one prison to another he was captured by the Milice.

Three days later, the Milice took him to the Forest of Fontainebleau, where he was murdered in retaliation for the assassination of the French Minister of Propaganda, Philippe Henriot, by members of the Communist Maquis. Laval was appalled and protested that he could not condone the execution: "I have no blood on my hands...and no responsibility for these events". He added that the members of the Cabinet were unanimous "in favour of refusing to hand over any hostages in future and to condone reprisals of this nature".[8]

A monument to Mandel's memory is set up near his place of execution, alongside the road linking Fontainebleau to Nemours.

References

  1. Webster, Paul, Pétain's Crime, Pan Macmillan, London, 1990, p.40, ISBN 0-333-57301-3
  2. Warner, Geoffrey, Professor, Pierre Laval and the eclipse of France, Eyre & Spottiswoode, London, 1968, p.13.
  3. Warner, 1968, p.14-15.
  4. Warner, 1968, p.54-5.
  5. Warner, 1968, p.159.
  6. Webster, 1990, p.40, ISBN 0-333-57301-3
  7. http://www.tourisme-aspe.com/fort-du-portalet.html
  8. Warner, 1968, p.399 & notes.

External links

See also: Mandel
Political offices
Preceded by
André Mallarmé
Minister of Posts, Telegraphs, and Telephones
1934–1936
Succeeded by
Robert Jardillier
Preceded by
Marius Moutet
Minister of Colonies
1938–1940
Succeeded by
Louis Rollin
Preceded by
Henri Roy
Minister of the Interior
1940
Succeeded by
Charles Pomaret