Jean Bichelonne

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Jean Bichelonne (1904 - 21 December 1944) was a French businessman and member of the Vichy government that existed during World War II following the occupation of France by National Socialist Germany.

Born in Bordeaux, Bichelonne was a graduate of the École Polytechnique and gained an early reputation for his brilliant organisational skill as well as his photographic memory.[1] Following the establishment of Vichy, Bichelonne assumed his first important role in September 1940 when he was appointed head of the Office central de repartition des produits industriels, a body that determined how raw materials would be proportioned between the newly established comites d'organisation (corporatist bodies in charge of each industrial sector).[2] Along with the likes of Jacques Barnaud, François Lehideux and Pierre Pucheu, Bichelonne was a member of a group of technocrats who held important positions in the early days of the Vichy regime.[3]

As Minister of Industrial Production, Bichelonne faced the problem of demands for slave labour from the National Socialist Labour Deployment Minister Fritz Sauckel, and the impact it was having on French industry. He managed to overcome this difficulty by securing an agreement with Albert Speer in September 1943 to the effect that the entire French industrial sector would be Sperrbetrieben, making it effectively off limits to Sauckel.[4]

Bichelonne was one of the cabinet members taken under SS guard from Vichy to Belfort on the night of 17–18 August as the National Socialists desperately sought to maintain the collaborationist government by any means necessary.[5] Moved to Sigmaringen, Bichelonne fell ill and was sent to the SS hospital at Hohenlychen where it was officially recorded that he died of a pulmonary embolism, although unsubstantiated rumours suggested that he may have been assassinated.[6]


  1. Richard F. Kuisel, Capitalism and the state in modern France: renovation and economic management in the twentieth century, CUP Archive, 1983, p. 132
  2. Philip G. Nord, France's New Deal: From the Thirties to the Postwar Era, Princeton University Press, 2010, pp. 92-93
  3. Michael Curtis, Verdict on Vichy, Phoenix, 2003, p. 79
  4. David Littlejohn, The Patriotic Traitors, Heinemann, 1972, p. 358
  5. Littlejohn, The Patriotic Traitors, p. 276
  6. Henry Rousso, Pétain et la fin de la collaboration, Sigmaringen 1944-1945, Éditions Complexe, 1999, p. 441