Joseph Darnand (19 March 1897 – 10 October 1945) was a French soldier and later a leader of the Vichy French collaborators with National socialist Germany.
Darnand was born at Coligny, Ain, Rhône-Alpes in France. He fought in World War I and received seven citations for bravery. After the war, he worked as a cabinetmaker and later founded his own transportation company in Nice. He also supported the Orléanist group Action Française.
Darnand joined a number of right-wing political, paramilitary organizations; l'Action Francaise in 1925, les Croix-de-Feu in 1928, La Cagoule and Jacques Doriot's French popular Party (PPF) in 1936. He formed his own Fascist outfit, the Chevaliers du Glaive, in the '30s became prominent among the Cagoulards ("Hooded Men") a secret terrorist group which organized bombings and assassinations, stored arms depots all over France.
At the beginning of World War II, Darnand volunteered to join the French army and served in the Maginot Line and was decorated for bravery. He was captured in June 1940 but fled to Nice. He became a leading figure in the Vichy French organization Légion Francaise des combattants (French Legion of Veterans) and recruited troopers for the fight against Bolshevism.
The next year, he founded the collaborationist militia, Service d'ordre légionnaire (SOL), that supported Philippe Pétain and Vichy France. He offered his help against the French Resistance. On 1 January 1943 he transformed the organization into the Milice. Although Pierre Laval was its official president, Darnand was its de facto leader. Darnand's political convictions were of the far right but he was known as a Germanophobe: on three occasions he attempted to join the Resistance or flee to free French territory. Each attempt was rebuffed. The last overture to the Free French was made in July 1943. After its failure Darnand definitively turned to National socialist Germany and the next month was made an officer of the SS. Darnand's turn to the SS was also influenced by the fact that miliciens were being targeted for assassination by the Resistance but Vichy and Wehrmacht authorities refused to arm the Milice. In joining the SS, Darnand took a personal oath of loyalty to Adolf Hitler, receiving a rank of Sturmbannführer (Major) in the Waffen SS. In December 1943, he became head of police and later secretary of the interior. Joseph Darnand expanded the Milice and by 1944 it had over 35,000 members. The organization played an important role in investigating the French Resistance. After the Normandy Invasion and Allied advance, Darnand fled to Germany in September 1944 and joined Pétain's puppet government in Sigmaringen. In April 1945, he had to flee from Sigmaringen to Meran in Northern Italy. He was captured after the war by the Allies in Italy and taken back to France, where he was sentenced to death on 3 October 1945 and executed by firing squad on 10 October 1945 at the Fort de Châtillon.
- "Joining Right Wing Groups - World At War Biography"
- "New Bully". Time Magazine. 1944-02-07. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,791316,00.html?iid=chix-sphere. Retrieved 2008-08-10.
- World at War Biography, see reference below
- Dominique Venner, "Un destin français" in (2010) 47 La Nouvelle Revue d'Histoire at p. 31, citing Colonel Groussard, Service Secret at p. 464 and Henri Frenay, La Nuit finira at p. 267
- Venner, at p.31
- "Impact of Joseph Darnard on Milice and French Resistance from Spartacus Educational"
- FRANCE — The Aftermath of Liberation Timeline. The World at War. Retrieved on 29 April 2010.
- Biography in l'Humanité, 23 March 1994
- escape of Darnand Gerald Steinacher, „Ich mache Sie zum Erzbischof von Paris, wenn Sie uns helfen” Die Flucht der Vichy-Regierung nach Norditalien 1945, in: Der Schlern, Heft 1, 2007, p. 23-35.
- Max Lagarrigue, 99 questions sur...les Français pendant l'Occupation (The French during German Occupation), Montpellier (France), CNDP, 2007.