This page is part of © FOTW Flags Of The World website

French State, Vichy government (1940-1944)

État français, gouvernement de Vichy

Last modified: 2021-04-10 by ivan sache
Keywords: etat francais |
Links: FOTW homepage | search | disclaimer and copyright | write us | mirrors


Flag of État français - Image by Željko Heimer, 22 September 2001

See also:

Historical background

État français (French State) was the legal successor of the Third Republic. After the defeat of the French army in June 1940, the MPs massively (all but 80) voted full powers to Philippe Pétain. The French State was under total German control but attempted to maintain the fiction of an independent state, with a French administration, especially for police and justice.
État français was also called, unofficially, État de Vichy or gouvernement de Vichy, the MPs and the government moved from Paris to he spa town of Vichy. Located at a distance from the front and from possible civil unrest, Vichy was a convenient place to establish thenew regime. The empty hotels could easily cater the administration.

France libre (Free France), created by General de Gaulle in London after his radio call on 18 June 1940 (Appel du 18 juin), was an illegal state, presented as "terrorist" by the official propaganda of État français. To clearly distinguish France libre from État français, De Gaulle added a red Cross of Lorraine to the white stripe of the France libre flag.
While continental France was a puppet state under the German boot, distant parts of the French colonial empire (French Equatorial Africa, New Caledonia, French Polynesia and Saint-Pierre and Miquelon)soon rallied de Gaulle. France libre got a territory, which help de Gaulle to claim recognition of the active participation of France to the Allied war effort.

At the end of war, national reconciliation and international recognition of France among the winners was needed to decrease the pressure of the Communist party and to prevent occupation or even partition of the country. To achieve these goals, de Gaulle pushed the concept of "illegitimacy" of the Vichy regime. The historical facts were officially re-established only in 1997 by President Jacques Chirac, who recognized the responsability of the French government, whatever its official name was, in the events of this period.

IVan Sache & Pierre Gay, 6 May 1999

Flag of État français

The Vichy regime did continue to use the Tricolore flag but dropped the well known French motto "Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité", changed to "Travail, Famille, Patrie" (Work, Family, Fatherland).
All other flags, the naval rank ensigns included, remained (nominally) unchanged. The only brand new flag was in the standard of the head of the state.

Roy Stilling & Harald Müller, 9 April 1996

Standard of the Head of État français


Flag of the Head of State - Image by Ivan Sache, 6 May 1999

The standard of the head of État français, Marshal Philippe Pétain, was a Tricolore flag, whose white stripe was charged with seven golden stars below a double-headed axe with the blades colored concentrically (from centre outward) blue, white and red (Correction #14 (dated April 1942) of Album des Pavillons 1923 [f9r23], Flaggenbuch [neu92], Smith [smi75c]).
The axe is a francisque, spuriously modelled on the Franks' francisca, the Franks' being considered as the founders of an alleged, ethnically pure, French nation.

Ivan Sache & Pierre Gay, 6 May 1999

The flag is prescribed by the Decree of 19 March 1942, stating that "the personal flag of the Head of State [shall have] seven stars embroidered in gold". A marine scout book published c. 1941, however, shows the flag with blue stars (image), indicating that the flag was possibly not fully yet defined at the time, or had changed since.

Armand Noël du Payrat & Joan-Francés Blanc, 14 January 1999

Propaganda pennant of État français

The Army Museum in Paris has a triangular pennant (photo), probably used for propaganda purposes. The flag is white with a blue border at the top and a red border at the bottom, charged with the axe and a yellow ribbon inscribed with the state motto "TRAVAIL / FAMILLE / PATRIE".

Jan Mertens, 7 April 2011

Collaborationist parties

Parti Populaire Français

[Flag]         Flag

Flag of the Parti Populaire Français and of the Gardes Françaises, respectively - Images by Jan Oskar Engene, 20 November 1996

The Parti Populaire Français (PPF, French People's Party) was founded in 1934. According to David Littlejohn (Foreign Legions of the Third Reich, Vol. 1: Norway, Denmark, France [ltj79]), the PPF had two emblems. First a red octagon bordered in blue with the party initials (interlaced) in white on the red field. This was used on the party flag, which consisted of a white saltire, upper and lower fields in red, hoist and fly parts in blue, and with the octagon shaped emblem in the intersection of the arms of the saltire.

On the second emblem, the party's emblem was replaced by an emblem consisting of a stylized francisca (sometimes surrounded by a cog wheel). It was used on the flag of the Gardes Françaises (French Guards), the paramilitary wing of the PPF, identical to the party flag except for the emblem in the centre. Both flags had gold fringes.

Jan Oskar Engene, 20 November 1996

Rassemblement National Populaire


Flag of the RNP - Image by Ivan Sache, 28 October 2019

The Rassemblement National Populaire, one of the three main parties that actively supported collaboration with the Nazi regime during the Second World War, was established and ruled by Marcel Déat (1894-1955). Appointed teacher of philosophy in a secondary school in Reims in 1922, Déat was elected Municipal Councillor in 1925 on the winning, joint Radical and Socialist list. In 1926, Déat was elected MP for the SFIO (Section française de l'internationale ouvrière), representing the right wing of the party. Defeated in 1928 at the next election, Déat accused the leaders of the SFIO, Léon Blum and Vincent Auriol, to have supported his rival, Pierre Forgeot, who was among Blum's personal friends. In 1928, he was elected president of the Federation of Socialist students.
In conflict with the direction of the party, Déat published in 1930 Perspectives socialistes, which he presented as the "charter of neo-Socialism", calling for a "revolution targeted to capitalism" pushed by the State rather than by the working class. In the 1932 general election, Déat, with a blatant anti-Communist program, defeated in the 3nd constituency of Paris Jacques Duclos, who himself had defeated Blum four years before.

In November 1933, Déat and other neo-Socialists founded the Parti socialiste de France - Union Jean Jaurès (PSDF). This splinter from the SFIO was joined by 28 MPs, 7 Senators, and six departmental Federations. Some 30,000 members left the SFIO but not all of them joined the new party. Intended by Déat as the "party of the middle classes", the PSDF was indeed composite, including reformist democrats, like Paul Ramadier and Jean Renaudel, and younger politicians with more authoritarian views, led by Adrien Marquet. Progressively losing their influence, the neo-Socialists merged their party with the Parti socialiste français and the Parti socialiste républicain to form in November 1935 the Union socialiste r&ecute;publicaine (USR), which was dominated by moderate politicians.

Appointed Minister of the Air in the Sarraut government in January 1936, Déat supported negotiation rather than military intervention to solve the Rhineland issue. In the 1936 general elections, he was defeated by the Communist Adrien Langumier. Most neo-Socialists were also defeated, except Marquet, while only the moderate members of USR could be re-elected.
Déat became a main opponent to the Front Populaire, the leftist coalition whose success had been one of the main causes of the marginalization of the neo-Socialist ideas. Claiming that the Front Populaire was dividing the nation, he called for a "people's and national state", based on an "intermediary regime" reconciling capitalism and socialism.
Elected MP in 1939 for the Anti-Communist Rally, Déat promoted pacifism and conciliation with Germany. In the aftermath of the Armistice signed in 1940, he became the first theoretician of collaboration with Germany. Déat attempted to establish a single party that would have backed up the National Revolution promoted by Philippe Pétain. After the rejection of his proposal, Déat left Vichy and aired his hate of the Vichy regime, deemed not collaborationist enough, in the newspaper L’Œuvre. Arrested on 14 December 1940, one day after Pierre Laval, Déat was released upon order of the German embassy, and campaigned for Laval's return and a closest collaboration with Germany.

In 1941, Déat established a party that he had to merge with Eugène Deloncle's Mouvement socialiste révolutionnaire to form the Rassemblement national populaire (RNP). Counting no more than 30,000 members, the RNP split in October 1941. Déat lost two-thirds of his supporters and reorganized the RNP with former Socialist and Communist politicians. Back to the power in 1942, Laval did not offer any ministry to Déat, who attempted to found a new coalition against the other main collaborationist party led by Jacques Doriot. This Front révolutionnaire, merging the RNP, the Franciste, the Comité d'action antibolchevique, the Mouvement socialiste révolutionnaire, the Jeunes de l’Europe nouvelle and the Front social du Travail, was not successful, either.

More and more isolated and still believing in the Nazi triumph, Déat was appointed Minister of Work and National Solidarity in Laval's last government (March 1944) but refused to go to Vichy. In August 1944, he escaped from Paris to Nancy, expecting to succeed Laval. On 29 August, he met Hitler as a member of the Governmental Delegation presided by Brinon that stayed with Pétain in Siegmaringen. The RNP held its last congress in Berlin in January 1945, while Déat left Siegmaringen with Pétain and the last collaborationists in 21 April 1945.
Sentenced to death by the High Court of Justice, Déat fled to Italy where he withdrew in a religious community near Turin.
[Alain Bergougnoux. Notice DÉAT Marcel, 29 October 2019]

The flag of the RNP (photo, meeting of the RNP held in June 1943 in the Coubertin Stadium, Paris; Propaganda poster for the Jeunesses Nationales Populaires [JNP - National Popular Youth]) was red with a white square diamond charged with a black odal rune.

Ivan Sache, 28 October 2019

Parti Français National-collectiviste

[Flag]         [Flag]

Flag and banner of the PFNC - Images by Tomislav Todorović, 27 September 2020

The Parti Français National-collectiviste (PFNC, French National Collectivist Party) was founded as the Parti Français National-communiste (French National Communist Party) in 1934 by Pierre Clémenti, a sports journalist who had previously been active in other ultra-rightist groups. Its totalitarian ideology was a blend of anti-Semitic, anti-Masonic, anti-Capitalist, and anti-Communist ideas; it was also the only political movement in France which supported the partition of Belgium and annexation of Wallonia. The party managed to form a paramilitary youth wing named Gardes Françaises (French Guards), but remained a very small group, even being forced to temporarily dissolve itself in 1936-37 due to the number of members smaller than the legal minimum for a registered party.
After the 1940 capitulation, the group was among the first to support the collaboration and was permitted to operate legally after the name change as requested by German occupational authorities, who disapproved of the use of the word "Communist". The party participated in the creation of Milice française.

The PFNC managed to enlarge its membership somewhat, especially after integrating another youth group named the Jeune Front (Young Front), and formed a female wing as well, named the Femmes Françaises (French Women). Still the party remained rather small, its conflicts with other groups and annexationist ideas producing some hostility by both the occupational authorities and the Vichy government. It may have much disintegrated by 1942, when the name of Gardes Françaises was taken over by the Switzerland, was tried in absentia and sentenced to death, but was later pardoned and returned to France, where he was active in various ultra-rightist groups in the 1960's and 1970's, having eventually deceased in 1982.
[Wikipedia (English); Wikipedia (French)]

The flag of the PFNC was red, charged with a large white diamond bearing four blue arrows pointing towards the center. Two versions are known:
- a square flag with the diamond (square rotated for 45 degrees) reaching the flag edges;
- a long, vertical swallow-tailed flag, the diamond centered upon the compact area of the field and reaching the longer edges.
The only currently known photo is black and white, so the colors may be reconstructed from the photos of surviving party badges. These also display the party name initials in the center of the design, which were absent from the flags.

Tomislav Todorović, 27 September 2020

Military and paramilitary groups

Milice française


Flag of the Milice - Image by Marc Pasquin, 20 December 2015

The Milice française (French Militia), generally called simply Milice, was a paramilitary force created on 30 January 1943 by the Vichy Regime, with German aid, to help fight the French Resistance. The Milice's formal leader was Prime Minister Pierre Laval, though its chief of operations, and actual leader, was Secretary General Joseph Darnand. It participated in summary executions, assassinations and helped round up the Jews and résistants in France for deportation. It was the successor to Joseph Darnand's Service d'ordre légionnaire (SOL) militia.
The Milice often resorted to torture to extract information or confessions from those they rounded up. They were often considered more dangerous to the French Resistance than the Gestapo and SS since they were Frenchmen who spoke the language, had a full knowledge of the towns and land, and knew people and informers.
The actual strength of the organization is a matter of some debate, but was likely between 25,000-35,000 (including part-time members and non-combatants) by the time of the Allied invasion of Normandy in June 1944. It began melting away rapidly thereafter, however. Following the Liberation of France, those of its members who failed to complete their escape to Germany (where they were impressed into the Charlemagne Division of the Waffen-SS) or elsewhere abroad generally faced either being imprisoned for treason, executed following summary courts-martial, or were simply shot out of hand by vengeful résistants and enraged civilians.
Since the Second World War, the term milice has acquired a derogatory meaning in French.

The flag of Milice Française (photo) is a squarish version of the national flag with the words "MILICE FRAN&CCedil;AISE" in gold around a black stylized Greek letter γ (G), the symbol of the milice.
The choice of letter γ was supposedly due to its association with the zodiacal symbol of Aries (in French, Bélier, "ram") meant to represent strength and renewal. Aries is the first sign after the beginning of spring.

Santiago Dotor, Esteban Rivera & Marc Pasquin, 20 December 2015


Unit pennant of the Milice - Image by Marc Pasquin, 21 December 2015, after a photo

Franc-garde, the paramilitary arm of the Milice, was organized in "mains" ("hands", composed of 5 men), "dizaines" ("tens", composed of two "mains"), "trentaines" ("thirties", composed of three "dizaines"), "centaines" ("hundreds", composed of three "trentaines", with a departemental HQ), "cohortes" ("cohorts", composed of 3 or 4 "centaines", with a regional HQ), and a "centre" ("center", composed of four "cohortes").

Marc Pasquin, 21 December 2015

Légion des volontaires français contre le bolchevisme

The Légion des volontaires français contre le bolchevisme, known more commonly as the Légion des volontairesfFrançais or simply the LVF, was a collaborationist group that existed between 1941-1944. Its purpose was to encourage frenchmen to volunteer and fight within the German army.
Officially, units emanating from the LVF were meant to fight only against the Soviet Union (hence its full name) but in practice they were used in various capacity, even eventually taking part in the defence of Berlin after the soldiers were integrated into the 33rd Waffen-Grenadier-Division of the SS "Charlemagne".

[Flag]         [Flag]

Standard of the École des Cadres of the LVF, obverse and reverse - Images by Marc Pasquin, 18 June 2016

École des Cadres was the college charged with training potential officers for LVF-created units. The standard of the LVF was pale blue with a gold outline, charged on the obverse with the arms of Joan of Arc (a sword pointing upwards through a crown surrounded two fleurs-de-lis) and on the reverse with the emblem of the LVF, a golden eagle holding lighting bolts behind a shield bearing the word "France" and the national colours.

Marc Pasquin, 18 June 2016