'THEY MAY HAVE SERVED FRANCE ONCE BUT NOW THEY ARE HER TRAITORS'
Charles de Gaulle
THE SPEECHES OF GENERAL DE GAULLE pp. 25- 27.
Two months have elapsed since the abominable armistice was signed. Two months ago France, acting on the orders of an aged Marshal, laid down her arms.
Taking advantage of this, the enemy and the men of Vichy set out to persuade the French people that all was lost. The enemy and the men of Vichy would have us believe that we must resign ourselves and take our punishment in a spirit of humility or, to use the Vichy word, 'discipline'.
But the enemy has also cast the self-styled Vichy Government
for another role: that of persuading men in our Empire who want to fight on that they too must surrender in their turn. In this way, it would be easy for Hitler's eagle and Mussolini's vulture to descend on Casablanca, Tunis, the Chad, Dakar, Jibuti, and Beirut. It is hardly necessary to point out that the men of Vichy fell over each other in their anxiety to please their masters. At this very moment, 800 planes, the last prop for the defence of French Africa, are taking off from Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia and heading for Istria, where they will be placed at the disposal of the enemy.
The fulfilment of this dreadful task, this surrender of the keys of our Empire, is a stroke: of genius on the part of the enemy and his accomplices. They were clever enough to place the vanquished military leaders in control. These great military leaders, demoralized by their own defeat and eager for the downfall of their compatriots since they themselves had collapsed, became ideal tools for carrying out the terms of the armistice. They still retained sufficient rags and tatters of prestige and authority to impose their will on others.
Under the cloak of an aged Marshal, one man styles himself Air Minister. But what is he doing with our Air Force? A second has assumed the title of Secretary of State for the Navy. But where is our Fleet? Still a third calls himself Minister for War. But for what war? A fourth, finally—and this, I think, is the last straw—the very man who takes his orders from the enemy Commissions, has set himself up as Minister for National Defence.
I maintain that these men, though they may once have served the cause of France, are betraying her to-day. I maintain that these soldiers are no longer soldiers, that these Frenchmen are no longer Frenchmen, that these men are no longer men.
But I likewise maintain that their behaviour is just as absurd as it is dishonourable. I maintain that what they are now pleased to call their 'policy' is as ill-calculated as their so-called 'strategy' in the past.
I maintain, for it is plain to be seen, that our ally Great Britain grows daily stronger and richer. I maintain, for I know it to be true, that an irresistible current is drawing the New World to the cause of Freedom. I maintain, for I myself am working to this end, that the strength of France is beginning to revive. Among all the enemy planes shot down during the
past few days those destroyed by our own weapons bear witness to my words.
Common sense, sagacity, and even astuteness find themselves ranged on the side of honour. It will soon be obvious, just as it has always been plain in the past, that nothing is more rational than to fight for France.