'ONE DAY THOSE WHO WERE REALLY RESPONSIBLE WILL HAVE TO STAND THEIR TRIAL'
Charles de Gaulle
THE SPEECHES OF GENERAL DE GAULLE pp. 30- 31.
Vichy is busy trying to find scapegoats who can conveniently be accused of responsibility for the national disaster. It is, indeed, quite understandable that public opinion should clamour to see the guilty men punished. But the way in which the whole business has been deliberately staged has robbed the verdict, by anticipation, of all validity, and has clogged the wheels of justice.
For the alleged rulers in Vichy, doing their work beneath the lash of Hitler's whip and the smart of Mussolini's switch, the main object is to establish France's guilt in entering the war and to punish the men responsible. According to the alleged rulers in Vichy, those who realized that France was threatened must be regarded as criminals. They brand as felons the men who thought it France's duty to fight, and likewise those who spurned the shameful temptation of rushing headlong into slavery without so much as drawing the sword.
Such a procedure is the logical outcome of the infamous act committed by these men when they agreed to surrender. Nothing could be more satisfactory to the enemy whom they have chosen to be their master. While not a single person on earth, from Gibraltar to Kamchatka or from Cape Horn to the Behring Strait, entertains any serious doubts that the dictators of Berlin and Rome were responsible for the war, a monstrous trial has been started in France to fasten the blame on French citizens. It is a magnificent idea—magnificent, need I add, for the enemy.
Nor is it lacking in certain advantages for the men who capitulated. If they could only gain credence for the theory that France was guilty in entering the war, and that it was madness for her to do so, they would find some semblance of justification for their own conduct, on the grounds that they put an end to this criminal folly. In that case, the appalling argument that they saved France precisely by handing her over to her foes might meet with a certain bleak acceptance.
But I am far from imagining anyone will be taken in by the calculations of our enemies and the alleged rulers in Vichy. I cannot believe that the French, with their proud
common sense, will be hoodwinked for a moment by this horrible travesty.
The proud common sense of the French makes no mistake about the question of responsibility for the catastrophe. The men responsible are certainly not those who wanted to defend France against an enemy whose one idea was to enslave her. Those responsible are, quite simply, the men who, by reason of the offices they held, were entrusted with the duty of preparing for war and who failed in that duty; the men who, whether Ministers or leaders, should have seen to it that the country had a modern army, but who lulled that army with antiquated ideas; the men whose mission it was to rule and lead in a time of crisis, and who decided to surrender without having exhausted all possibilities of resistance.
Some day, a genuine trial will certainly take place in France on the question of responsibilities. But there is every reason to believe that some of the men who are to-day conducting the prosecution will then find themselves in the dock.