Unity Imperative


By GENERAL HENRI HONORE GIRAUD, Commander of French Forces in North Africa

Delivered in Algiers and recorded and translated by the Federal Communications Commission, March 14, 1943

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. IX, pp. 360-362.

"I CANNOT tell you how happy I am to find myself today again among Frenchmen who are such determined patriots, who are so convinced of the legitimacy of our course, and ready to sacrifice everything to its success.

"Alsace and Lorraine have been incorporated into Germany. No voice in France has been raised against it.

"Here, we do protest. The whole world must know: France does not accept this annexation. Alsace and Lorraine will again become French in a completely liberated France.

"Certain ones among you may have doubted on the morrow of the catastrophe, but you have never temporized. You have never yielded to illusory promises nor brutal threats. For you, France is one and indivisible.

"Whether you were born here or there (in France), whether you have lived in Mulhouse, Thionville, Paris or Algiers, you are Alsatians, you are Lorrainers, but above all, you are Frenchmen.

"This is what those on the other side of the Rhine have never understood.

"In spite of the defeat, you, Alsatians and Lorrainers, you are still among the believers in the eternal France. France has been defeated in flesh, but never in spirit. Let us not forget that since June, 1940, she is dumb, she is gagged.

"I have the right to speak to you of the French people. I lived their life for two years, first with the prisoners, eating their bread, drinking their water, then eight months in the free zone, the victim of incessant surveillance. I have seen the sons of France deported by force. I have seen the heroic struggle against the occupation, I have seen children odiously separated from their parents, families torn apart, youth precociously matured by tribulation.

"These are the essential elements for national resistance. We owe them our support. They will remain for tomorrow the vital factors in the recovery of France. I have seen the heroism of the hostages, proud to die in order to show their spirit of resistance, and workers stoic under the bombings of their factories by Allied planes.

"Germany thought it could break and debase France, whilethe wind of humiliation and misfortune blew over the country. In every village, in every factory and in every school, heroic France was rising up against indignity and servitude.

"The people of France have not accepted the armistice. Their spirits have been fortified during these tragic hours by the heroic resistance of the English people, who remained alone in the fight against the common enemy.

"The heroes of resistance, the ones who were faithful in the hour of need, those who kept their faith in the hours of despair, have been and are the true expression of France. Those who died in the fierce fighting, those who are suffering in camps of torture and in prisons are the vanguard of the nation.

"Citizens and soldiers without uniforms in the battalions of France, soldiers of the French Army who are fighting on the front of the war of liberations, soldiers of the Army of Africa are fighting as one man, and for the same ideal.

"It is an astonishing spectacle to see France, at the very moment when our enemies would like to tear her asunder and conquer her utterly, rise up again everywhere, simultaneously on the very soil of her desecrated homeland and abroad.

"Tomorrow, in the streets of our villages, beside the monument of those who died on the field of honor, we shall gaze piously upon the monument of the Franc-Tireurs, of the saboteurs, of the hostages, of those deported, of the heroic multitude fallen for the cause of liberty.

"As Lincoln said at Gettysburg: 'The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.'

"There is only one catastrophe for individuals as for nations:

"Self-renunciation. This catastrophe France has never known. The people of France remain themselves. They have never forgotten themselves. Whenever France has known invasion, whatever her internal dissensions and conflicting ideologies, she again has found her unity, and the enemy has been driven out.

"It was Philip Augustus at the head of his ministers, itwas Jeanne D'Arc with weapons in her hands, it was Henri IV and his white plume, it was Richelieu and his inflexible resolution, it was the volunteers of '92, it was the Poilus of 1918 and now it is the liberators of tomorrow.

"The French Army of victory with its Allies (several words unintelligible) will liberate our country. England and America are today throwing their whole strength into the struggle, while the Russians are giving to an astonished world the greatest possible example of patriotism.

"Do not be alarmed, gentlemen. The French Army also knows how to fight. You have seen its soldiers at Bir Hacheim (Libya), at Medjezelbab, at Ksar Rhilane and at Metlaoui. Fifty thousand of them are now in Tunisia, while Other French from Libya and the Chad will soon join them.

"Henceforth there will be but one French Army, but one French Navy, fighting Germany, whether they come from Algeria, from Libya, or from elsewhere, and whether, during the recent events, they resisted the Americans, or obeying my orders, cooperated with them.

"There are many who are waiting for arms; arms are arriving. Our friends are doing all they can to help us. But the equipment of an army of 300,000 men is not thrown together in a few days.

"Completely disarmed by the Armistice Commission (words unintelligible) are today resuming the struggle against the Germans. To manufacture war material is nothing, when one has at one's disposal the tremendous industrial capacity of America.

"But to distribute it among the Allies, when it is a matter of supplying China, as well as Russia, France, as well as England, is quite another problem.

"I am glad to state that as a consequence of the very cordial and realistic conversations at Casablanca, I found our partners to be most understanding and most loyal.

"Not only were deliveries agreed on in principle, but they have actually begun, carrying on the help which my friend, General Eisenhower, if I may be permitted to call him that, has been giving us.

"When all France shares with her Allies the victory of France, for which she has suffered so much, France will thus resume her place among the victorious nations.

"The people of France will then become masters of their fate. The conditions essential to a free expression of her sovereignty will be restored in France. The people of France will then form their provisional government according to the constitutional laws of the republic.

"The expression of the sovereignty of the French people has been interrupted by the German occupation. It will be resumed only when France is free. I give the people of France the most solemn assurance that the sacred right to make their own choice of their government will be completely safeguarded.

"I assure them that the conditions permitting them to make this choice, once order and their liberties are again established, will be guaranteed.

"I am the servant of the French people, I am not their leader.

"All Frenchmen gathered around me, like myself, serving as soldiers in the army of victory, all of us are servants of the people of France.

"Tomorrow we shall be the servants of the government which will be freely given to them, and to which we promise to hand over authority.

Cites Occupation in '40

"Since June 22, 1940, the will of the French people has ceased to express itself freely and politically. By occupying two-thirds of France and her capital, by supervising the

government and all its public services, by openly or secretly directing their economy, by limiting or deforming their intellectual life, by legislation, intolerance to French conscience, the Reich has forbidden the French people to express its will.

"Only the will of the people can form the basis of law. Apart from this, there is only the yoke of iniquity. They are either doctrinal concepts, without any collective meaning, or else they are the orders of the occupation authorities, in the guise of national law.

"In the absence of a legitimate foundation, which only the will of the French people can give to it, legislation subsequent to June 22, 1940, either originating in our bureaucracy or dictated from abroad, is devoid of legal value, and can only be considered as void, framed and promulgated without the participation of the French people, and directed against them.

"In this situation, we can draw conclusions from the texts (of the laws?) for men. We refuse to accept anything arbitrarily imposed on the French people; measures have already been taken, and others will follow to restore French tradition.

"Nevertheless, life has been going on since the 22d of June, 1940. There are transitory situations to settle, new needs which must be satisfied. To ignore this state of affairs would be to create in overseas France a confusion which would add to present difficulties.

"We are going to concern ourselves immediately with reestablishing order in this situation. For this purpose we will take progressive measures of adaptation which the entanglements of economic life impose.

"Everybody understands, in fact, that it is impossible to abolish laws and decrees by a stroke of the pen without having organized an adaptation to new conditions, to act contrary to the purpose which we are pursuing.

"Already measures have been taken. The municipal assemblies and councils general will resume their traditional role.

"The laws of racial discrimination imposed on France by the Nazis no longer exist. The order has been promulgated declaring null the law of June 2, 1941, and the decrees belonging to it.

"The suppression of these laws or decrees has re-established the French tradition of human liberty and the return to the equality of all before the law. Without this equality there is no French liberty.

"This abolition erases the mark of shame which, in their program of persecution, the Nazis have tried to inflict on France by associating her forcibly with their perversity.

"With the same intention of eliminating all racial discrimination, the Cremieux Decree, which in 1870 had established a difference between native Moslems and native Israelites, is abrogated.

"Moslems should not listen to the interested advice which German-Italian propaganda lavishes on them. The Germans, like the Italians, have too frequently shown how they treated 'non-Aryans' for one to let oneself be misled by their talk.

"As to the relations between Moslems and Israelites, they must be those of men destined to complement each other economically: the latter working in his shop, the former in the desert, without either having advantage over the other, France assuring both security and tranquillity.

"I have lived too long in North Africa not to be convinced that the thing is possible and even easy. I trust in the common sense of all for its realization.

"It is in this spirit, and according to these principles, that we shall administer the possessions and the interests of France with which we are charged. We shall preserve intact those territories where France has brought civilization. France will end the war as a victorious nation, taking her place in the peace discussions, freely and in possession of all her overseas territories.

"France, battered in her flesh, will have become spiritually eternal France, the France of human liberty, of generous ideals.

"This France is, like her ancestors, animated with the breath of liberty. To the peace, beginning a new era for the world, she will bring her ideal, inspired with the fundamental principles which, since their very origin, unite the American and French democracies.

"She will bring the fruit of her reflections, ripened in suffering, to help finally to build a better Europe, a Europe at peace.

"I trust that this vital contribution will come from France; it will come from united and free French people, from the prisoners, my comrades, of whom I think continually, whose souls, as a boy from the north told me in captivity, were better tempered than their weapons.

"Frenchmen, my brothers, I wish with all my heart for the union of us all. This union must be effective, generous. It will gather together not only all Frenchmen of France now bent beneath the yoke of the enemy but also the Frenchmen who, like us, are outside France.

"This union is indispensable; it is a question of life or death for our country. Disunity is the sign of defeat; unity the mark of victory. For my part I am ready to cooperate with all those who, accepting the fundamental and traditional principles of which I have spoken, joining in the solemn promises which I make to the people of France, are participating in the fight against the enemy.

"And now, to conclude, my dear friends, let me ask God for an early victory.

"May it prevent the return of the horror through which we have lived, through which we are still living.

"May it give to men of good will the means of living in tolerance and of understanding of each other, of helping each other—and, dare I say, of loving each other.

"But is not this the command which comes down from heaven, and which we have so frequently scorned?

"After this tragic trial, let us try to forget it less frequently and to apply it better. But this does not mean we should not exert ourselves.

"Take the word of the prisoner [Giraud himself] who escaped from Koenigstein!"