France Will Not Be Bound


By GENERAL CHARLES de GAULLE, Leader of Provisional French Government Broadcast from Paris.

Recorded and translated by the Federal Communications Commission, February 5, 1945

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. XI, pp. 262-263.

IN this supreme hour of struggle, as in the peace that will follow, the rights and duties of France are in the front rank of all rights and duties.

In order that the enemy's resistance in the depths of German territory may be reduced from the western front, the efforts of France is clearly necessary despite all that her power may have temporarily suffered. It was thus in 1939, for it was by accepting all risks together with Great Britain that we gained for the whole world what enabled the others to see clearly and to prepare themselves.

It was thus again in November, 1942, when our African army, rousing itself from the lethargy of the so-called armistice, covered—with rusty arms but intact valor—the arrival of the American, British and Free French forces on a terrain where the enemy was well to the fore. It was the same later during the campaign that brought the Allies* armies from Naples to Florence and in which the French Expeditionary Corps played a capital role.

It was thus during the Battle of France, up to and including the victory that is being completed in Alsace—a struggle in the course of which, out of 825,000 Germans captured by the Allies since June 6, 1944, 210,000 were taken by the French: i.e., 120,000 by the First Army, more than 50,000 by the Second Armored Division alone, operating with one or another of the American armies, and 40,000 by the French Forces of the Interior.

Predicts Doubled Army

The effort of France will be of still greater relative importance tomorrow, since in three months we shall have twice as many men in the line as we had in December. Let us add that our ports, our railroads, our airfields have been the backbone of the common battle. As for the occupation of the whole of German territories—which will necessarily follow the hostilities—it is clear that the French Army will become little by little the dominant element in the west.

Whatever may be the length and the ups and downs of this war, it is superfluous to affirm that the settlements that emerge from it will be of vital importance to France.

For more than one and a half centuries our country has never ceased to be weakened in comparison to other countries, inasmuch as she has had to support gigantic wars that cost her a much higher total than any other people in the world. Naturally, her political stability, her economic and demographic development, her social progress—above all, the bond among citizens that is the condition of this stability, of this development, this progress—were thereby seriously compromised.

Our national life, inside and outside the country, has gone from upheaval to upheaval for generations, and each of these upheavals has been more ruinous than the preceding one. This time, France has literally just missed dying as a free nation, and the sources of her activity have been cruelly wounded. The rest of the world, and above all the peoples of Europe, have greatly suffered from her weakness; for it is a sort of law that no one is safe when France is in trouble.

Germany Called Main Peril

Now the cause of all our trials has always been Germany, favored by errors and illusions. That is to say, not only the future but the very life of France depends on what is done to the beaten Germans.

We know that many people consider it rather strange that, at this stage of the struggle, the heads of the three other great powers should appear to settle the manner in which this is to be concluded, and the conditions governing its conclusion, without France. On this point, I assure the nation that it may await without alarm the development of events.

As far as the conduct of the war is concerned, and although for the time being we have accepted the placing of our military forces under inter-Allied command—as our Allies did with Marshal Foch at the end of the last war,—the Government has means of introducing into the general strategy all that is needed so that our national interestsmay be safeguarded for the benefit of all and, above all, so that the best possible use may be made of our forces, as was already done on one recent occasion in particular. I hasten to add that in this connection a comprehension has been met on the part of the inter-Allied high command that will stand out in history.

As for the arrangement of the future peace or any other arrangement that would concern it, we have informed our Allies and we have said publicly that France would of course be bound by absolutely nothing that she had not had the opportunity to discuss and approve on the same ground as the others. A fortiori, she will accept only what conforms to the aims that she has set for herself in order to insure that no aggression by Germany will be possible in the future—either against herself or against any state with which she is or would be allied.

Summarizes Aims

I can state once more that the definite presence of a French force from one end of the Rhine to the other; the separation of the territories of the left bank of the river and of the Ruhr Basin from what will be the German state or states; the independence of the Polish, Czechoslovak, Austrian and Balkan nations in friendship with each of the nations that will have to bear the principal weight of maintaining peace in Europe—these are the conditions that France considers essential. We are extremely desirous that they shall be considered equally so by all our allies.

We are not disturbed about the possibility that we shall have to carry out most of them, since there are 106,000,000 of us, living closely assembled under the French flag in the immediate neighborhood of what interests us most directly. Naturally, we do not have the presumption to believe that we alone could insure the security of Europe. We must have alliances. It is for that purpose that we have concluded a great and good alliance with strong and courageous Soviet Russia.

It is for that purpose that we are desirous of signing one some day with brave old England, as soon as she may be willing to agree to what is vital for us concerning Germany, and as soon as we may succeed in eliminating among ourselves certain traces of an outmoded rivalry in certain points, traces to which our temporary misfortunes have given—and are Still giving—an opportunity to show themselves. We count on being able to establish with each of our neighbors—the Belgians, the Luxembourgers, the Netherlanders—practical agreements for mutual security and economic cooperation. We hope that time is still kind to those who know how to use it and we hope in the future to resume good relations with a renewed Italy.

Sees U. S. Leading in Security

Finally, we shall be ready, when—after the battles of Europe and the Far East have been decided—we shall have recovered full liberty of action and all our territories to take part gladly in the great studies and negotiations from which there will undoubtedly come a world peace organization. This will include the United States of America in the first rank and will promise every state and supreme guarantee of its life and development in human society.

Such is France's immediate plan for war and peace. Circumstances tend to be such that in order to realize it we have only to be willing and to act accordingly. In achieving this purpose we shall create for our country general conditions of dignity, strength and security, which she has lacked for so long and which the failure to recognize reality prevented us from obtaining after the great victories of 1918 and for the lack of which we have lived in an atmosphere of discontent, uncertainty and threats, which are contrary to our renovation. Conversely, without an inner renovation corresponding to our return to the first rank among nations, we should try in vain on this supreme occasion to succeed in placing our country in the best imaginable conditions among the other states, or to aid in building the finest possible structure for world cooperation, for we should have built nothing but illusion.

Now, we must make an enormous effort to raise ourselves to the rank where we wish to be. For the moment, it is quite true that the demands, the tests and the ruins of war are limiting us within this framework of ideas to the most pressing needs; that is, simply to make every effort to stay alive. But, as the sun of victory rises on the horizon, the nation is discovering the future and is wondering about the route that she must follow to rebuild and develop herself politically, economically, socially, demographically, morally.

I shall explain on a later occasion what the doctrine and action of the Government are in this matter. Everyone knows, in fact, that there must be in them, as for strength in foreign relations, a coherent ensemble of which no part would have any value without being one entity with the others. As for the inner strength, it can be nowhere but in the national will, for everything is linked with the life of a nation and greatness is not divided.