Laval, Pierre°

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LAVAL, PIERRE ° (1883–1945), French politician, deputy premier and premier in Vichy France during World War ii. Born in Châteldon (Puy-de-Dôme), Laval was a militant Socialist and deputy from 1914. His views became conservative, however, and he left his party in 1924 and entered the Senate. First as premier (1931–32) and then as foreign minister (1934–35), he tried to isolate Nazi Germany and concluded a Franco-Soviet friendship treaty (1934) and a Franco-Czech treaty. He refused to apply the sanctions of the League of Nations against Italy after the invasion of Ethiopia. During the German occupation of France, Laval was deputy premier under Marshal Pétain (June 1940) and promoted active collaboration of the Vichy government with the German Nazi authorities. It has not been verified whether he personally participated in the preparation and promulgation of the first "article," which discriminated against the Jews (October 1940). Laval was removed from power in December 1940, but again became premier in April 1942 and remained in this post until the liberation of France (August 1944). In June 1942 the Germans asked for the expulsion of 100,000 Jews from France. Laval agreed to the cooperation of the police on the condition that the expulsion would be limited to "foreign" Jews, which according to him were always a source of trouble for France. He added that he was not concerned with the children of these "foreign" Jews. As a result all the "foreign" Jews were deported to death camps. On the other hand, Laval successfully prevented the annulment of French citizenship of Jews who had been naturalized as French citizens from 1927. Thus he helped to prevent their deportation.

Thousands of Jews were arrested in France and deported under the Laval government and with the collaboration of its police. He was also in favor of transferring several hundred thousand French workers to Germany, as well as establishing and recruiting the "French anti-Bolshevik Legion," which fought in German uniform on the Russian front. After fleeing to Germany and then to Spain at the time of the German retreat, Laval surrendered after the liberation to the French authorities, who brought him before a high court. Condemned to death, he was executed in Paris.


Z. Szajkowski, Analytical Franco-Jewish Gazetteer 19391945 (1966), index; France During the German Occupation, 3 vols. (1958), passim; J. Lubetzki, La condition des Juifs en France sous l'occupation allemande (19401944): La législation raciale (1945), passim; H. Monneray, La persécution des Juifs en France et dans les pays de l'Ouest, présentée par la France à Nuremberg (1947), index; G. Bechtel, Laval, vingt ans après (1963), incl. bibl; J. Billig, in: La France sous l'occupation (1959), 145–60.

[Lucien Lazare]