RESISTANCE IN FRANCE
AN ADDRESS BY MADAME GENEVIEVE TABOUIS.
The President, John C. M. MacBeth, Esq., B.A.; K.C.
Thursday, October 22, 1942.
MR. JOHN C. M. MACBETH: Ladies, Gentlemen of The Empire Club: Cassandra was the daughter of Priam, King of Troy. Apollo became enamoured of her and gave her the gift of prophecy. When she spurned him, he showed his resentment by inducing her hearers to disbelieve her predictions.
This Club does not often have the privilege of entertaining a woman guest-speaker; this is one of those rare occasions. Our guest is a native Frenchwoman who, though brought up in the freethinking, democratic influence of the Third Republic, yet was strictly schooled in the ways of life of the older regime in a family devoted to art and letters. Her talents might forever have been lost to the world, if it had not been for the separation of Church from State in the first decade of this century, when the old order changed. Under a more intelligent freedom, she continued her studies, went to the university, specialized in archaeology and Egyptology, became a teacher of that subject in the Musee Du Louvre in Paris, and wrote several books on the subject, three of which were awarded "Best Book" mention by the Academie Francaise.
She is the niece of Jules Cambon, who was Ambassador at Washington in 1897, and of Paul Cambon, who was Ambassador in London. As she herself says, it was her uncle Jules who was the dominating influence in her life. She spent much time with him while he was Ambassador at Madrid and Berlin, and, under his tutelage developed a scrutinizing knowledge of international politics and European diplomacy.
Journalism was a natural development and she entered this field of activity in 1924 as Diplomatic Correspondent for three French newspapers, and in 1931 was appointed Foreign Editor of L'Oeuvre, where she remained until 1940.
During this period she travelled extensively in Europe, attended International Conferences and League of Nations meetings, and was attached to all French Delegations as a Diplomatic Journalist. Meantime she was writing books, the best known of which are Jules Cambon-Told By One of His Family, Blackmail or War, and AlbionLoyal or Treacherous, which last is a strong appeal for Franco-British friendship and co-operation.
Her insight into international politics was admitted by Mr. Hitler who, in an around the world broadcast, sneered: "As for Madame Tabouis, that wisest of women, she knows what I am about to do even before I know it myself".
A few hours before the French Armistice, she was told in Paris that the Gestapo was going to arrest her and,--under this threat and the conviction that she could do more for France by being at liberty, she escaped to England, and later came to New York. Here she established and continues to edit a paper called Pour La Victoire, and here she wrote a book, published just this year, entitled They Call Me Cassandra, an autobiography, which explains the efforts which she made to save her country from the impending disaster of German domination and occupation, and to keep it strong in its alliance with Britain-efforts based upon knowledge and information not credited by her people. Cassandra.
Et maintenant, Madame, il nous fait beaucoup de plaisir de vous avoir ici aujourd'hui et de vous saluer en la langue Francaise, la belle langue du beau pays de votre naissance.
Moi-meme, Madame, l'honneur est a moi de vous presenter a cette compagnie. Voulez-vous avoir l'obligeance de nous adresser la parole.
Ladies and Gentlemen: Madame Genevieve Tabouis. (Applause.)
MADAME GENEVIEVE TABOUIS: Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen of The Empire Club: In a few years after the victory of the United Nations, when we consider the reasons for Hitler's defeat, it may be that the very first tragic mistake made was to believe that he could invade Great Britain a few weeks after France's capitulation.
The second costly mistake was to under-rate the Soviet power. It is said, as you know today, that when he was trying to persuade Goering of the advisability of the Russian campaign before June, 1941, he said, "But Hermann, it is terribly simple", and that when he speaks about the same Russian campaign today he says, "It is simply terrible".
But, Ladies and Gentlemen, Hitler made his third great mistake in France. To invade France was relatively simple. Quite true, my country didn't realize the significance of the Nazi menace until after the Nazis had already installed themselves in our country and their invasion, which was accomplished not so much through the Army of Occupation as through the Fifth Column Army, ate into our happy and care-free Republic with incredible swiftness and efficiency. Remember, the invasion was accomplished over two years ago, but today France is not conquered, (Applause.) And if France stands unconquered in the face of the enemy, it is because Hitler, the greatest mass psychologist of all times, was misinformed by his agents. They told him in our country there was no patriotism and they told him that decay and corruption reigned supreme in France.
You must remember that in June, 1940, Hitler was convinced that the French nation's army and fleet would be at war, as his ally against Great Britain within a few months of his invasion. But today not only is this very far from the truth but France is the spearhead of resistance to Nazi Germany.
Yes, Ladies and Gentlemen, it is true that overcome and bewildered by the defeat which they could not understand, all France remained for about six months in the condition of a body under anesthesia, but then in June, 1940, General De Gaulle made the statement, "We have not lost a war, we have merely lost a battle", and since that time, 100,000 soldiers, sailors and pilots have managed, each one at the risk of his life, to join De Gaulle's Fighting French Army, and today their military achievements have succeeded in restoring-Oh, in a very, very modest way, of course-France's place among the United Fighting Nations.
Their military achievements-yes-but also the fact that the Fighting French National Committee is today known to represent the determined resistance of the French people and the organization of this resistance. And, Ladies and Gentlemen, completely apart from the military contribution of the Fighting French Army stands the resistance of the French people to the Nazi invader-.
In the office of the paper which I edit we often receive letters, and enquiries about the French resistance--What have the radical Socialists to say? Do they govern by manifestoes, or do the Colonies have separate organizations? And do their leaders compete with De Gaulle? And so on, and so on. Such questions are quite natural for anyone who knew France as it was two or three years ago, but the facts today are amazing.
France has undergone a startling transformation. Today there are no more political parties, no more dissension. There are just two classes-the Collaborationists and the Resisters of Naziism, and the latter represent about ninety per cent of all Frenchmen.
Deep hatred divides these two factions. No reconciliation is possible. The solution will only come with victory for one or the other class of people. today the political leaders fighting the Germans are no longer known as Socialist Leaders or Radical Socialist Leaders, or Leaders of the Right, but simply as De Gaullists.
I fought for many years to achieve unity in my country because I knew so well that unity alone could insure our victory over the Nazis, and I feel confident today because unity has finally been achieved in France.
Well, how can I validly described this picture of resistance for you, as it works from the top of the administration down to the humble peasant or fisherman? Here is an example. Without giving away any secrets, I can tell you that planes have found their way, mysteriously, to certain places in France, where they have picked up leaders of different groups, taken them to London, where they were received in De Gaulle's headquarters, and just as mysteriously the men have been taken back to their homes.
In France today there are four main groups of the Fighting French, each with its own publication-I mean its underground newspaper.
You see, there is no dissension between these groups on main issues. They are organized more along lines of class. For example, the first group has a majority of young intellectuals, and the second group has a large number of former aristocrats in its organization, and the third, Liberation, is mainly made up of Socialists. I repeat, however, the convictions and aims of all the three groups are the same, even though the Communists have held aloof for some time. At the beginning they continued to publish their paper, Humanite, as an underground paper. But when De Gaulle was recognized by the Soviet Union they joined in with the other groups and their paper will probably now be authoritatively published in Moscow.
Now, you could ask me, what activities can such groups carry out under the eyes of the Gestapo or under the eyes of Vichy? Well, you will be surprised to know how much can be done by men and women who have the courage and determination that exists in France today. Their group centres can organize sabotage. They organize a resistance of the workers in refusing to go to Germany. They can also assist those who want to escape to join the De Gaullist forces overseas. They can work to acquire arms, and recent news of the happenings in France show the French people put these arms to good use.
When the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies were disbanded a few weeks ago by official degree, you will remember the eloquent and public protest of Mr. Herriot. While the whole world observes him, we French observe something else. We observe that they have not one single Deputy or Senator, even among the Collaborationists, who dares to speak out against Mr. Herriot.
It is the same way throughout their administration, charged with the enforcement of the Vichy decrees. They have performed systematic sabotage. Let me give you a small instance. Most of the British who have remained in France did so under the court decree requiring compulsory registration. Four months ago the decree was promulgated, but today British subjects and other foreign residents are still at liberty, Why? The Vichy functionaries find daily pretexts to delay action.
If you multiply this small instance by thousands of new decrees, then you have an idea of why Pierre Laval chose to go over the heads of his puppet subordinates and to plead directly to the people to try to find support for him.
Well, Gentlemen, as you know, Germany has no patience. Herr Hitler has informed Laval that unless 150,000 French workers are in the Reich by November 15th, then he, Pierre Laval, may expect to be replaced.
I just heard, before leaving New York, that Pierre Laval had been summoned to Berlin by the end of next week to explain his failure in recruiting the workers 'demanded by Hitler.
At this time Laval fears two things. One, as I told you, that he will be. replaced. The other, that the Germans will now insist on a military occupation of the un occupied zone, as well as the rest of France. But Laval did not seem to have any trouble in committing his latest act of treachery. I refer to the granting of French citizenship to several hundred of the Gestapo men. This new act will permit the new French citizens to move freely among the French to speed up the recruiting of workers for Germany among those who still resist. The two million workers that, as you know, is the total demanded by Hitler, are the latest of the victims of Laval's treachery. They will surely never return to French soil alive and as the prisoners whom Germany did not send home, they will serve Germany as a permanent means of pressure and blackmail against the Vichy Government whenever it acts too slowly in carrying out Nazi orders. The German Government can always say, "If you don't do this we shall torture and kill so many of your workers".
Two years of training in the underground movement have given the French people a keen sense of their responsibility toward European nations and especially a keen sense of their power over the Vichy Government. For instance, when Laval attempted to establish a day of mourning for France for the French people who had died during the Dieppe Commando Raid, the following leaflet appeared on the same day the announcement was made. It read: "Gentlemen of Vichy, don't come and pray over our graves for you have given our possessions you have delivered our power and our lives to the enemy. We want no part of your national mourning day. France went into mourning on the day of your treason. Your collaboration is infamous for it has designated our country as a traitor to our former allies. You said you did not want Frenchmen to die in battle, but today they fall as victims to your crimes. No, Gentlemen of Vichy, do not pray over our graves."
Now, I tell you personally, since 1 now have the privilege to do so, all the real meaning of the Dieppe Commando Raid to the Frenchmen and women. Dieppe opened once more and for all time the question of the Canadians in French history books. Canadians, our traditional Allies, landed in 1942 upon our soil, the first ones to bring the first message of liberation to our people, and I want to tell you this as loudly as I can to you Canadians: We shall never forget what you did for us.
I want to tell you, Ladies and Gentlemen, about how the French resistance movement means to go into every class of the population, and it is plain how in each field men and women manifested their resistance against the new orders in France. Persecution of the Jewish population went hand in hand with the persecution of the French clergy. Such men as the Archbishop of Toulouse, and the Bishop of Montauban, with their congregations were the most ardent defenders of French Jews, and the most outspoken.
When the Vichy Minister of Information prohibited the priests from printing the protests over the persecution of the Jews in France, Catholic priests throughout their parishes spread the powerful message from their pulpits and aside from the arrests of Catholics, we have during one week 120 priests arrested in one Department of France for so-called British-Judea propaganda crimes.
I have seen with my own eyes the list of instructions handed by the French censors to the priests. I am invariably astonished when I speak to people just arrived from the ports and find out how much they know, but last week I had a conversation with Andre Phillipe, a leader in the Free French movement, a Socialist Deputy who now is a member of the Fighting French National Committee in London and who has recently escaped from France. I got the true facts. Firstly, through deliberate carelessness on the part of those whose job it is to enforce the regulations forbidding the population to listen to B.B.C., every one does, and every night at nine o'clock the streets are empty, while all the nation listens, avidly for news of the military progress of the United Nations.
The underground press in France includes hundreds of papers, which were at first produced by hand around a family table. Now they have become more business like in appearance as the popular subscriptions and contributions grew.
I have already referred to the four main papers. These papers which at first were known in the nature of propaganda have now found this propaganda unneccessary. Their readers are already fully convinced of the need of liberating France and are more concerned with getting news.
In the same way the De Gaullist movement in France, which was at first semi-co-ordinated, manifested itself in individual terrorist acts, or individual gestures of sabotage. But today this is no longer true. When a train carrying ammunition to somewhere in Occupied France is wrecked that is news. It is carefully suppressed by the officers, press and radio but of course it is known within a few hours in Occupied France. And when a bridge blows up, when the workers in a factory go on strike, the same fact holds true. This means that every act of resistance in France today is part of the whole co-ordinated organization with ramifications in every part of the country.
I cannot speak of French resistance without mentioning the glorious role of the youth. As you know, their main work is to facilitate the movement of the De Gaullist volunteers. These young people arrange for passage to Spain or for contact with the fishermen of Brittany, who take the young volunteers over in their boats. Every such assignment, as you can imagine, means death. Nevertheless, this action has been performed over 100,000 times.
Although the youth took the initiative, the people of France were not long in joining in the resistance against Vichy and Germany, and in fact it was Pierre Laval himself who set the spark to the glow and made it flare up. Last July he said in his famous speech: "I, myself, wish for a German victory". So those who had been uncertain until now knew where they stood and the people of France said to each other, "Well, we always had our doubts about him but now we know. He is a traitor."
Having come to that conclusion, the mass of the peasants and the middle class knew what to do. They joined the forces of resistance. They were determined to frustrate Laval. In his plan Hitler had relied upon the assistance of the French Army and Fleet within a few months of the Fall of France, but today, upon the advice of his military experts who watched the manoeuvres of the remaining French Army a few months ago, he has ordered this army to be disbanded. For his advisors told him that if these men were to be armed they would surely and immediately turn their weapons against the Vichy Government and against the Nazis.
This is the picture of France in the war today. Here, Ladies and Gentlemen, I want to quote to you some extracts from a manifesto which was printed as a leaflet and distributed in Underground France. It tells of the aims of the French people, it tells of their hopes for the new France, and from the bottom of my heart I tell you it is really and truly the deep expression and the genuine summary of the hopes that burn in the heart of every Frenchman. The manifesto says: "For the time being all our energies must be concentrated on throwing out and defeating the invader. So long as he is within our land, so long as he imposes his plan and laws on us, so long as he shoots the most noble of our comrades, nothing will count for us but to see the day of his ruin and destruction. After that we shall rebuild France. Our fathers of the past paved the way for the conquerors today. Out of the nation that was betrayed we shall build a Republic which the Republicans lacking in faith did not dare to defend, but with victory, liberty will be restored to France. We will reaffirm that we are united in realizing the necessity for political economy and moral changes. These shall be both popular sovereignty and the rights of the individual, and we shall see to it that the new democracy is cleansed from the top to the bottom. It shall be looked upon as an ideal and not as a routine. We are protected by means of strict discipline against the dangers of indifference. We shall be armed against the dangers of conspiracy as well as against briberies of any sort. We shall be guided by obedience to the laws, respect for reason and conscience. The France of tomorrow will make the world forget the defeat of yesterday, the shame of today."
The fight against respect for the rights of the workers has been evoked countless times, but never realized. We set ourselves the task of restoring to the workers class its traditional rights, the right to organize its unions so that the worker may freely determine his life through the recognized channels of his choice. Thereby he may participate to an ever greater degree in the administrative and economic life of his country.
France and the European Continent will emerge transformed from this crisis. With all our might we call to the forces of freedom and liberty who have been drawn so close to valour by the great trial of suffering and the nightmare of this war.
Ladies and Gentlemen, a few weeks ago Edouard Herriot placed this question squarely before our nation. He asked: "Shall we allow liberty to die in the very country which saw its birth?" And to this question the Vichy Government replied by arresting the great Frenchman, but the French people have answered differently. They are answering Mr. Herriot every day with the sacrifice of their lives, and they are saying: "No, Liberty shall survive in France and the hour of her liberation shall illuminate conquered Europe with the first rays of victory." (Applause-prolonged.)
MR. JOHN C. M. MACBETH: Madame, Ladies and Gentlemen: We have listened to an amazing address by an amazing woman-an address full of the wisdom which is the product of opportunity for observation, keenness of perception, tidiness of thought, and precision of language.
I don't think that there is anything I should comment upon. It would detract from this most amazing address. There is one item, which is ever present in the minds of most of us Canadians, and that is the affair at Dieppe. It is a great consolation to receive from Madame Tabouis the information which she gives us as to the effect of that raid, informally, in France, upon the people of France.
It is not an unusual thing that there should be divisions in France. We used to laugh sometimes before the war at the number of divisions in the French Chamber. There were so many Lefts and so many Rights, and so many divisions of the Left and so many divisions of the Right. It is very reassuring again to know that 94 per cent of all the people are now united with one aim.
You are a very brave woman, Madame, to come to us today and to deliver such an address as this. Your people, we know, are in Paris! It has been a unique pleasure to have you with us and we thank you sincerely from the bottom of our hearts that are Canadian hearts, here, there and always. (Applause.)