Georges Mandel

Georges Mandel

Georges Mandel (June 5, 1885—July 7, 1944) was a French politician, journalist, and French Resistance leader.


Born Louis George Rothschild in Chatou, Seine-et-Oise, the son of a tailor: his family (not related to the Rothschild banking dynasty) was Jewish, and had fled from Alsace in to preserve their French citizenship when Alsace-Lorraine was annexed by the German Empire at the end of the Franco-Prussian War.

Early career

Mandel began working life as a journalist for "L'Aurore", the paper of Émile Zola, Georges Clemenceau, and the defenders of Alfred Dreyfus, during the Dreyfus Affair. Clemenceau brought Mandel into politics when he was Minister of the Interior. Mandel also helped Clemenceau control the press and the trade union movement during the First World War.

He was elected to the Chamber of Deputies from Gironde in 1919, and lost his seat when the "Cartel des Gauches" swept the 1924 elections, but returned to office in 1928. He kept the position until the World War II defeats and the Nazi German military occupation of France in 1940.

Inter-war period

In 1934, Mandel entered the government as Minister of Posts (1934-1936), and oversaw the first official television transmission in French. During the 1936 Albert Sarraut government, Mandel served as both Minister of Posts and High Commissioner for Alsace and Lorraine. After the fall of the Popular Front government, he served as Minister of Overseas France and her Colonies (1938-1940).

Mandel was an economic conservative and, perhaps not unexpectedly, an outspoken opponent of Nazism and Fascism. In the 1930s, he played a similar role to Winston Churchill in the United Kingdom, highlighting the dangers posed by Adolf Hitler. He opposed Pierre Laval's plan to partition Ethiopia following its invasion by Benito Mussolini's Italy (the Second Italo–Abyssinian War of 1935-1936). Mandel also became a strong advocate of a military alliance with the Soviet Union, and opposed the Munich Agreement and the policy of appeasement it exemplified.

World War II and German invasion

In September 1939, after the outbreak of the German-Polish War, Mandel argued that the French Army should fight an offensive war, instead of the Phony War favored by other politicians. Mandel was accused by some on the right of being a warmonger; it was also alleged that he was placing his Jewish ancestry above France's interests.

Mandel was Minister of Interior in Paul Reynaud's government from 18 May to 16 June 1940, just before the commencement of the Vichy regime led by Philippe Pétain. Mandel opposed to the Armistice with the rapidly advancing Germans. On June 16, in Bordeaux, British General Edward Spears, Churchill's military liaison officer, offered Mandel the chance to leave on his plane, together with Charles de Gaulle, but Mandel declined, saying: "You fear for me because I am a Jew. Well, it is just because I am a Jew that I will not go tomorrow; it would look as though I was afraid, as if I was running away".

Mandel sought to persuade the President of the Republic, Albert Lebrun, the Presidents of the Chamber and of the French Senate, and as many members of the Parliament as possible to travel to French North Africa, in order to continue the fight against the Germans. Ultimately though, only 25 other Deputies embarked with Mandel on the "Massillia" on 21 June.

Capture, detention, and death

On 8 August, Mandel was arrested in Morocco by General Charles Nogues, on the orders of Laval (who had become a Vichy leader), and then conveyed to the Château de Chazeron, where Reynaud, Edouard Daladier and General Maurice Gamelin were also being held prisoner. Churchill, who described Mandel as "the first resister" (and would arguably have preferred him over Charles De Gaulle to lead the Free French Forces), tried unsuccessfully to arrange his rescue. All four were sentenced to life imprisonment by Marshall Pétain on November 7, 1941, following trials in Riom.

Mandel and Reynaud were given over to the Gestapo after the occupation of the Vichy territory in November 1942. He was deported first to Oranienburg then to Buchenwald, where he was held with Léon Blum. Mandel was returned to Paris on July 4, 1944 as a hostage, and placed in the custody of Joseph Darnand's Milice. Three days later he was taken to the Forest of Fontainbleau - where he was murdered in retaliation for the assassination of the Vichy Minister of Propaganda, Philippe Henriot, by members of the Maquis.

A monument to Mandel's memory is set up near his place of execution, alongside the road linking Fontainebleau to Nemours.


* Nicolas Sarkozy, "Georges Mandel, moine de la politique", 1994. Adapted into a television film ( [ "The Last Summer"] ) starring Jacques Villeret in the title role.

External links

* [ "Mandel on "Alsatian Judaism"] (in French)

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