Service d'ordre légionnaire

Service d'ordre légionnaire

The Service d'ordre légionnaire (SOL) was a collaborationist militia created by Joseph Darnand, a far right veteran from the First World War. Too radical even for others supporters of the Vichy regime, it was granted its independence in January 1943, after Operation Torch and the German occupation of the South Zone, until then dubbed "Free Zone" and controlled by Vichy. Pierre Laval himself (supported by Marshall Pétain) passed the law which accorded the SOL its independence and transformed it into the "Milice", which participated in battles alongside the Nazis against the Resistance and committed numerous war crimes against civilians. After the Liberation, some members of the Milice escaped to Germany, where they joined the ranks of the SS. Those who stayed behind in France faced either drumhead courts-martial, generally followed by summary execution, or simple lynching at the hands of "résistants" and enraged civilians.

Creation of the SOL

Joseph Darnand, who had taken part in the "Cagoule" far right terrorist group's conspiracy before the Invasion of Poland, had been one of the first to rally himself to the "National Revolution" — which was the name given to the new Vichy regime issued from the 1940 defeat during the Battle of France and from the July 10, 1940 vote according extraordinary powers to Marshall Pétain. Joseph Darnand took the head of the "Légion française des combattants" (LFC) in the Alpes Maritimes region, and then created the SOL, which attracted not only the most enthusiast proponents of collaborationism with Nazi Germany, but also criminals from the Nice mafia. The SOL was extended to all of the South Zone and to North Africa on December 12, 1941.

This new organization was headed by Darnand, Pierre Gallet, Marcel Gombert and Jean Bassompierre, whereas its program was defined by Bassompierre, Noël de Tissot and the "docteur Durandy". It advocated the cult of the leader, anti-parliamentarism, racism and anti-Semitism, as well as pushing for collaboration with the Nazis. Before the 1941-1942 turn of public opinion, France was mostly composed Fact|date=March 2007 of "pétainistes", whom supported Marshall Pétain. However, various grades of collaborationism must be distinguished, as some advocated it claiming it would lighten the burden of the military occupation (this was Pétain's official discourse) and that Marshall Pétain, a figure highly respected for his role during the 1916 Battle of Verdun, couldn't be wrong. These collaborationists have been called "Maréchalistes", as their support of the collaboration was rather based on trust towards Pétain. After his meeting with Hitler, Pétain had advocated collaboration in an October 30, 1940 speech to the radio. Others, commonly called "pétainistes", advocated collaboration on ideological grounds: they supported Vichy's anti-Semitic laws which the regime had put in place on its own, without waiting for German orders. Joseph Darnand and the SOL, were at the spearhead of these ideological collaborationists, eagerly hoping for German victory in the war

Several leaders and SOL activists engaged themselves in brutal actions against imaginary or real opponents of Vichy, and started a wave of denouncement which did not even spare the civil or religious authorities of the "Etat français" (name by which the Vichy regime called itself). Joseph Darnand, who headed the SOL, had based himself in Vichy. He was always supported by Pétain even in his more extreme cries in support to Collaboration. Darnand went so far that his "patriotism" became to be seen as treason, and shocked even others leaders of the Légion or of the "Chantiers de jeunesse" (Youth Workshops) which were also in favor of Collaboration, but done in a "civilized" manner. Thus, it was decided to grant autonomy to the SOL on January 5, 1943, in order to take distance with the militia and at the same time grant it complete freedom of action.

Operation Torch and transformation of the SOL into the Milice

Following the November 1942 Operation Torch and the landing in North Africa, which led to the German occupation of the South zone, until now designed as the "free zone" because it was under Vichy's authority, Marshall Pétain exalted in his January 5 1943 discourse the "patriotism" of the SOL which, along with the "Armée d'Afrique", had fired on the American troops. In reality, only several tens of SOL militia had fought in Oran and in Morocco, whereas in Alger all of the SOL militia had surrendered to the Allies during the "November 8, 1942 putsch", during which 400 poorly equipped Resistance fighters single-handedly immobilised the the XIXth "Corps d'Armée vichyste" for 15 hours, contributing to the immediate success of the Allies' landing in Alger.

Thus, on January 5 1943, the SOL was granted autonomy and transformed into the "Milice française" (French Militia), created by a law issued by Pierre Laval under agreements with Pétain. The Milice absorbed the former SOL. It was headed by Laval, along with Joseph Darnand as vice-president and true master of the operations. Darnand's Milice were the worst Collaborationists, engaging themselves in war crimes against civilians and those trying to escape the "Service du travail obligatoire" (STO, the mandatory labour in Germany). Along with the Nazis, it participated in the attacks against the Resistance. Many of its members escaped to Germany after the Liberation, where they were integrated to the SS.

François de Grossouvre, who became leader of the French stay-behind anti-communist paramilitaries (commonly known as Gladio) in the Lyon region during the Cold War, and advisor of French president François Mitterrand, was a member of the SOL. However, it was determined after the Liberation that he had in fact infiltrated the SOL on behalf of "Organisation de résistance de l'armée" (ORA), a Resistance group created in January 1943.


* Jean-Paul Cointet, "La légion française des Combattants", Albin Michel, Paris, 1995.
* Jean-Pierre Azéma et François Bedarida, "Vichy et les Français", Paris, Fayard, 1996.
* Pierre Giolitto, "Histoire de la Milice", Perrin, Paris, 2002.
* Jean Delperrié de Bayac, "Histoire de la Milice (1918-1945)", Fayard, Paris 1995.

See also

*Joseph Darnand
*François de Grossouvre
*La Cagoule terrorist group
*Vichy France

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