- Joseph Louis Anne Avenol
Joseph Louis Anne Avenol (
June 9, 1879, Melle, Deux-Sèvres, France— September 2, 1952, Duillier, Vaud, Switzerland) was a French diplomat. He served as the second general secretaryof the League of Nations, from July 3, 1933to August 31, 1940. He was preceded by Sir Eric Drummond of the United Kingdom, who was general secretary between 1920 and 1933, and he was succeeded by the Irish diplomat Seán Lester, who was general secretary between 1940 and 1946, when the League was dissolved.
Avenol was sent to the League of Nations from the French Treasury Department in 1922 to handle the League's finances. He was under secretary-general in 1933, when Eric Drummond resigned. He became secretary-general because the first secretary-general had been British and there had been a private agreement at Versailles that the next would be French. Avenol was accused of using the League as an extension of the French Foreign Office in its policy of appeasement of Germany and Italy. In fact, as he showed after the German occupation of Paris, he was a supporter of Hitler, Mussolini and Marshal
Philippe Pétainof the Vichy régime.
Avenol took office shortly after Japan had left the League. Shortly thereafter Germany also left. He worked to prevent action or criticism of those countries in an effort to lure them back to the League. When Italy invaded Ethiopia in 1935, Avenol's main concern was to keep the Italians in the organization, not to protect Ethiopia.
When the Germans marched into Paris in June 1940, Avenol was reported by his Greek aide, Thanassis Aghnides, to have said, "We must work hand-in-hand with Hitler in order to achieve the unity of Europe and expel England." Later Avenol described "a new France, which was to be given a new soul to work in collaboration with Germany and Italy and keep the British out of Europe." He wrote to Marshal Pétain to affirm his loyalty to the Vichy government.
In the meantime, he had fired most of the League's staff, including all the British employees. On
August 31, 1940Avenol left Geneva and the League of Nations for good. His services were not accepted by the Vichy government, and he was forced to flee back into Switzerland on New Year's Eve 1943 to avoid arrest by the Germans. He died in Switzerland in 1952.
When Seán Lester replaced him as secretary-general, the League had only 100 employees, including guards and janitors, of its original 700. Lester managed to keep the League's technical and humanitarian programs in limited operation for the duration of the war. In 1946 he turned over the League's assets and functions to the newly established
*Barros, James, "Betrayal from Within: Joseph Avenol, Secretary-General of the League of Nations, 1933-1940". New Haven, Ct.: Yale University Press, 1969. ISBN 0-300-01112-1.
* [http://www.historynet.com/magazines/world_war_2/3036901.html History of his administration]
* [http://rulers.org/indexa5.html Short biography]
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