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Not to be confused with Pierre N. Leval.

Pierre Laval (28 June 1883 15 October 1945) was a Frenchmarker politician. He served four times as President of the council of ministers of the Third Republic, twice consecutively. Following France's Armistice with Germany in 1940, he served twice in the Vichy Regime as head of government. After the Liberation (1945), he was arrested, found guilty of high treason, and executed by firing squad. The controversy surrounding his political activities has generated over a dozen biographies.


Early life

Laval was born 28 June 1883 at Châteldonmarker, Puy-de-Dômemarker, in the northern part of Auvergne. His father worked in the village as a café proprietor, butcher, and postman, and was sufficiently well-to-do to own a few acres of vineyard and half a dozen horses. Laval never forgot, and never allowed his associates to forget, that he was essentially a son of Auvergne.

Young Pierre was first educated at the village school in Châteldon, then at the age of fifteen he was sent to a Paris lycĂ©e to take his baccalaurĂ©at. He did not complete it, and returning south to Lyonmarker, he spent the next year reading a degree in zoology. Laval joined the socialists in 1903, when he was living in Saint-Étiennemarker (62 km southwest of Lyon). “I was never a very orthodox socialist," he explained in 1945…..By which I mean that I was never much of a Marxist. My socialism was much more a socialism of the heart than a doctrinal socialism... I was much more interested in men, their jobs, their misfortunes and their conflicts than in the digressions of the great German pontiff.”

Laval returned to Paris in 1907. He was called up for military service, and after serving in the ranks, he was discharged for varicose veins. In a speech in April 1913 he declared "Barrack-based armies are incapable of the slightest effort, because they are badly-trained and, above all, badly commanded." He favoured the outright abolition of the army and its replacement by a citizens' militia.

During this period Laval became familiar with the left-wing doctrines of George Sorel and Hubert Lagardelle. In 1909, choosing to forget his zoological qualifications, he turned to the law. Shortly after becoming a member of the Paris bar, he married the daughter of a Dr. Claussat and they set up a small home in Paris. Their only child, a daughter, was born in 1911. Madame Laval, although she came from a very active political family, never meddled in politics herself. She belonged to a generation, she said, which believed that a woman's place was in the home. Laval was devoted to his family, a fact that even his enemies never denied.

The years immediately before the First World War in France were characterised by widespread labour unrest, and Laval made his mark by defending strikers, trade unionists, and left-wing agitators against attempts by the authorities to prosecute them. In a trade-union conference, Laval spoke forcefully:

Laval was not in the habit of setting forth his political views in writing. The only book he ever wrote was his Diary, written in a prison-cell while awaiting the foregone verdict of his post-World War II trial. It survived because his daughter, Josée de Chambrun, was able to smuggle it out page by page.

Career during the Third Republic

Socialist Deputy for the Seine

In April 1914, as fear of war swept the nation, the Socialists and Radicals geared up their electoral campaign in defense of peace. Their leaders were Jean Jaurès and Joseph Caillaux. The Bloc des Gauches (Leftist bloc) denounced the law passed in July 1913 extending the compulsory military service from two to three years. The Confédération générale du travail, or CGT, sought Pierre Laval as Socialist candidate for the district of the Seine, a Parisian suburb both rural and industrial. He was victorious. The Radicals, with the support of the Socialists, held the majority in the assembly. Together they hoped to avert war. The assassinations of Archduke Francis Ferdinand on 28 June 1914 and Jaurès on 31 July 1914 shattered the hopes of the pacifists.

Pierre Laval and some 2,000 others were listed by the military in the infamous carnet B, a compilation of the potentially subversive elements who might hinder or oppose the mobilization. In name of national unity, Minister of the Interior Jean-Louis Malvy, despite pressure from the chiefs of staff, refused to have anyone apprehended.

Unlike Socialists such as Pierre Renaudel of L'Humanité or Léon Jouhaux of the CGT, Laval remained true to his pacifist's convictions during the war. He quietly chose to direct his efforts toward the material welfare of the French. In December 1915, Jean Longuet, grandson of Karl Marx, proposed to the Socialist parliamentarians that they open communications with the Socialists of other states. Longuet hoped to pressure the belligerent governments into a negotiated peace. Laval signed on, but the motion was defeated.

With all of France's resources geared for war, basic goods were often scarce or overpriced. Laval first concerned himself essentially with the well being of his constituency. Eventually he would extend his efforts to the Parisian and national scene. He was seen visiting slaughter houses with Minister Malvy. On 30 January 1917, in the national assembly he called upon Supply Minister Edouard Herriot to deal with the inadequate coal supply in Paris. Author Alfred Mallet wrote: "Herriot groaned 'If I could, I would unload the barges myself . . . '" Laval retorted "Do not add ridicule to ineptitude." "Herriot gémit: 'Si je pouvais, j'irais décharger moi-même les péniches.' La voix rauque du jeune député de la Seine s'élève, implacable: 'N'ajoutez pas le ridicule à l'incapacité!' Mallet, Pierre Laval des Années obscures, 18-19.

The words delighted the assembly and attracted the attention of George Clemenceau. The relationship between Laval and Herriot, however, would always be strained.

Stockholm, the "polar star"

As the bloody stalemate of the war only grew worse, Laval scorned the conduct of the war and the poor supply of the troops in the field. When mutinies broke out after General Robert Nivelle's disastrous offensive of April 1917 at Chemin des Damesmarker, he spoke in defense of the mutineers. When Marcel Cachin and Marius Moutet returned from St. Petersburg in June 1917 with the invitation to an international socialist convention in Stockholm, Laval saw a chance for peace. In a lyrical address to the assembly, reported by the author Mallet, he urged the chamber to allow a delegation to go: "Yes, Stockholm, in response to the call of the Russian Revolution . . . Yes, Stockholm, for peace . . . Yes, Stockholm the polar star." The request was denied. The Alexandre Ribot government was overthrown. Paul Prudent Painlevé formed a new government that did not last long. The winds of peace, which blew for a brief moment in the spring of 1917, were overwhelmed by the discovery of a flurry of traitors, some real, some imagined, as with Malvy. Because he had refused to arrest the Frenchmen on the carnet B, Malvy now became a suspect. At this stage of the war, a traitor was anyone who did not believe in the victory or who wished for peace. Laval's "Stockholm, étoile polaire" speech had not been forgotten. Many of Laval's acquaintances, the publishers of the anarchist Bonnet rouge (Red hat), and other pacifists were arrested or interrogated. Though Laval frequented pacifist circles—it was said that he was acquainted with Leon Trotsky—the authorities did not pursue him. His status as a deputy, his overall caution, and his many friendships across the political spectrum protected him. In November 1917, Clemenceau even offered him a post in government, but the Socialist Party by then refused to enter any government. Laval toed the party line, but he questioned the wisdom of such a policy in a meeting of the Socialist members of parliament.

The war ended, a Pyrrhic victory for the whole of France, in the estimation of many observers. The north of the country was ravaged. Every town, every village, every family was affected by death or mutilation. Laval's brother, Jean, the army officer, died in the first months of the war.

From Socialist to Independent

1919 was an election year. A conservative tidal wave swept the Bloc National into control of the National Assembly. Despite a dynamic campaign, Pierre Laval was not reelected. The Socialists' record of pacifism, their opposition to the immensely popular Clemenceau, and the anxiety arising from the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia all contributed to the defeat of the Socialists.

Throughout France, as in much of the rest of Europe, social unrest followed conservative victories. The CGT, with a strength of 2,400,000 members, launched a general strike in 1920. The CGT's offensive petered out, however, as thousands of workers were laid off. The government sought to dissolve the CGT. Laval, with Joseph Paul-Boncour as chief counsel, assumed the defense of the union leaders. While they failed in the courtroom, Laval saved the CGT by appealing directly to the ministers of the interior and of commerce and industry, Théodore Steeg and Auguste Isaac. The CGT survived.

While his interest in improving the lot of the workers never faltered, his relations with the Socialist Party drew to an end. The last few years spent with the Socialist caucus in the chamber combined with the party's disciplinary policies eroded Laval's attachment to the Socialist cause. With the Bolshevik victory in Russia the party itself was changing; the Congress of Tours in December 1920 saw the schism of the Socialists into two ideologically competing components: the French Communist Party (SFIC later PCF), which derived its inspiration directly from Moscow, and the more moderate French Section of the Workers' International (SFIO). Laval simply let his membership lapse, not taking sides as the two factions battled over the legacy of Jean Jaurès. Ideology would never hold Laval's attention again. When, during the dark years of the occupation a variety of "right wing" doctrines came forth, he also declined to embrace any of them.

Laval's financial success possibly affected his decision to leave the Socialist movement. He may have preferred not to come to terms with the incongruity of being well-to-do and a card-carrying member of the SFIO or the PCF. He might also have simply been unwilling to waste his energy in ideological jousts. When probed about his defection, Laval declared that the party had changed at Tours, not him.32 In truth, Laval was too much of an individualist to belong to any party. He ran for the first time as an independent in the 1923 mayoral election in Aubervilliers. He believed that "a sound material independence, if not essential, gives to government officials who have it a greater political independence." "Une indépendance matérielle assurée, si elle n'est pas indispensable, donne aux hommes de gouvernement qui la possèdent une plus grande indépendance politique." Pierre Laval, Laval Parle, 21.

Mayor of Aubervilliers

In 1923 the city of Aubervilliers, in the northern suburb of Paris, needed a new mayor. As a former deputy of the circonscription (constituency), Laval was an obvious candidate for the post. To be eligible for election in that particular district, Laval purchased a piece of farmland, "Les Bergeries." Because Laval's defection from the Socialists was done with little fanfare, few were aware of it. Laval was asked in turn by the local SFIO and the Communist Party to head their respective lists.38 Laval instead chose to run under the Laval list, composed of former Socialists he convinced to leave the party and work for him. This was an independent Socialist Party of sorts that only existed in Aubervilliers. In a four-way race Laval was victorious in the second round.39

By nature Laval abhorred conflict and he promptly won over those he defeated by cultivating personal contacts. He developed a network among the humble and the well-to-do in Aubervilliers, not to mention the mayors of the neighboring towns. He was the only independent politician in the northern suburb of Paris known after the 1924 elections as the Banlieu Rouge (Red Suburb). This peculiarity allowed him to avoid getting immersed in the ideological war raging between Socialists and communists. Laval simply built friendships and earned the confidence of the voters by intelligently managing the town=s assets.40

Independent Deputy for the Seine

If the SFIO resented Laval's withdrawal from the party, it was discreet about it. The Socialists needed Laval for the 1924 legislative elections. The Socialist Party in combination with the Radicals formed a national coalition known as the Cartel des Gauches. Laval headed a list of independent Socialists in the Seine. The Cartel was victorious and Laval regained a seat in the National Assembly. Leftist euphoria swept France. The first action of Laval as deputy was to bring back Joseph Caillaux, former member of the national assembly and once the shining star of the Radical Party. Clemenceau had had Caillaux arrested toward the end of the War for collusion with the enemy. He had served two years in prison and had lost his civic rights. Laval took a stand for Caillaux['s pardon. Laval, with others, was successful. In Caillaux, Laval gained an influential patron.

Minister and Senator

Laval's reward for his support of the Cartel was his appointment as Minister of Public Works in the government of Paul Painlevé in April 1925. Six months later, in pure Third Republic style, the government collapsed. Nevertheless, Laval from then on belonged to the exclusive club of former ministers from which new ministers were usually drawn. Between 1925 and 1926 Laval participated three more times in Briand governments, once as under-secretary to the premier and twice as Minister of Justice (garde des sceaux). When he first became Minister of Justice, Laval abandoned his law practice to avoid any conflict of interest. This was a sacrifice well worth making, as the Ministry of Justice was the gateway to the prime ministry.

Laval's momentum was frozen after 1926 through a reshuffling of the cartel majority orchestrated by the Radical-Socialist mayor and deputy of Lyon, Edouard Herriot.45 Founded in 1901, the Radical Party became the hinge faction of the Third Republic. Its support or defection, as Laval would experience, often meant the survival or collapse of governments. Through this latest mood swing in the national assembly, Laval was excluded from the direction of France for four years. Author Gaston Jacquemin suggested that Laval deliberately chose not to partake in a Herriot government, which he judged incapable of handling the financial crisis. The year 1926 marked the definitive break between Laval and the left. If Laval was attacked in the leftist press for his departure, he nonetheless maintained his friends on the left.

In 1927 Laval won the seat of the Senator of the Seine, in effect withdrawing from and placing himself above the political battles for ephemeral majorities in the National Assembly. He longed for a constitutional reform that would strengthen the executive branch and eliminate the political instability, the grievous flaw of the Third Republic.

On 2 March 1930 Laval returned to government as Minister of Labor in the second André Tardieu government.André Tardieu had been the collaborator of George Clemenceau. As in all of the governments of the Third Republic from this time period, the governments relied on coalitions in the Chamber of Deputies. In this Laval government he secured the support of the Right. He served first as minister of Agriculture, took over the Interior from Laval in the Fall of 1931 and served as War Minister in January 1932. Elegant and often perceived as arrogant, he was nicknamed the "Prince of the Republic," the antithesis of the populist Laval. Yet the two got along remarkably well. Tardieu made possible the evacuation of the Rhineland, sought by Briand (May 1930). Tardieu was also the great hope of the conservatives; he hoped to be able to modernize France and to revamp the party system. Rudolph Binion Defeated Leaders, The Political Fate of Caillaux, Jouvenel and Tardieu (Morningside Heights, New York: Columbia University Press, 1960),310-4. Kupferman, Laval, 1987, 69.In July 1939 Tardieu became paralysed by hemiplegia. An editorialist for Gringoire, Le Temps and other papers, Tardieu could no longer speak or write and thus no longer earn a living. In 1942 Laval was able to help Tardieu materially. Laval requested to visit his ailing colleague. But Tardieu's caretakers feared it would be too emotional for their patient. Mallet who had been Laval's secretary wondered; had Tardieu not fallen ill, how Tardieu would have exerted his sway on Laval during the occupation. Mallet, Pierre Laval des années obscures, 33-34. For more on Tardieu read: Michel Junot, André Tardieu, le mirobolant (Paris: Denoël, 1996). Tardieu and Laval knew each other from the days of Clemenceau, which developed into mutual appreciation. Tardieu needed men he could trust: his previous government collapsed a little over a week earlier because of the defection of the minister of Labor, Louis Loucheur. But, when the Radical Socialist Camille Chautemps failed to form a viable government, Tardieu was called back.

Minister of Labor and Social Insurance

At this time, the social climate was tense. More than 150,000 textile workers were on strike, and violence was feared. As Minister of Public Works in 1925, Laval had ended the strike of the mine workers. Tardieu hoped he could do the same as Minister of Labor. Tardieu's faith was justified: the conflict was settled without bloodshed. Even Socialist politician LĂ©on Blum, never one of Laval's allies, conceded that Laval's "intervention was skillful, opportune and decisive."

Laval's greatest achievement in the Tardieu government was yet to come. Social insurance (Assurances Sociales) had been on the agenda of the legislative assembly for over ten years. It had even passed the Chamber of Deputies, but not the Senate, in 1928. Tardieu gave Laval the deadline of May 1 to get the project through. The date was chosen to stifle the usual agitation of Labor Day (it is only in the United States that Labor Day does not fall on May 1). Laval's first effort went into clarifying the muddled collection of texts. He then consulted the employer and labor organizations. The bill was one of immense complexity and Laval had to reconcile the frequently divergent views of Chamber and Senate. "Had it not been for Laval's unwearying patience," Laval's associate Tissier wrote, "an agreement would never have been achieved,"In two months Laval was able to present to the assembly a text which overcame the difficulties which had caused its original failure. It met the financial constraints, reduced the control of the government, and preserved the free choice of doctors and their billing freedom. The chamber and the senate passed the new law with an overwhelming majority.

When the bill had passed its final stages, Tardieu paid a glowing tribute to his minister of labour, whom he described as "displaying at every moment of the discussion as much tenacity as restraint and ingenuity."

Another Tardieu achievement was the establishment of free high school education. The successes of the Tardieu government, however, did not resist the ramifications of the Oustric Affair. After the failure of the Oustric Bank, it appeared that members of the Tardieu government had improper ties to the financial institution. The scandal involved Minister of Justice Raoul Péret, and Under-Secretaries Henri Falcoz and Eugène Lautier. Though Tardieu was not involved in the wrongdoing of his ministers, on 4 December 1930, Tardieu lost his majority in the Senate.President of the Republic Gaston Doumergue called upon Louis Barthou to form a government, but Barthou failed. Doumergue turned to Laval, who fared no better. The disappointment was short-lived, however, as the following month the government formed by Théodore Steeg floundered. Doumergue renewed his offer to Laval. On 27 January 1931 he successfully formed his first government.

The First Laval Government

In the words of Léon Blum, the Socialist opposition was amazed and disappointed that the ghost of Tardieu's government reappeared within a few weeks of being defeated with Laval, "like a night bird surprised by the light" at its head. Laval's nomination as premier led to the speculation that Tardieu, the new Agriculture minister, held the real power in the Laval Government. Indisputably Laval thought highly of Tardieu, as well as of Briand, and applied policies in line with theirs. Laval, however, had his own style and certainly had not made it that far to become Tardieu's mouthpiece.While it was true that the ministers who formed the Laval government were in great part the same who had formed Tardieu governments in the past, it was, however, more a function of the composite majority Laval could find at the National Assembly than anything else. Laval—like Raymond Poincaré, Aristide Briand and Tardieu before him—had offered ministerial posts to Herriot's Radicals, but to no avail.

Although it had chosen not to be represented in the government, the support of the inescapable party of Herriot was still necessary. Laval's ace-in-the-hole was his network of friends and supporters in the chamber, the "Lavalists." Laval like Tardieu did not always see eye to eye with the deputy of Lyon. While the sometimes abrasive Tardieu was often in conflict with Herriot, Laval would attempt the delicate task of conciliating the two.

Besides the so called unmovables (inamovibles) -- Briand, André Maginot, Pierre-Etienne Flandin, Paul Reynaud -- Laval brought in his own team of advisors, such old friends as Maurice Foulon, the collaborator from Aubervilliers, and Pierre Cathala, whom he knew from his days in Bayonne and who had worked in Laval's Labor ministry. Cathala began as under-secretary of the interior and would become minister of the interior in January 1932. Blaise Diagne of Senegal, the first African deputy, had joined the National Assembly at the same time as Laval in 1914. Diagne achieved another first when Laval invited him to join his cabinet as under-secretary to the colonies, making him the first Black African in a French government. Laval also called on financial experts such as Jacques Rueff, Charles Rist and Adéodat Boissard to tackle the arduous financial puzzles of the time. Germanist, André François-Poncet, was brought to the forefront first as under-secretary to the premier and then as ambassador to Germany. Laval's government even included an economist, Claude-Joseph Gignoux, at a time when economists in government services were rare. The presence of economists could be taken as an indication that Laval was concerned about the condition of France's economy.

France's economy in 1931

Indeed France, in 1931, could still pretend to be unaffected by the crisis that had brought the world to its knees. Premier Laval declared upon embarking for America on 16 October 1931, "France remained healthy thanks to work and savings." Agriculture, small industry, and protectionism were the bases of France's economy. The conservative policy, some would say the "archaic" system of contained wages and limited social services, had allowed France to accumulate the largest gold reserves in the world after the United States. France still reaped the benefits of the devaluation of the franc orchestrated by Poincaré, which made French products such as automobiles very competitive on the world market. Unemployment was at least officially virtually nonexistent with only 12,000 jobless for the whole of France. Official low unemployment numbers meant no benefits for the unemployed were necessary which translated into substantial budgetary savings, further perpetuating the image of a healthy economy. While France=s good fortune was perhaps exaggerated, its economic situation was far better than that of other nations.Laval and his cabinet considered the good economy and the substantial gold reserves, as means to diplomatic ends. In this rich nation=s game it was essential that assistance should be received with gratitude and not scorn. With this master card in hand Laval left France for the first time to visit London, Berlin and Washington. He attended various conferences and focussed on several of the interlinked problems of the world economic crisis, war reparations and debts, disarmament, and the gold standard.

The Hoover Moratorium (June 20, 1931)

The Hoover Moratorium of 1931, the proposal of the American president to freeze all intergovernmental debt for a one-year period, according to author and political advisor McGeorge Bundy, was "the most significant action taken by an American president for Europe since Woodrow Wilson's administration." The reality was that the United States had enormous stakes in Germany: long-term German borrowers owed the United States private sector more than $1.25 billion; the short-term debt neared $1 billion. By comparison, the entire United States national income in 1931 was just $54 billion. To put it into perspective, authors Walter Lippmann and William O. Scroggs stated in The United States in World Affairs, An Account of American Foreign Relations, that "the American stake in Germany's government and private obligations was equal to half that of all the rest of the world combined.

The proposed moratorium would also benefit Great Britain's investment in Germany's private sector making more likely the repayment of those loans while the public indebtedness was frozen. It certainly was in Hoover's interest to offer aid to an ailing British economy in light of Great Britain's indebtedness to the United States. France, on the other hand, had a relatively small stake in Germany's private debt but a huge interest in German reparations; and payment to France would be compromised under Hoover's moratorium.

Already difficult to accept on the face of it it was further complicated by ill timing, perceived collusion between the US, Great Britain and Germany and a breach of the Young Plan. Such breach could only be approved by the National assembly and thus the survival of the Laval Government rested on the legislative body's approval of the Moratorium. Seventeen days elapsed between the proposal and the vote of confidence of the French legislators. That delay was blamed for the lack of success of the Hoover moratorium, US congress only approved it in December of that year.

The Hoover Moratorium was the opening shot to a year of personal and direct diplomacy which took Laval to London, Berlin and the United States. His optimism and can do spirit was such a contrast to his grim sounding international contemporaries that Time made him their 1931 Man of the Year. While internally he was able to accomplish quite a bit is international efforts were short in results, British Premier Ramsay McDonald and Foreign Secretary Arthur Anderson preoccupied by internal political divisions and the collapse of the Pound Sterling were unable to help, Chancellor Dr. Heinrich Brüning and Foreign Minister Julius Curtius both eager for Franco-German reconciliation were under siege on all quarters, notwithstanding the horrible economy which made meeting government pay-roll a weekly miracle, the private bankruptcies and constant lay-offs had the communists on a short fuse. On the other end of the political spectrum the army was actively spying on the Brüning cabinet and feeding information to the Stahlhelm, Bund der Frontsoldaten and the National Socialists, effectively freezing any overtures towards France. In the United States the conference between President Herbert Hoover and Laval was an exercise in mutual frustration. . Poor Hoover, his plan for a reduced military had been rebuffed—albeit gently. A solution to the Danzig corridor had been retracted. The concept of introducing silver as a standard for the countries that went off the gold standard was disregarded as a frivolous proposal by Laval and Albert-Buisson. Hoover thought it might have helped "Mexico, India, China and South America," but Laval dismissed the silver solution as an inflationary proposition adding that "it was cheaper to inflate paper.""Memorandum of Conference with Laval" Stimson, Diary, 23 October 1931.

Laval did not get a security pact without which the French would never consider disarmament, nor did he obtain an endorsement for the political moratorium. The promise to match any reduction of German reparations with a decrease of the French debt was not put in the communiqué. What was stated in the joint statement was the attachment of France and the United States to the gold standard. The two governments also agreed that the Banque de France and the Federal Reserve would consult each other before the transfer of gold.464 This was welcome news after the run on American gold in the preceding weeks. In light of the financial crisis, they further agreed to review the economic situation of Germany before the Hoover moratorium ran its course.

These were no doubt meager political results. Yet what could be expected from the American president a year away from the election, contending with an overall isolationist public opinion and Congress on the one hand and a French premier reined in by the very members of his cabinet on the other? The Hoover-Laval encounter, however, had an impact. The American and French press was positively smitten with Laval. Time made Laval man of the year, an honor never bestowed on a Frenchman before, following no less than Mahatma Gandhi and preceding Franklin D. Roosevelt. A conquering Laval riding down Broadway made the cover of L'Illustration. So there it was: a diplomatic draw could also be a personal triumph.

The second Cartel des gauches (Left-Wing Cartel) was driven from power by the riots of 6 February 1934, staged by fascist, monarchist, and other far-right groups. (These groups had contacts with some conservative politicians, among whom were Laval and Philippe PĂ©tain.) Laval became Minister of Colonies in the new right-wing Doumergue government. In October, Foreign Minister Barthou was assassinated; Laval succeeded him, holding that office until 1936.

At this time, Laval was opposed to Germanymarker, the "hereditary enemy" of France. He pursued anti-German alliances with Benito Mussolini's Italymarker and Joseph Stalin's USSRmarker. He met with Mussolini in Romemarker, and they signed the Franco–Italian Agreement of 1935 on 4 January. The agreement ceded parts of French Somalilandmarker to Italy and allowed Italy a free hand in Abyssinia, in exchange for support against any German aggression. In April 1935, Laval persuaded Italy and Great Britainmarker to join France in the Stresa Front against German ambitions in Austriamarker.

In June 1935, he became Prime Minister as well.

Also in 1935, Laval's daughter Josée Marie married René de Chambrun, son of Count Aldebert de Chambrun. (De Chambrun was a descendant of the Marquis de Lafayette. René's mother, Clara Longworth de Chambrun, was the sister of Theodore Roosevelt's son-in-law.)

In October 1935, Laval and British foreign minister Samuel Hoare proposed a "realpolitik" solution to the Abyssinia crisis. When leaked to the media in December, the Hoare-Laval Pact was widely denounced as appeasement to Mussolini. Laval was forced to resign on 22 January 1936, and was driven completely out of ministerial politics.

During the years 1927–30 Laval began to accumulate the sizable personal fortune which later gave rise to charges that he had used his political position to line his own pockets. “I have always thought,” he wrote to the examining magistrate on 11 September 1945, “that a soundly-based material independence, if not indispensable, gives those statesmen who possess it a much greater political independence.” Until 1927 his principal source of income had been his fees as a lawyer and in that year they totaled 113,350 francs, according to his income tax returns. Between August 1927 and June 1930, however, he undertook large-scale investments in various enterprises, totaling 51 million francs. Not all this money was his own, it came from a group of financiers who had the backing of an investment trust, the Union Syndicale et Financière and two banks, the Comptoir Lyon Allemand and the Banque Nationale de Crédit.

Two of the investments which Laval and his backers acquired were provincial newspapers, Le Moniteur de Puy-de-Dome and its associated printing works at Clermont-Ferrandmarker, and the Lyon Républicain. The circulation of the Moniteur stood at 27,000 in 1926 before Laval took it over. By 1933, it had more than doubled to 58,250. Thereafter it fell away again and never surpassed its earlier peak. Profits varied, but over the seventeen years of his control, Laval obtained some 39 million francs in income from the paper and the printing works combined, and the renewed plant was valued at 50 million francs, which led the high court expert to say with some justification that it had been “an excellent affair for him."

The victory of the Popular Front in 1936 meant that Laval had a left-wing government as a target for his media.

Under Vichy France

During the phoney war, Laval's attitude towards the conflict reflected a cautious ambivalence. He was on record as saying although the war could have been avoided by diplomatic means; it was now up to the government to prosecute it with the utmost vigor.

On 9 June 1940, the Germans were advancing on a front of more than 250 km in length across the entire width of France. As far as General Maxime Weygand was concerned, "if the Germans crossed the Seine and the Marne, it was the end."

Simultaneously, Pétain was increasing the pressure upon Prime Minister Paul Reynaud to call for an armistice. During this time Laval was in Châteldon. On 10 June, in view of the German advance, the government left Paris for Tours. Weygand had informed Reynaud: "the final rupture of our lines may take place at any time." If that happened "our forces would continue to fight until their strength and resources were extinguished. But their disintegration would be no more than a matter of time."

Weygand had avoided using the word armistice, but it was on the minds of all those involved. Only Reynaud was in opposition. During this time Laval had left ChĂĄteldon for Bordeauxmarker, where his daughter nearly convinced him of the necessity of going to the United States. Instead, it was reported that he was sending "messengers and messengers" to PĂ©tain.

As the Germans occupied Paris, Marshal Philippe PĂ©tain was asked to form a new government. To everyone's surprise, he produced a list of his ministers, convincing proof that he had been expecting the president's summons and he had prepared for it. Laval's name was on the list as Minister of Justice. When informed of his proposed appointment, Laval's temper and ambitions became apparent as he ferociously demanded of PĂ©tain, despite the objections of more experienced men of government, that he be made Minister of Foreign Affairs. Laval realized that only through this position could he affect a reversal of alliances and bring himself to favor with the military power he at that time viewed as the inevitable victor, i.e. Nazi Germany. In opposition to Laval's wrath, dissenting voices acquiesced and Laval became Minister of Foreign Affairs.

One result of these events was that Laval was later able to claim that he was not part of the government that requested the armistice. His name did not appear in the chronicles of events until June when he began to assume a more active role in criticizing the government's decision to leave France for North Africa.

Vichy France
Although the final terms of the armistice were harsh, the French empire was left untouched and the French government was allowed to administer the occupied as well as the unoccupied zone. The concept of “collaboration” was written into the Armistice Convention, before Laval joined the government. The French representatives who affixed their signatures to the text accepted the term.

When Laval was included in Petain's cabinet as minister of state, he began the work for which he would be remembered: the emulation of the totalitarian regime of Germany, the taking up of the cause of fascism, the destruction of democracy, and the dismantling of the Third Republic.

In October 1940, Laval understood collaboration more or less in the same sense as PĂ©tain. For both, to collaborate meant to give up the least possible in order to get the most. Laval, in his role of go-between, was forced to be in constant touch with the German authorities, to shift ground, to be wily, to plan ahead. All this, under the circumstances, drew more attention to him than to the Marshal and made him appear to many Frenchmen as "the agent of collaboration;" to others, he was "the Germans' man."

The meetings between Pétain and Hitler, and between Laval and Hitler, are often used as showing the collaboration of the French leaders and the Nazis. In fact the results of Montoiremarker (24–26 October) were a disappointment for both sides. Hitler wanted France to declare war on the British, and the French wanted improved relations with her conqueror. Neither happened. Virtually the only concession the French obtained was the so-called 'Berlin protocol' of 16 November, which provided release of certain categories of French prisoners of war.

In November, Laval made a number of pro-German actions on his own, without consulting with his colleagues. The most notorious examples concerned turning over to the Germans the Bor copper mines and the Belgian Gold reserves. His post-war justification, apart from a denial that he acted unilaterally, was that the French were powerless to prevent the Germans from gaining something they were clearly so eager to obtain.

These actions by Laval were a factor in his dismissal on 13 December, when PĂ©tain asked all the ministers to sign a collective letter of resignation during a full cabinet meeting. Laval did so thinking it was a device to get rid of M. Belin, the Minister of Labor. He was therefore stunned when, the Marshal announced, "the resignations of MM. Laval and Ripert are accepted."

That evening, Laval was arrested and driven by the police to his home in Châteldon. The following day, Pétain announced his decision to remove Laval from the government. The reason for Laval's dismissal lies in the fundamental incompatibility between him and Pétain. Laval's methods of working appeared slovenly to the Marshal's precise military mind, and he showed a marked lack of deference, instanced by his habit of blowing cigarette smoke in Pétain's face, and in doing so he aroused not only Pétain's anger, but that of his cabinet colleagues as well.

If Laval had been able to obtain concessions from the Germans, even with his rude behavior, he would not have been dismissed. Since concessions were not to be given, Friday the 13th ended Laval's attempt to establish a Franco-German partnership in the new Europe.

Laval returned to Power in April 1942, as he was also to return to the cover of Time magazine (issue of 27 April). The article's introductory paragraph:

The author of the article was not listed; however no doubt the material was obtained from prior associates of Laval, then living in New York and London. Their books about Laval were published in 1941 and 1942:
  • Henry TorrĂ©s, Pierre Laval, New York: Oxford University Press, 1941
  • Elie de Bois, Truth on the Tragedy of France, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1941
  • Pierre Tissier, I worked with Laval, London: George Harrap & Co, 1942

All three had been close associates of Laval and in their books they displayed outright contempt for Laval. The Time magazine article also quoted Pertnax, another former associate of Laval, who in 1944, wrote: The Gravediggers of France, New York: Doubleday: "In a letter Laval has said, 'I fully realize that the hangman will quickly take care of me on the day British arms triumph....' " Notwithstanding their feelings expressed in 1941 and 1942, the books written by Laval's former associates provide quality insights to Laval's life prior to 1940.

Laval had been in power for a mere two months when he was faced with the decision of providing forced workers to Germany. Germany was short of skilled labor due to its need for troop replacements on the Russian front. Unlike the other occupied countries, France was technically protected by the armistice, and her workers could not be simply rounded up and transported to Germany. However, in the occupied zone, the Germans used intimidation and control of raw materials to create unemployment and thus reasons for French laborers to volunteer to work in Germany. German officials demanded from Laval that more than 300,000 skilled workers should be immediately sent to factories in Germany. Laval stalled and then countered by offering to send one worker for the return of one French soldier being held captive in Germany. The proposal was sent to Hitler, with a compromise being reached; one prisoner of war to be repatriated for every three workers arriving in Germany.

Later, when ordered to have all Jews in France be rounded up and loaded on railroad cars to be transported to Poland, Laval at first refused, then negotiated a compromise, allowing only those Jews who were not French citizens to be forfeited to the control of Germany. It has been estimated that by the end of the war the Germans had wiped out ninety per cent of the Jewish population of the other occupied countries but in France fifty per cent of the pre-war French and foreign Jewish population, with perhaps ninety per cent of the purely French Jewish population still remaining alive.

More and more the insoluble dilemma of collaboration faced Laval. He had to maintain Vichy's authority to prevent Germany from installing a Quisling Government made up of French Nazis. Compromise after compromise loaded Laval with the accusation he was nothing more than an agent of Germany.

In 1943, Laval became the nominal leader of the newly-created Milice, though its actual leader was Secretary General Joseph Darnand.

With the landings of Allied forces in North Africamarker, Germany occupied all of France. Hitler continued to ask whether the French government was prepared to fight at his side against the Anglo-Saxons, wanting Vichy to declare war against Britain. Laval and PĂ©tain agreed to maintain a firm refusal. During this time and the D-Day landings, Laval was in a struggle between his ministers and the ultra-collaborationist ministers.

In a broadcast speech on D-Day he appealed to the nation:

This speech, with its theme of neutralism, was as much a criticism of the ultra-collaborationists as of the Resistance

A few months later, he was arrested by the Germans and transported to Belfortmarker. In view of the speed of the Allied advance, on 7 September, what was left of the Vichy government was moved from Belfort to the castle of Sigmaringenmarker in Germany. By April 1945 General Patton's army was near Sigmaringen so the Vichy ministers were forced to seek their own salvation. Laval received authority to enter Spain, only to be resent to Germany after a few months. The United States authorities immediately took him and his wife into custody, and turned them over to the Free French. They were flown to Paris to be imprisoned at Fresnes, Val-de-Marne. Madam Laval was later released; Pierre Laval remained in prison to be tried as a traitor.

Trial and execution

Two trials were to be held. Although it had its faults, the PĂ©tain trial permitted the presentation and examination of a vast amount of pertinent material. As to the second trial, a number of scholars including Robert Paxton and Geoffry Warner are of the opinion that Laval's own trial illustrated nothing but the inadequacies of the judicial system and the poisonous political atmosphere of that purge-trial era.

Laval firmly believed that, if he could only secure a fair hearing, he would be able to convince his fellow-countrymen that he had been acting in their best interests all along. “Father-in-law wants a big trial which will illuminate everything,” René de Chambrun told Laval's lawyers: “If he is given time to prepare his defence, if he is allowed to speak, to call witnesses and to obtain from abroad the information and documents which he needs, he will confound his accusers."

Laval more than suspected what would really happen. “Do you want me to tell you the set-up?” he asked one of his lawyers on 4 August. “There will be no pre-trial hearings and no trial. I will be condemned – and got rid of – before the elections.”

Laval’s trial began at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, 4 October 1945. He was charged with plotting against the security of the State and intelligence (collaboration) with the enemy. He had three defence lawyers (Jaques Baraduc, Albert Naud, and Yves-Frédéric Jaffré).None of his lawyers had ever met him before. He saw most of Jaffré, who sat with him, talked, listened and took down notes that he wanted to dictate. Baraduc, who quickly became convinced of Laval's innocence, kept contact with the Chambruns and at first shared their conviction that Laval would be acquitted or at most receive a sentence of temporary exile. Naud, who had been a member of the Resistance, believed Laval to be guilty and urged him to plead that he had made grave errors but had acted under constraint. Laval would not listen to him; he was convinced that he was innocent and could prove it. “He acted,” said Naud, “as if his career, not his life, was at stake.”

All three of his lawyers declined to be in court to hear the reading of the formal charges because “We fear that the haste which has been employed to open the hearings is inspired, not by judicial preoccupations, but motivated by political considerations.” In lieu of attending the hearing they sent letters stating the shortcomings and asked to be discharged from the task of defending Laval.

Their letters had no effect, and the court carried on without them.

The president of the court, Pierre Mongibeaux announced that the trial must be completed before the general election --- scheduled for 21 October.

The trial proceeded with the tone being set with Mongibeaux and Mornet, the public prosecutor, unable to control constant outbursts from the jury. These occurred as increasingly heated exchanges between Mongibeaux and Laval became louder and louder.

On the third day, Laval’s three lawyers were with him as the President of the Bar Association had advised them to resume their duties.

The following is from the published stenographic report of the trial.

After the adjournment, Mongibeaux announced that the part of the interrogation dealing with the charge of plotting against the security of the state was concluded and that he now proposed to deal with the charge of intelligence (collaboration) with the enemy. “Monsieur le Président," Laval replied, "the insulting way in which you questioned me earlier and the demonstrations in which some members of the jury indulged show me that I may be the victim of a judicial crime. I do not want to be an accomplice; I prefer to remain silent." Mongibeaux thereupon called the first of the prosecution witnesses, but they had not expected to give evidence so soon and none were present. Mongibeaux therefore adjourned the hearing for the second time so that they could be located. When the court reassembled half an hour later, Laval was no longer in his place.

Although Pierre-Henri Teitgen, the minister of justice in de Gaulle’s cabinet, personally appealed to Laval’s lawyers to have him attend the hearings, he declined to do so. Teitgen freely confirmed the scandalous conduct of Mongibeaux and Mornet, professing he was unable to do anything to curb them. The trial continued without the accused, ending with Laval being sentenced to death. His lawyers were turned down when they requested a re-trial.

The execution was fixed for the morning of 15 October. Laval attempted to cheat the firing squad by taking poison from a phial which had been stitched inside the lining of his jacket since the war years. He did not intend, he explained in a suicide note, that French soldiers should become accomplices in a "judicial crime". The poison, however, was so old that it was ineffective, and repeated stomach-pumpings revived Laval.

Laval requested his lawyers to witness his execution. He was shot shouting "Vive la France!". The whole prison shouted, "Murderers!" and "Long live Laval!" He “died bravely,” de Gaulle remarked in his memoirs. Laval's widow declared: “It is not the French way to try a man without letting him speak,” she told an English newspaper, “That's the way he always fought against - the German way.”

The High Court, which functioned until 1949, judged 108 cases, pronouncing eight death penalties, including one on PĂ©tain but asking that it not be carried out because of his age. Only three of the death penalties were executed: Pierre Laval, Fernand de Brinon, Vichy's Ambassador in Paris to the German authorities, and Joseph Darnand, head of the Milice.

In 1951, François Martin wrote: “Six years have passed. The two principal actors of this tragedy have disappeared, one [Pétain] in the night of a captivity in which his old age reaches its end at the same time that his enemies prepare a death that will add the aureole of a legend to a career whose glory has not died. The other [Laval] fell under the bullets of a firing squad set in motion by a Court which in a flood of hate lost the power to obtain the execution of its sentence except through assassination.”

Retrospective assessment

A retrospective assessment of Laval is in Paul Farmer's 1955 book: Vichy - Political Delemma.

Parliamentary offices

  • 10/05/1914 - 07/12/1919 : Deputy of the Seine department
  • 11/05/1924 - 17/02/1927 : Deputy of the Seine - Not registered in any parliamentary group

  • Senator from 1927 to 1936 and from 1936 to 1944

Laval's First Government, 27 January 1931 - 14 January 1932

The composition of the Laval governments 1931-1932 and party affiliation(s) when known

27 January 1931 - 16 February 1932

  • President du Conseil & ministre de l'Interieur: Pierre Laval, (S)(indĂ©pendant)

  • Vice-prĂ©sident du conseil et Garde des Sceaux: LĂ©on BĂ©rard, (S)(Parti RĂ©publicain DĂ©mocratique et Social/URD)*

  • Instruction publique: Mario Roustan (S)(gauche dĂ©mocratique)

  • Agriculture: AndrĂ© Tardieu (D)(parti rĂ©publicain dĂ©mocratique et social/rĂ©publicain de gauche)

  • Colonies: Paul Reynaud (D)(alliance dĂ©mocratique/action dĂ©mocratique et sociale)

Sous-secrétaires d'Etat. (Under-Secretaries)

  • Interieur: Pierre Cathala (D)(gauche sociale et radicale/radical indĂ©pendant)

  • Commerce: Charles Frey (D)(action dĂ©mocratique et sociale)

May 1931 Representation of the same to the new president Paul Doumer 12-14 January, 1932

A Few changes after Aristide Briand's retirement and the death of André Maginot on 7 January 1932:

  • PrĂ©sidence du Conseil & Affaires Etrangères: Pierre Laval
  • Guerre: AndrĂ© Tardieu
  • Interieur: Pierre Cathala
  • Agriculture: Achille Fould

(S) SĂ©nator(D) Deputy
  • URD = Union rĂ©publicaine dĂ©mocratique
    • AndrĂ© François-Poncet upon becoming ambassador to Germany was replaced by C.-J. Gignoux (D) (Action dĂ©mocratique et sociale).

Laval's Second Government, 14 January - 20 February 1932

Laval's Third Ministry, 7 June 1935 - 24 January 1936


  • 17 June 1935 - Mario Roustan succeeds Marcombes (d. 13 June) as Minister of National Education. William Bertrand succeeds Roustan as Minister of Merchant Marine.

Laval's Fourth Ministry, 18 April 1942 - 20 August 1944


  • 11 September 1942 - Max Bonnafous succeeds Le Roy Ladurie as Minister of Agriculture, remaining also Minister of Supply
  • 18 November 1942 - Jean-Charles Abrial succeeds Auphan as Minister of Marine. Jean Bichelonne succeeds Gibrat as Minister of Communication, remaining also Minister of Industrial Production.
  • 26 March 1943 - Maurice Gabolde succeeds BarthĂ©lemy as Minister of Justice. Henri BlĂ©haut succeeds Abrial as Minister of Marine and BrĂ©viĂ© as Minister of Colonies.
  • 21 November 1943 - Jean Bichelonne succeeds Lagardelle as Minister of Labour, remaining also Minister of Industrial Production and Communication.
  • 31 December 1943 - Minister of State Lucien Romier resigns from the government.
  • 6 January 1944 - Pierre Cathala succeeds Bonnafous as Minister of Agriculture and Supply, remaining also Minister of Finance and National Economy.
  • 3 March 1944 - The office of Minister of Supply is abolished. Pierre Cathala remains Minister of Finance, National Economy, and Agriculture.
  • 16 March 1944 - Marcel DĂ©at succeeds Bichelonne as Minister of Labour and National Solidarity. Bichelonne remains Minister of Industrial Production and Communication.


  1. Warner, Geoffery, Pierre Laval and the eclipse of France, New York: The Macmillian Company, 1968, p.3.
  2. Jaffré, Yves-Frédéric, Les Derniers Propos de Pierre Laval, Paris: Andre Bonne, 1953, p.55.
  3. Privat, Maurice, Pierre Laval, Paris: Editions Les Documents secrets, 1931, pp. 67-8.
  4. Warner, p.4
  5. Laval, Pierre, The Diary of Pierre Laval (With a Preface by his daughter, Josée Laval), New York: Scribner's Sons, 1948.
  6. Léon Blum, L'Œuvre de Léon Blum, Réparations et Désarmement, Les Problèmes de la Paix, La Montée des Fascismes, 1918-1934 (Paris: Albin Michel, 1972), 263.
  7. Tissier, Pierre, I worked with Laval, London: Harrap, 1942, p. 48.
  8. Bonnefous, Georges and Edouard: Histoire Politique de la Troisiéme République, Vol. V, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1962, pp. 28-29.
  9. Original TIME article
  10. André Larané, 4 janvier 1935: Laval rencontre Mussolini à Rome, Hérodote
  11. Warner, Geoffery, Pierre Laval and the eclipse of France, New York: The Macmillian Company, 1968, pp. 19-20.
  12. Ibid. p. 20
  13. Warner, Geoffery, Ibid. p.149
  14. Weygand, General Maxime, MĂ©moirs, Vol. III, Paris: Flammarion, 1950, pp. 168-88.
  15. Ibid. pp.189-90.
  16. Baudouin, Paul, Neuf Mois au Gouvernement, Paris: La Table Ronde, 1948, p. 166.
  17. Lebrun, Albert, TĂ©moignages, Paris: Plon, 1945. p. 85.
  18. Churchill, Winston S., "The Second World War, Vol. 2", p. 216.
  19. Darkness in Paris: The Allies and the eclipse of France 1940, Scribe Publications, Melbourne, Australia 2005, page 277
  20. *Chambrun, René de, Pierre Laval, Traitor or Patriot? (Translated by Elly Stein), New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1984, p. 50.
  21. Ibid. pp 49-50
  22. Warner, p. 246.
  23. Ibid., p. 255.
  24. Jaffré, Yves-Frédéric, Les Derniers Propos de Pierre Laval, Paris: Andre Bonne, 1953, p. 164.
  25. Warner, pp. 307-10, 364.
  26. Cole, Hubert, Laval, New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1963, pp. 210-11.
  27. Warner, p. 387
  28. Ibid. p. 397
  29. Ibid. pp. 404-407.
  30. Paxton, Robert O., Vichy France, Old Guard and New Order 1940-1944, New York: Columbia University Press, 1972 (1982) p.425
  31. Warner, p.408
  32. Naud, Albert, Pourquoi je n'ai pas défendu Pierre Laval, Paris: Fayard 1948
  33. Baraduc, Jaques, Dans la Cellule de Pierre Laval, Paris: Editions Self, 1948, p. 31.
  34. Cole, Hubert, Laval, New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1963,pp. 280-1.
  35. Naud, p.249; Baraduc, p.143; Jaffré, p.263.
  36. Laval Parle, Notes et Mémoires Rediges par Pierre Laval dans sa cellule, avec une préface de sa fille et de Nombreux Documents Inédits, Constant Bourquin (Editor) pp. 13-15
  37. Le Procès Laval: Compte-rendu sténographique, Maurice Garçon (Editor), Paris: Albin Michel, 1946, pp. 91.
  38. Ibid. pp. 207-209.
  39. Naud, pp. 249-57; Baraduc, pp. 143-6; Jaffré, pp. 263-7.
  40. Warner. p. 415-6. For detailed accounts of Laval’s execution, see Naud, pp. 276-84; Baraduc, pp. 188-200; Jaffré, pp. 308-18.
  41. Chambrun, René de, Mission and Betrayal 1949-1945, London: André Deutch, 1993, p. 134.
  42. Gaulle, General Charles de, MĂ©moires de Guerre, Vol. III, p. 251.
  43. Evening Standard, 16 October 1945 (cover page).
  44. Curtis, Michael, Verdict on Vichy, New York: Arcade Publishing, 2002, p.346-7
  45. Whitcomb, Philip W., France During The German Occupation 1940-1944, Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1957, Vol. 1, p. 430
  46. Biographical notice of Laval on the French National Assembly's website


Critical of Laval

  • Tissier, Pierre, I worked with Laval, London: George Harrap & Co, 1942
  • TorrĂ©s, Henry, Pierre Laval (Translated by Norbert Guterman), New York: Oxford University Press, 1941
  • Bois, Elie J., Truth on the Tragedy of France, (London, 1941)
  • PĂ©tain-Laval The Conspiracy, With a Foreword by Viscount Cecil, London: Constable, 1942

Post-war defences of Laval

  • Julien Clermont (pseudonym for Georges Hilaire), L'Homme qu'il fallait tuer (Paris, 1949)
  • Jacques Guerard, Criminel de Paix (Paris, 1953)
  • Michel Letan, Pierre Laval de l'armistice au poteau (Paris, 1947)
  • Alfred Mallet, Pierre Laval (Paris, 1955)
  • Maurice Privat, Pierre Laval, cet inconnu (Paris, 1948)
  • RenĂ© de Chambrun, Pierre Laval, Traitor or Patriot?, (New York) 1984; and Mission and Betrayal, (London, 1993).
  • Whitcomb, Philip W., France During The German Occupation 1940-1944, Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1957, In three vol.

Books by Laval's lawyers

  • Baraduc, Jaques, Dans la Cellule de Pierre Laval, Paris: Editions Self, 1948
  • JaffrĂ©, Yves-FrĂ©dĂ©ric, Les Derniers Propos de Pierre Laval, Paris: Andre Bonne, 1953
  • Naud, Albert, Pourquoi je n'ai pas dĂ©fendu Pierre Laval, Paris: Fayard 1948

Full biographies

  • Cointet, Jean-Paul, Pierre Laval, Paris: Fayard, 1993
  • Cole, Hubert, Laval, New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1963
  • Kupferman, Fred, Laval 1883-1945, Paris: Flammarion, 1988
  • Pourcher, Yves, Pierre Laval vu par sa fille, Paris: Le Grande Livre du Mois, 2002
  • Warner, Geoffery, Pierre Laval and the eclipse of France, New York: The Macmillian Company, 1968

Other biographical material

  • Man of the Year profile, 4 January 1932
  • Time Magazine Cover Story article 27 April 1942
  • on the Laval treason trial, Oct. 15, 1945
  • on Laval's testimony in Petain's trial, Aug. 13, 1945
  • Abrahamsen, David, Men, Mind, and Power, New York: Columbia University Press, 1945
  • Bonnefous, Georges and Edouard: Histoire Politque de la Troisième RĂ©publique, Vol. V, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1962
  • Brody, J. Kenneth, The Avoidable War (Vol. 2) Pierre Laval & Politics of Reality 1935-1936, New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 2000
  • Bechtel, Guy, Laval, vingt ans apres, Paris: Robert Laffont, 1963
  • Chambrun, RenĂ© de, Laval, Devant L'History, Paris: EDITIONS FRANCE-EMPIRE, 1983
  • Chambrun, RenĂ© de, Mission and Betrayal 1949-1945, London: AndrĂ© Deutch Ltd., 1993
  • Clermont, Julien, L'homme qu'il Fallait Tuer --- Pierre Laval, Paris: Les Actes des Apotres, 1949
  • Curtis, Michael, Verdict on Vichy, New York: Arcade Publishing, 2002
  • De Gaulle MĂ©moires de Guerre, Vol. III, Le Salut 1944-46, Paris: Plon, 1959
  • Farmer, Paul, Vichy --- Political Dilemma, London: Oxford University Press, 1955
  • Gounelle, Claude, Le Dossier Laval, Paris: Librairie Plon, 1969
  • Gun, Nerin E., Les secrets des archives amĂ©ricaines, PĂ©tain, Laval, De Gaulle, Paris: Albin Michel, 1979
  • Jacquemin, Gason, La vie publique de Pierre Laval, Paris: Plon, 1973
  • Laval Parle, Notes et MĂ©moires RĂ©digĂ©es par Pierre Laval dans sa cellule, avec une prĂ©face de sa fille et de Nombreux Documents InĂ©dits, Constant Bourquin (Editor), Geneva: Sditions du Cheval AilĂ©, 1947
  • Laval, P. The Unpublished Diary of Pierre Laval, Falcon Press Ltd. London, 1948.
  • Laval, Pierre, The Diary of Pierre Laval (With a Preface by his daughter, JosĂ©e Laval), New York: Scribner's Sons, 1948
  • Le ProcĂ©s Laval: Compte-rendu stĂ©nographique, Maurice Garçon (Editor), Paris: Albin Michel, 1946
  • Letan, Michel, Pierre Laval - de l'armistice au Poteau, Paris: Éditions de la Couronne, 1947
  • Mallet, Pierre Laval, Paris: Amiot Dumont, 1955, Volume I and II.
  • Pannetier, Odette, Pierre Laval, Paris: DenoĂ©l et Steele, 1936
  • Paxton, Robert O., Vichy France, Old Guard and New Order 1940-1944, New York: Columbia University Press, 1972 (1982)
  • Pertinax, The Gravediggers of France, New York: Doubleday, Doran & Company, 1944
  • Privat, Maurice, Pierre Laval, Paris: Editions Les Documents secrets, 1931
  • Privat, Maurice, Pierre Laval, cet inconnu, Paris: Fourner-ValdĂ©s, 1948
  • Saurel, Louis, La Fin de Pierre Laval, Paris: Éditions Rouff, 1965
  • Thompson, David, Two Frenchman, Pierre Laval and Charles de Gaulle, London: The Cresset Press, 1951
  • Volcker, Sebastian, Laval 1931, A Diplomatic Study, Thesis, University of Richmond, 1998
  • Weygand, General Maxime, MĂ©moires, Vol. III, Paris: Flammarion, 1950
  • The London Evening Standard, 15,16,and 17 October 1945 (cover pages).
  • A collection containing all of the books and other reference material listed in the Notes and References as well as many other items concerning Pierre Laval are housed in the Donald Prell Pierre Laval Collection in the Special Collections Library at the University of California Riversidemarker:!


  • 1883—28 June: born at Châteldon.
  • 1902—Passes final examination for baccalaurĂ©at.
  • 1903—Joins Socialist Party at Saint-Etienne.
  • 1909—Admitted to Paris Bar. 20 October: marries Eugenie Claussat.
  • 1910—Candidate for Chamber of Deputies at Neuilly-Boulogne -Billancourt. Defeated..
  • 1911—Birth of only child, JosĂ©e.
  • 1914—Elected Deputy for Aubervilliers-Villemomble.
  • 1917—Refuses Under-Secretaryship of State in Clemenceau's Cabinet.
  • 1919—Defeated at post-war election.
  • 1920—Leaves Socialist Party.
  • 1922—Buys plot of land at Aubervilliers.
  • 1923—Elected to municipal council of Aubervilliers. Elected Mayor of Aubervilliers.
  • 1924—Re-elected to Chamber of Deputies. Buys Domaine de la Corbiere.
  • 1925—April: first Cabinet post, as Minister of Public Works in Painleve's Government.
:Then Under-Secretary of State in Briand's Cabinet. Buys house in the Villa Said.
  • 1926—Minister of Justice from March until fall of Briand's Government in July.
  • 1927—Elected Senator for the Department of the Seine. Buys the Moniteur du Puy-de-Dome and printing works at Clermont-Ferrand.
  • 1928—Buys Radio-Lyon and the Lyon Republicain.
  • 1930—March: Minister of Labor in Tardieu's Cabinet until December.
  • 1931—January: forms his first Government, combining Ministry of the Interior with Presidency of the Council.
:May: formally resigns on appointment of new President of the Republic (Paul Doumer) and immediately resumes office.
:September: orders loan of three thousand million gold francs to Bank of England. Visits Bruning and Hindenburg in Berlin.
:October: visits Hoover in Washington.
:December: buys the chateau of Châteldon; sells the Lyon Republicain.
  • 1932—January: reforms Cabinet and takes over Ministry of Foreign Affairs on resignation of Briand.
:February: defeated. Accepts Ministry of Labour in Tardieu's Cabinet until June.
  • 1934—February: Minister of Colonies in Doumergue's Cabinet.
:October: appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs after assassination of Barthou.
:November: retains Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Flandin's Government.
  • 1935—January: in Rome for talks with Mussolini and audience with Pope.
:February: talks with Schuschnigg in Paris.
:April: with Flandin, MacDonald and Mussolini at Stresa. Condemns Germany at Geneva, in the names of France, Britain and Italy.
:May: talks with Stalin in Moscow.
:June: succeeds Flandin as President of the Council. Refuses to approve Anglo-German naval treaty.
:July: announces first batch of decree-laws to meet financial crisis.
:August: marriage of Josée Laval to René de Chambrun.
:December: agrees with Sir Samuel Hoare on proposal for ending Abyssinian war.
  • 1936—January: resigns after attacks on his foreign and financial policies.
  • 1940—22 June: appointed Minister of State in PĂ©tain's Cabinet, then Vice-President of the Council.
:12 July: nominated as PĂ©tain's successor.
:19 July: meets Abetz in Paris.
:22 and 24 October: meets Hitler at Montoire-sur-Loir.
:13 December: is dismissed and arrested.
  • 1941—18 January: meets PĂ©tain at La Ferte-Hauterive.
:27 August: wounded at Versailles.
  • 1942—26 March: meets PĂ©tain in forest of Randan.
:17 April: returns as President of the Council, Minister of the Interior, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Information.
:22 June: announces the reléve and says “je sonhaite la victoire de l' Allemagne'”
:September: institutes Compulsory Labor Service and direction of labor.
:10 November: meets Hitler at Munich, following the Allied landings in North Africa.
:15 December: meets Hitler at Görlitz.
  • 1943—17 February: calls up the classes of 1920,1921,1922 for Compulsory Labor Service.
:29 April: final meeting with Hitler at Berchtesgaden.
:6 August: refuses to send any more workers to Germany.
:17 September: escapes bomb attempt on road to Châteldon.
:December: Ribbentrop demands reconstruction of Government with pro-Nazi members.
  • 1944—6 January: Darnand and Henriot admitted to Cabinet; joined by Deat in April.
:6 June: Allied landings in France. Laval broadcasts that “France is not in the war” and forbids Frenchmen to participate on either side.
:12 July: defeats pro-Nazi Cabinet plot.
:8 August: leaves Châteldon for Paris.
:12 August: brings Herriot to Paris for summoning of the National Assembly.
:17 August: taken under escort to Belfort.
:9 September: taken to Sigmaringen.
  • 1945—2 May: arrives in Barcelona.
:1 August: flown to Le Bourget under escort. October: brought to trial before the High Court.
:6 October: refuses to make further appearances in court.
:9 October: condemned to death.
:15 October: executed at Fresnes.

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