You have already heard our Chief, Marshal Petain, tell
you that it was with his approval that I went at the invitation of Chancellor
Hitler and that conversations between the Chief of the German Reich
and myself had been approved by him and by the Government.
The Marshal, having given me the undoubted honor of
designating me as his second in his heavy task, I have come to bring
you details which you have been impatiently awaiting.
The Chancellor did not ask me to hand over our fleet
to him. Every one knows-and the English better than any one-that I will
never hand it over.
The Chancellor did not ask me for any colonial territory.
He did not ask me to declare war on England.
Why has he acted so?
Germany began the war alone and judges herself able
to end it alone against no matter what coalition.
At no moment in the conversations was there any question
of France abandoning in any way her sovereignty.
France freely is choosing the road she is taking.
On her depends her present and her future. She will have the peace which
she makes herself. She will have the place in the organization of Europe
which she will have made for herself.
Remember-some seem to have forgotten-that France has
suffered the gravest defeat in her history, that three-fifths of her
continental territory has been occupied, that we have a million and
a half prisoners.
This defeat was due to our past errors. From 1919
to 1939 our governments and our legislative assemblies stored up errors
and let themselves be led to defend interests which were not our own
to the detriment of our own.
Domestically, they permitted sabotage of morale of
the nation; they legalized laziness and disorder.
Abroad they carried out an incoherent policy; they
made us the protectors of small European powers without having been
capable of forging the indispensable arms for carrying out that mission.
They decided to give aid to every one, which made
necessary a powerful offensive army. Our governments and our assemblies,
however, only gave the country a defensive army.
Not having known how to prepare for war, either morally
or materially, our governments nevertheless declared it. We lost it
because of the mistakes and weakness of those who led us into it.
And it is as a result of the indescribable débâcle
of which many of you have horrible memories, it is as a result of the
defection of our former allies, it is as a result of the default of
the government which declared it was ready to continue the fight without
having the means, but which in reality only thought of flight, that
the Marshal was called to take the destiny of the country in his hands
and ask an honorable armistice.
In June, 1940, the victor could have refused us an
armistice, beaten us and wiped France off the map of the world. They
did not do it. In May, 1941, the victor has agreed to negotiate with
the French Government.
Since the Montoire interview, during which the principle
of collaboration was decided, France has shown by acts her desire to
continue that policy.
These are acts which determined Chancellor Hitler
to grant us ameliorations of the consequences of defeat and of the conditions
of the armistice which you just learned.
Listen well to my words.
On the result of the negotiations in course directly
depends the future of France. It is necessary for her to choose between
life and death. The Marshal and the Government have chosen life.
Your duty is clearly traced: follow the Marshal, aid
him with all your force, as I am doing in his work of national restoration.
Like him and like me, in your thoughts and in your
acts, be inspired only by the interests of France.
[New York Times, May 24, 1941.]