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Adolf Hitler: Letter to Marshal Petain Announcing Decision to Occupy Toulon

(November 27, 1942)

M. Marshal, when I was obliged on Nov. 11, 1942, in agreement with our ally, Italy, to decide to occupy the French southern coast in order to ensure the defense of the Reich against the war forced upon us at one time by France and England, I did it in the hope of introducing clarification of internal conditions in your country, which is not only in German and Italian but in French interests.

Looking back, I may be permitted once more to state that it was not Germany in September, 1939, which declared war on France or Britain, but that on the contrary I have scarcely permitted an occasion to pass since taking over power to convert relations precisely between Germany and France from the strain of the Versailles dictate into truly friendly collaboration.

In so doing Germany addressed no other demand to France but the one not to reject the hand offered by Germany. It is to be regretted that unscrupulous Anglo-Saxons and primarily Jewish wire-pullers succeeded in interpreting every conciliatory gesture of the New Reich as a sign of weakness and every peace offer later as proof of pending collapse.

While in the German Reich neither the government nor any other quarters, either by speeches or through the press, addressed to France demands, let alone requests, injuring French honor, French inciters in Paris demanded dismemberment of the German Reich, enslavement of the German people, removal of the foundations of our social legislation; above all, however, complete restoration of the unrestricted right of plunder by the Jewish race which had been pushed back into its proper place in Germany.

It is known to me that you, yourself, M. Marshal, were always ready to serve European cooperation. Just as they had done it in the first days of September, 1939, so also after conclusion of the Polish campaign those interested in European self-destruction and in financial exploitation of the war shouted down this appeal to reason, demanding continuation of the war at any price.

The conflict which your government of that time had forced on the German Reich, and consequently on Germany's ally, Italy, thus had to be decided by arms, since common sense did not prevail.

In spite of historic and unique victory I have done nothing that might have offended French honor, and I demanded only guarantees to make resumption of hostilities impossible under all circumstances.

Subsequently, too, no demand incompatible with French honor has been put forward. You know, M. Marshal, that allegations circulated by British or Americans, as warmongers chiefly responsible for this war, that Germany intended to seize the French fleet, or that I intended to demand handing over of the French fleet, were complete inventions or lies.

While the German Reich is still compelled to make sacrifices for the war imposed upon the Reich by France, the French people were able to live in peace, apart from sacrifices resulting from land, sea and air attacks by France's former allies. At the same time the Reich agreed gradually to release more than 700,000 of the 1,960,000 French war prisoners.

Such an attitude, I believe, is without precedent in the history of war. Gradual failure of this process is merely due to the regrettable fact that intransigent elements in your country again and again succeeded in sabotaging genuine cooperation.

It was your own wish, M. Marshal, to speak to me at the time in order to find and define possibilities of such collaboration. I complied with this wish and discussions were carried on at Montoire, which-as I was convinced-could have provided the basis for general lessening of the strain.

It is to be regretted that those interested in the war in France itself succeeded at the time in overthrowing this cooperation only a few weeks later, giving a motive which must be also for me personally insulting.

I am compelled to state here that the assertion was quite openly made that Napoleon's son had been brought by me to Paris for the purpose of inviting you, and thus to be able to get you into German hands. I must state now that you, M. Marshal, yourself, had time and again requested to be able to settle down in Versailles and that I always rejected this, pointing out that the rest of the world-and if ever so much in the wrong would derive from such a step the assertion that the French Government was under German power.

Although this was in direct and utter contrast to my attitude on the occasion of the armistice I did not draw any consequences therefrom because it was and is clear to me that there also are among the French people millions of industrious workmen, peasants and citizens who have nothing to do in their innermost self with these machinations but themselves, too, only long for peace.

But I may state here once more, M. Marshal, that I did not take the opportunity a single time to ask a member of the French Government to come to me, but that all talks always took place by request of the French Government itself. Also the two talks with Admiral Darlan took place only on his explicit request and on your behalf, M. Marshal.

The landing of American and British troops in French Northwest and North Africa, which, as it now becomes evident, took place in agreement with numerous treacherous generals and officers, had removed the preliminary condition on which the whole treaty was laid down in the preamble of the Armistice and compelled Germany to carry out immediately and in agreement with its allies the necessary security measures.

But not all the events which had led to this Anglo-American action were known to me on Nov. 11. Today I know, and you, M. Marshal, know it, too, that this occupation took place by explicit request of those French elements who had once incited to war and who even today have not yet disappeared in France from the atmosphere of public life and, above all, military life.

That French generals and admirals broke their word toward German quarters, and that innumerable times, is to be regretted in itself. But that you, M. Marshal, must admit that even toward you such generals and admirals and officers violate their oath of allegiance forces me to come to the conclusion that agreements with these elements are completely useless.

I transmit to you forthwith proofs that since the marching in on Nov. 11, 1942, renewed solemn assurances were given, and that in the form of word of honor, which were broken on the same day by orders which now have been disclosed.

It is a fact that by his assurance that the French Navy would fight in Toulon against any enemy attack the admiral deceived Germany and Italy again. For while he had given this statement on Nov. 11 the order was issued on Nov. 12 on no account to fire against possible landing of Anglo-American forces.

Numerous other violations of the armistice obligations have been disclosed to us meanwhile. I am permitted to bring the following to your notice now, M. Marshal:

Firstly: I am aware of the fact that you, M. Marshal, have no part in these things and are therefore the chief sufferer.

Secondly: I must safeguard the interests of the nation on which war has been forced and which for reasons of self-preservation is compelled to fight those who brought about this war and who today are continuing the war with the aim of destroying all of Europe, in the service of a European, extra-European and Jewish-Anglo-Saxon clique.

Thirdly: I am compelled to continue the war on behalf of the millions of people in my own and other countries who, freed from the pressure of ruthless capitalist exploitation, are not willing to become for all time the victims of international exploitation or of definite annihilation as a nation.

Fourthly: The German people, in whose name I am addressing this declaration to you, M. Marshal, does not hate the French people. But I am determined, as its leader and representative, under no circumstances to surrender Germany and beyond it the whole of Europe to chaos by tolerating manipulations by those elements who caused this terrible war.

I shall therefore turn against those institutions and, above all, those persons who want to prevent also in the future every cooperation between the French and German people, who-already once burdened with the heavy blood of guilt at the outbreak of war-now apparently for a second time believe their time to have come for establishing in the south of Europe an invasion gateway for the breaking in of extra-Continental powers.

Fifthly: After having learned of the new breaches of promise by French officers and admirals and their proved intention to open to the Anglo-Jewish war criminals France as well as North Africa, I have now, therefore given orders to occupy Toulon immediately, to prevent the ships from leaving or to annihilate them and to break any resistance if necessary with the utmost force.

This is no fighting against honor-loving French officers and soldiers but against those war criminals for whom even now not enough blood has flowed but who continually look for new possibilities of expanding this catastrophe.

I have therefore given orders to demobilize all those units of he French armed forces who, against orders of their own French government, were incited by officers and provoked to commit active resistance against Germany.

Sixth: Also these measures which the disloyal attitude of your admirals and generals compelled me to take are directed, as already mentioned, not against France, nor the French soldier as such.

It is my sincere hope-and I know that I am one with my allies in this view-that it may be possible to restore an armed force to the French State of which the officers at least will be obedient to their own Head of State and thus give guarantee for conclusion of any interstate agreements and treaties.

No matter how painful this may be to you at the moment, realization that it is unthinkable that a State could exist without disciplined and obedient armed forces should in the long run afford some consolation and relief to you. Creation of a new army, navy and air force, which will be willing to obey you unconditionally, will certainly be in France's interest.

Before concluding this letter I wish to assure you once more that the step which I am forced to make is not prejudicial to cooperation with France, but is creating conditions for genuine cooperation.

In spite of Anglo-American assertions to the contrary, it is my firm determination to help France recapture the colonies stolen by the Anglo-Saxons with all means at the Reich's disposal. Neither Germany nor Italy has any intention to destroy or annihilate the French colonial empire.

It is now in the hands of French authorities to accept German measures which have become a definite necessity in such a way that there is no further bloodshed, and that conditions at last are created for genuine and successful cooperation profitable to all sides.

As far as the German action is concerned, Field Marshal von Rundstedt is authorized to give all orders and conclude all agreements which are necessary, and he will always be at your disposal, M. Marshal.

I conclude this letter by expressing the hope that cooperation thus now is initiated from which we expect for France's part nothing but loyalty and understanding for the common destiny of Europe.

Accept, M. Marshal, my expression of my personal devotion.


Sources: New York Times, (November 28, 1942).