Charles de Gaulle: Broadcast on French Policy in War and Peace
(February 2, 1945)
French Press and Information Service.
On the Oder and Rhine Rivers the Allies are now in contact with the German body proper. In spite of the telling reverses sustained by the enemy, we must, nevertheless, expect him to resist desperately. Germany's present leaders cannot doubt that they have lost the war. But they persist in hoping that they can make the struggle last until some event will cause either division or weariness among her adversaries-in which case Germany would find a favorable solution. In case they should not have this chance of salvation, they are preparing a policy of total defeat, hoping that chaos in Germany-coming in a world that is exhausted and divided-could lead to upheaval and antagonism in other countries, thereby placing them on the same level as Germany. Hitler and his entourage, who can judge the extent of their country's misfortune, intend to retain until the very end the appearance of unconquerable leaders, whose nostalgic memory may some day haunt the dreams of a great and desperate people.
In this supreme phase of the struggle as in the peace which will follow, the rights and duties of France are in the front rank of all rights and duties. In spite of all that France has suffered by a temporary setback, her power is obviously necessary on the Western front to crush enemy resistance deep within Germany. This was true as early as September, 1939, for by accepting all risks together with Great Britain, we gained a year's time for the whole world, and made it possible for others to see their way clear and prepare themselves.
This was also true in Tunisia in November, 1942, when our African Army, its forces regrouped and its value reappraised, rousing itself from the lethargy of the so-called armistice, protected the landing of American, British and Free French Forces on a terrain where the enemy was attacking ahead of schedule.
This was true during the Italian campaign early in 1944, which led the Allied Armies from Naples to Florence and in which the French Expeditionary Corps played a major part.
This was true during the battle of France up until, and including, the victory now being won in Alsace. In the course of this fighting, out of 825,000 Germans captured by the Allies since June 6, 1944, 210,000 prisoners were captured by the French; this includes 120,000 taken by the French First Army, more than 50 thousand captured solely by the Second Armored Division, which was operating with the American armies, and 40,000 by our Forces of the Interior.
Tomorrow, France's effort will be relatively greater, since in three months' time we shall have doubled the number of units we had in line last December. We must also add that our seaports, railways and our air fields are the backbone of the common battle.
Concerning the total occupation of German territory, which will necessarily follow the hostilities, it is obvious that the French army will gradually become the dominant element in the West.
Whatever may be the duration and vicissitudes of this war, it is needless to add that the settlements which emerge from it will be of vital importance to France. For more than one and a half centuries our country has never ceased to grow weaker in comparison to other countries, inasmuch as she has had to withstand gigantic wars which have cost her much more than any nation in the world.
Naturally, her political balance, her economic and demographic development, her vital progress, and above all the unity of her citizens, which is the condition for balance, development, and progress, were seriously compromised by these wars. In short, our national life, within France and abroad, has gone from upheaval to upheaval for generations and each of these upheavals has been more ruinous than the preceding one. This time France nearly perished as a free nation and the sources of her activity have been cruelly affected. The rest of the world, and-above all, the nations of Europe, have greatly suffered because of her weakness, since it is a kind of law that no one is safe when France is in trouble.
Now, the cause of all our trials has always been Germany who was favored by errors, illusions or outside help. That is to say, not only the future but also the very life of France depends on what will be done to the defeated Germans. We know that many people consider it rather strange that at this stage of the struggle, the heads of the three other great powers should appear to settle the manner in which this war is to be concluded, and the conditions governing its conclusion, without France. On this point, I can assure the nation that it may await the development of events without any alarm.
Concerning the conduct of the war, we have temporarily agreed to place our military forces under a single Inter-Allied command-just as our Allies placed their armies under the command of Marshal Foch at the end of the last war. But the Government has the means of introducing into the general plan of strategy-as it has already done recently-whatever is, or will be, necessary to safeguard our national interests to the advantage of all, and to make the best possible use of our armed forces.
Concerning this matter, I hasten to add that the Government has met, on the part of the Inter-Allied High Command, with a comprehension which will be eloquently recorded by history.
As for the future peace settlement or any other arrangement that would concern it, we have informed our Allies and we have said publicly that France would, of course, be bound by nothing that she had not had the opportunity to discuss and approve on the same grounds as the other nations. A fortiori, she will accept only conditions which are in conformance to the aims she has set for herself, in order to make sure that no German aggression will ever be possible in the future, either against France, or any state with which she is, or might be, allied.
Again, I wish to define the conditions that France considers essential: the permanent presence of French forces from one end of the Rhine to the other, the separation of the territories of the left banks of the river and of the Ruhr Basin from what will be the German state or states, and the independence of Poland, Czechoslovakia, Austria and the Balkans in friendship with each of the nations that will have to bear the principal weight of maintaining peace in Europe. We ardently hope that these conditions will be considered equally essential by all the Allies. However, we are confident as to the feasibility of carrying out most of these plans, for there are 110 million men diving under the French flag, in France and her colonies, in the immediate vicinity of all that interests us most directly.
Naturally, we do not presume to believe that we alone might ensure the security of Europe. This security requires alliances. It is for this purpose that we have concluded an important and good alliance with strong and valiant Soviet Russia. For the same reason we are anxious to sign some day a treaty with brave old England, as soon as she has consented to agree to what we consider of vital importance in our relationship to Germany, and when we have succeeded in eliminating the last traces of an outdated rivalry which used to exist in certain parts of the world, and of which some traces have and are still being felt as a result of our temporary reverses. We also hope to establish practical agreements for mutual security and economic co-operation with each of our neighbors: the Belgians, Luxembourgers and Netherlanders. We also hope that time which is always kind to those who know how to avail themselves of it, will make it possible for us to resume friendly relations with a reborn Italy in the near future.
Lastly, when the vise-like grip of the battles of Europe and Asia has been relaxed, when we shall have regained our freedom of action and all our territories, we shall be ready to participate spiritedly in the vast programs and negotiations from which a world peace organization will emerge. This organization will include the United States of America in the front rank, and will promise each State the supreme guarantee of life and development in human society.
This is France's immediate plan for war and peace. Circumstances are such that, if we are determined and act accordingly, we shall carry out this plan.
By achieving our aim we will create general conditions of dignity, power and security for our country. These conditions have been lacking for so long, since the misunderstanding of realities, deprived us of them after the exhausting victory of 1918, and consequently we have been living in an atmosphere of discontent, uncertainty and threats, all of which are contrary to a nation's rebirth. However, even if on this supreme occasion we succeeded in creating ideal conditions for our country among other nations, even if we help build the finest possible construction for world co-operation, all this would be in vain if we did not achieve an internal rebirth which is essential for our return to the front rank of the great nations.
We must make a great effort to raise ourselves to the rank where we wish to be. For the time being, it is quite true that the necessities, trials and ruins of war are limiting us in this field and forcing us to cone with the most urgent problems; in other words, we must fight to live. But as the sun of victory is gradually rising on the horizon, the nation is discovering the future, and is wondering about the road that she must follow to rebuild and develop herself politically, economically, socially, demographically, and morally.
In the near future, I shall explain the Government's doctrines and actions concerning this matter. Everyone knows that in this field as well as in the external field, the Government's doctrines and actions must be a coherent whole-of which no component unit is valid if detached from the whole. As for its motive power, it can be found only in the national will. For everything is bound together in the life of a nation, and greatness cannot be divided.