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My great grandpa always told me WWII stories and he always told me De Gaulle said that, however, I can't find any reliable source for it.

I have a book stating that supposedly he wrote that in a letter to Churchill, but my great grandpa says De Gaulle said it in public.

Perhaps there's something in French about that?

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Yes, or something like it. Most accounts have him saying it to Halifax in 1940, though he possibly repeated it on other occasions. It is sometimes reported that he said "J'assume la France" rather than "Je suis la France". In either case, the expression signified his intention to assume responsibility for France.

Many of the smaller countries overrun by the nazis had properly constituted governments-in-exile in London. In some cases the monarch himself (or herself) had also fled to London. For nationals of these countries (those who wanted to fight on at least) the issue of legitimacy did not arise. The legal government continued to function, albeit from London.

None of this applied to De Gaulle's initially tiny organisation. For most people in 1940, the legal government of France was that of Petain, based in Vichy.

De Gaulle had no monarch, virtually no armed forces, no access to funds (beyond what the British allowed him) and no territory. For his project to succeed he had to create and encourage the idea that a legitimate French state existed beyond Vichy. He could only do so by projecting his personality and by acting - even from the tiniest beginnings - the role of the world statesman.

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    "J'assume France" is not a correct sentence (maybe "J'assume la France") but anyhow the answer is correct: many people report De Gaulle saying "Je suis la France" in June 1940 (google Souvenir de guerre de Pierre Capucin for a testimony). – Olivier Jan 5 '15 at 18:28
  • There's a huge difference imho, 'I am France' sounds really pretentious. Thank you very much guys. – Bbaldi Jan 5 '15 at 19:05
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    @Bbaldi Well, seeing that De Gaulle managed to say "La France a perdu une bataille mais la France n'a pas perdu la guerre" (France has lost a battle but she has not lost the war) with a straight face in June 1940, one can wonder if he was severely delusional, megalomaniac or imbued with an inordinate aptitude to identify his wishes with reality (or all of the above). But the truly amazing thing is that De Gaulle actually managed to turn exactly all these extraordinary pronouncements ("I am France", "France has not lost the was") into truths. – Olivier Jan 5 '15 at 20:23
  • There was, I believe, a time when the king of a country would just be referred to as "[country name]", e.g. "France" or "England". Is that still (relatively) current in French? If so, he'd be saying "I am the ruler of France" which sounds rather less pretentious than "I am literally France the country". – David Richerby Jan 7 '15 at 13:20

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