After the defeat of France in 1940, Hitler concluded a deal with the French that saw the creation of Vichy France.

What was the reasoning behind this resolution? Oviously there must have been some benefits for the Germans but were there any disadvantages to the agreement?

Please put forward the pros and cons and what the effects (if any) there were to the war as a whole.

2 Answers 2

  1. There was no reason to continue the war:

    a. Ideologically, Hitler objectives towards France were to retake the "German" (Alsace and Lorraine) land back into the Reich. From a practical point of view, France was no longer a threat, and a likely-minded regime was set in power. The treaty gave Germany everything they wanted.

    b. Despite the fast success, the German campaign was not "a walk through the park". There were significant losses (including 1200+ planes and 700+ tanks), and the French army was still a fighting force (with more experience as the war progressed). The faster the campaign ended, the faster those loses would stop.

    c. There was still a war going on. Until France was taken out, any attempt against the UK would have to be delayed. If it lasted long enough, autumn and winter would set in making any crossing of the sea very dangerous.

  2. France had other options. The governments of many of the occupied countries had fled to London, transfering whatever assets they still controlled to the Allied war effort. In the case of France, these assets were considerable (its colonial empire2, its fleet -both military and commercial-, as many soldiers that got to evacuate).There was even a proposal of an Anglo-French union3, uniting both countries (so the fall of the "continental" French-UK country would mean not the defeat of the country).

    The armistice gave the French an acceptable treaty3 to agree and avoid such scenario. It also kept the French colonial empire inside the German area of influence (even if not under direct control).

  3. It eased the German burden of occupation. It would not need to garrison Vichy controlled zones, and in all of France Vichy police forces and administration continued to operate. A French functionary could refuse to collect tax for the Germans in order to avoid being later considered a traitor, but would have it better if he were collecting taxes for the French government (even if the French government used it to pay the German occupation forces).

Note that France was not the only collaboration government; even in countries who could not retreat to their colonies (Norway, Greece, etc.) collaboration governments were setup to make German control easier. The exceptions were mainly "German" (i.e. directly annexed) areas and in the East (who was to be depopulated anyway).

As for disavantages, putting assets in other people hands always carries the risk of these people switching sides. That said, until the fall of the Vichy government, most of the French siding with the Allies did so as a personal initiative, and I have found no claim that the Vichy government did ever consider joining the Allied side again. At least, the Germans prevented the worst case scenario of the French fleet passing to Allied control.

1 And of course, the always pending question of expansion towards the East.

2 For example, the Allies had to mount an invasion of Madagascar out of fear of Japanese submarines refuelling there, battles were fought for Dakar, Gabon Syria and the UK attacked and sunk the French fleets at Oran and Mers-El-Kebir.

3 The French government refused it.

4 It was harsh, but if you compare it against the Versailles treaty imposed to Germany twenty years before the only significant difference is the occupation of the Atlantic coast, and that was a wartime measure that could be even considered as a measure that helped the defense of the French (Vichy) government.

  • 1
    In the East the Germans set up local administrations as well, such as Lokot self-government, Tatar council etc. Including the Jewish ghettos who can be considered collaboration governments as well.
    – Anixx
    Commented Sep 17, 2016 at 21:42
  • @Anixx I don't think the Jewish ghettos councils should be considered at the same level, on account of the small territory they controlled and lack of armed forces. OTOH the Lokot autonomy is a very valid example, thank you for sharing. Could you provide some information about the Tatar council?
    – SJuan76
    Commented Sep 17, 2016 at 22:37
  • I think calling 2 repaired BT-7 tanks an “armed forces" an overshoot. I do not see how in principle "Russian Fuehrer" Kaminski was different say from "Jewish Elder" Rumkowski at Lodz ghetto (who notably had his face printed on post stamps and banknotes). The both developed cult of personality, enacted regulations, engaged in repressions and the both were finally killed by Germans. Ironically, Kaminski was killed by Gestapo in a prison in Lodz ghetto.
    – Anixx
    Commented Sep 17, 2016 at 23:06

Vichy France was an experiment in "collaborationist" government, that is German rule through local, rather than German rulers.


  1. The creation of Vichy France left France with a shred of dignity, since it was nominally under French administration. In the unoccupied half of the country (the southern, Vichy part), this French control was somewhat genuine. All this with the caveat that the Vichy French government had to comply with German directives.

  2. It left open the possibility of a reversal of alliances, with France joining Germany against Britain and America. Petain and his second in command, Pierre Laval, had to struggle against underlings who favored this posture.


  1. French prisoners of war were kept in German captivity until the end of the war to prevent the re-creation of a French army; this was a sore point that prevented 2, above.

  2. Important elements of the French military could remain outside the control of the Vichy government. Notably Admiral Darlan of North Africa who defected during operation Torch, which brought about an end to the Vichy experiment. And there were some French Admirals who wanted the French fleet at Toulon to join the Allies (instead of being scuttled, or joining the Axis).

  • 1
    Good answer. One of my thoughts was that if the Germans had forcibly taken control over the whole of France, would they have been able to capture large elements of the French Mediterranean fleet intact and thus contest the Med more effectively vs the RN and support their North African campaign better.
    – davidjwest
    Commented Sep 17, 2016 at 12:57
  • France and Germany were nominal Allies in World War 2...as was Spain, most of Southeastern Europe, Romania and initially at least Ukraine. Simply "going along with this" freed up the 3rd Reich for military plans for an invasion of either Southern Russia or Great Britain. I don't think anyone foresaw Operation Barbarossa actually...meaning an all out invasion of Soviet Russia. Commented Sep 17, 2016 at 17:18
  • @user14934 Usually the only good thing about your posts is that at least it ensures us that, for a moment, you are not driving in that state of mind. Neither Vichy France nor Spain were ever formally German allies.
    – SJuan76
    Commented Sep 17, 2016 at 17:37
  • @davidjwest I disagree. Creating Vichy France meant that essentially all of northwest Africa was under control. Add in the French coastline and Italy (the country itself and its north-central African holdings) and later Greece, the strategic situation of the Med was very good for the Axis. Throw in Rommel to keep the British busy in Egypt and there probably wasn't much to worry about in this theater until 1943.
    – Smith
    Commented Sep 19, 2016 at 22:11

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