How Pierre Berthomier leaked information from the government
In post-war France, it was generally believed that from 1940 the Resistance and its activities were systematically motivated by a determination to combat not only the Germans but also the French State. Yet many members of the Resistance shared the same values as Marshal Pétain. They are commonly called the “Vichysto-résistants” (term coined by Denis Peschanski in the early 1990s).
The vichysto-résistance was born in the heart of the Ministries. Information networks developed very quickly. Alliance was one of the first and most active of them all.
Pierre Berthomier, native of Cusset (a town in the outskirts of Vichy), was a devoted agent of the network, which he joined barely a few weeks after his demobilization in August of 1940. As an Air Bleu pilot, he was in charge of distributing mail from the Hôtel du Parc to the Free Zone. He capitalized on his numerous trips back and forth by transmitting information to and gathering intelligence from the Air Bleu agents. He also used his flights to locate terrain which could be used for parachute landings (for arms, men, documents, clothing, radios and money).
Starting in 1943, The Gestapo, in collaboration with the Counter-Espionage Department, used considerable power to dismantle the network. Numerous members were arrested, including Pierre Berthomier. After having been incarcerated for several months in Clermont-Ferrand and in Fresnes, he was deported to the Schirmeck Camp in annexed Alsace in the spring of 1944. On September 1, approximately one hundred agents of the Alliance Network were brought to KL Natzweiler, where they were all executed. Berthomier was among the victims.
Berthomier received the Knights of the Legion of Honour Cross, a Resistance Medal and a Croix de Guerre with military commendations posthumously.
For more information on the Hotel du Parc, please refer to the corresponding Point of Interest (“Hôtel du Parc” in the “French State” category)
In post-war France, it was widely believed that from 1940 the Resistance and its activities were systematically motivated by its determination to combat not only the Germans but also the French State. In reality, the situation was more complex. In 1940 and 1941, many men and women refused to accept defeat and the Occupation but approved of and supported Marshal Pétain and the National Revolution. These members of the Resistance are now known as “Vichysto-resistants,” a term coined by Denis Peschanski in the early 1990s.
In 1940, Georges Loustaunau-Lacau, a former cagoulard (pro-fascist activist), notorious anti-communist and intelligence specialist, was appointed national delegate of the French Legion of Combatants, created by the Vichy government. Whilst working for Marshal Pétain, he prepared a strategy of resistance against the German occupation. He created the “Alliance” network, headed by Marie-Madeleine Méric from July1941. The “Alliance” network was supported by the British Intelligence Service (IS) and grew rapidly. In 1942, it became one of the pillars of the Giraudist Resistance, into which it was integrated in 1943.
One of the many “Alliance” recruits in Vichy was the dentist Jean Sabatier. Formerly a member of the “Marco Polo” resistance network, he joined the Alliance group in 1943 under the pseudonym “Jean de Marseille.” Shortly afterwards, he became the assistant of Captain Pradelle, the network’s sector leader. A “convinced chauvinist and notorious anti-German,”* Jean Sabatier gathered information, which he passed on to the network.
On 22 September 1943, Jean Sabatier’s home was raided as part of a major operation directed by Geissler and Batissier. Jean Sabatier and several of his employees and friends were arrested. He was taken to the Gestapo’s headquarters, horrifically tortured, interned in the prison at Fresnes then transferred to Kehl prison near Strasbourg. He was sentenced to death by the Frieburg im Brisgau tribunal and executed at Rastatt on 24 November 1944.
* AD (Puy-de-Dôme), 908 W 168. Report by the Commissioner Judge, 23 September 1943.
How François Mitterrand navigated between the government and the Resistance
In post-war France, it was generally believed that from 1940 the Resistance and its activities were systematically motivated by a determination to combat not only the Germans but also the French State. Yet many members of the Resistance shared the same values as Marshal Pétain. These men and women considered that working for the government and helping the Resistance went hand in hand. Their prime aim was to prepare the terrain so that France’s leaders could resume combat when this became possible. Many of these so-called “Vichysto-resistants” worked for Vichy’s institutions and ministries such as the French Legion of Combatants, which had its headquarters in the Hôtel de Séville.
Created in August 1940, the French Legion of Combatants represented the new order that the Vichy government wanted to establish. Its role as a propaganda machine was immense and its members were among the staunchest supporters of Marshal Pétain and the National Revolution. After escaping from Stalag IXA in Germany in December 1941, François Mitterrand arrived in Vichy in January 1942 and began working in the Legion’s “documentation” service, which was in fact an intelligence unit whose purpose was to gather information on “anti-nationals” such as Communists and Gaullists.
After several months at the Hôtel de Séville, he was employed by the Service for the Orientation of Prisoners of War. In 1943, he received the francisque, a medal awarded by the Vichy regime. The same year, he built up a resistance movement mainly composed of ex-prisoners of war, which became affiliated to the Organisation de Résistance de l’Armée, Giraudist in allegiance. Late in 1943, Mitterrand, hunted by the Gestapo, left Vichy for good.