April 15th, 2008 Headsman
On this date in 1947, former Vichy Secretary of State Comte Fernand de Brinon was shot in the Paris suburb of Montrouge for war crimes.
A lawyer and journalist who met future Nazi luminary Joachim von Ribbentrop in 1919, Brinon and his socialite wife Lisette were the toast of right-wing high society in the 1930’s. He even scored a scoop interview with the Fuhrer himself, shortly after Hitler became chancellor.
Germany’s rout of France in 1940 vindicated to many of the French right their critiques of France’s decadence; for Brinon, the natural step was support for collaboration, a career-enhancing philosophy that saw him to the third-ranking position of the Vichy government.
There he struck a post-partisan, consensus-oriented pose vis-a-vis picking sides between the new overlord and the erstwhile ally it was bombing:
To collaborate loyally with our opponents of yesterday in no way signifies in the mind of any man of good sense becoming the enemies of our allies of yesterday. (New York Times)
Men of good sense also knew the Bolsheviks were the real threat to world peace; hence, this Vichy-era newsreel of today’s victim reviewing French troops on the Eastern front:
Brinon knew exactly which side he was on and behaved as such, according to Occupied France: Collaboration and Resistance, 1940-1944:
[O]bsequious, indiscreet and an open admirer of Nazism … his collaboration was ideological, and it exceeded by far the agreements over food, prisoners of war, the demarcation line, and the mass of daily adjustments to the occupation sought by most Vichy officials … [Brinon represented] the Nazi end of the Vichy spectrum.
That made him an easy call for the sternest reprisal liberated France could exact, and he knew it himself: Fernand and Lisette tried to flee for Germany when the western allies began recapturing France in 1944.
What adds poignancy, if perhaps not sympathy, to his fate is the fact that Lisette — Jeanne Rachel Louise Franck, her name had been before he put a ring on her finger — was Jewish, and that fact was not a secret. She spent the occupation years as an official Honorary Aryan, safe from the deportations her husband helped arrange for others.
Lisette was also arrested by the Allies as she fled for Germany in 1944 — and how many Jews can say that? — but was released, and died in 1982. Four years ago, her aged son wrote a soul-searching book about his relationship with his mother and (for Brinon was Lisette’s second marriage) his stepfather, Lisette de Brinon, Ma Mere. There is also a recent biography of Brinon in French (review (also French)).
On this day..
- 1851: James Jones and Levi Harwood, but not Hiram Smith - 2016
- 1715: Thomas Nairne, Charles Town Indian agent - 2015
- 1793: Philibert Francois Rouxel de Blanchelande, governor of Saint-Domingue - 2014
- 1921: Mailo Segura, a Montenegrin in Alaska - 2013
- 1905: Chief Zacharias Kukuri - 2012
- 1982: Khalid Islambouli and the assassins of Anwar Sadat - 2011
- 1925: Fritz Haarmann, Hanover vampire - 2010
- 1881: The assassins of Tsar Alexander II - 2009
Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Arts and Literature,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,France,Germany,History,Infamous,Intellectuals,Notably Survived By,Occupation and Colonialism,Politicians,Shot,War Crimes