1944: Six Milice collaborators in France

On this date in 1944, just days after the Liberation of Paris secured the restoration of the French Republic, six collaborators were publicly shot in the foothills of the French Alps. They were the condemned of the first court-martial to sit in liberated France.

A London Times correspondent estimated that 4,000 or more of their countrymen braved cruel wind and rain to cheer the traitors’ deaths meted to these young members of the Vichy government’s hated milice.

They were among ten members of that militia captured at a training grounds in Grenoble, and the shooting of these six was preceded by a loudspeaker announcement decrying the tribunal which tried them for having the softness merely to imprison the other four.

“The Liberation Committee considers that the sentences which failed to inflict the death penalty on all the militiamen not to be in conformity with the wishes of the French people and accordingly promises, in conformity with those wishes, to see that the composition of the court-martial is revised in order to avoid a repetition of such weakness.” The people answered with a cheer.

London Times, Sep. 4 1944

The executions, carried out on a grounds the Gestapo had once used to executed Resistance members, were also photographed, and the striking images published in the Oct. 2 issue of Life magazine. Once available online from Life at this now-dead link, the gallery is reproduced at this Chinese page; Warning: Disturbing Content.

Photographer John Osborne, later a noted editor and habitue of Richard Nixon’s enemies list, would not have been a candidate for the Resistance’s court.

“I am susceptible as most,” he wrote in Life‘s original dispatch. “When I first saw the 10 men and boys in the courtroom dock at this trial, I wanted to cry. They looked so young, wretched, unshaven … It was very easy to sentimentalize over these men, all of whom were underlings. It was easy to agree with the [collaborators’] chief defender, Pierre Guy, that France would be harming only herself if she killed them now.”

On this day..

One thought on “1944: Six Milice collaborators in France

  1. “Underlings”?! Wow. How about No.

    The milice were all volunteers. They made their choices: option one involved being freighted off to Germany and Poland as part of France’s “labor debt”, or they could hide out with the Maquis. The first option involved hard labor and the second involved very little food, living rough in the woods, and getting into gunfights with the Germans. Oh, and getting hanged if caught.

    And then there was option three: join the milice, which involved plenty of food, any women they could be bothered to rape, and, of course, tying up and shooting their own countrymen for whatever reason they—the milice—cooked up.

    Anyone reading this, look up Croix de Feu– many milice were members of that white supremacist, anti-Semitic organization and others like it. Other members were convicted criminals. The milice were hated for good reason: they were considered more dangerous than the Gestapo.

    I really doubt John Osborne would’ve gotten all teary-eyed at a trial and execution of Gestapo members. Just some food for thought.

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