COUPURE DE PRESSE
3 septembre 1941
Honolulu Girl Defends Petain As True Patriot
By BARONESS CONSTANCE DE BISSCHOP
(The authoress is the wife of the new French consul in Honolulu, Baron Eric de Bisschop, and the daughter of Mr. And Mrs. A. C. Constable, 158 Dowsett Ave. She has known Marshal Petain of France well for four years and the baron has been his close friend for 14 years. The French premier was a witness at their wedding in Paris late in 1938. In this and two succeeding articles, Baroness de Bisschop defends the marshal, her comment being based on intimate and personal knowledge of the French leader in the Vichy government.)
When I see articles in the papers unfair to the Marechal Petain (who calls himself Philippe, not Henri), I think of what he said to me in French at dinner our last night in Vichy.
“You will both have a hard time, I’m afraid, in America, because you represent my government. The Americans do not like me – they do not understand;” and of my reply, quick and proud.
“Why, I’m sure they do – the Americans are the most understanding and fair minded people on earth. We’re not afraid.”
And now, since our arrival in America when I see the screaming headlines “Petain tool of Nazis” –“Vichy government gives over Dakar” – I see that the Marechal was right – the Americans do not understand. But here is the sad part of it – they don’t understand because they have never been told the truth.
* * *
My husband and I, who have been in France since before the beginning of the war, have been close to the heart of things; have suffered with the Marechal when he cried in despair, “But France should not go to war. For years our government has been undermined, work on the Maginot line discontinued, our best airplanes sold to other countries, our munition factories filled with communists –the war is already lost before ever being commenced.”
And then –France’s forced entry into the war without consent of the parliamentary Chambers; the Belgian breakdown; the withdraw of British troops to England; and the French left to fight with insufficient arms, doing their best against an invader, ruthlessly strong; the defeat ant then the armistice.
* * *
Do people realize, when they condemn the Marechal for the armistice, that had he not made it the French race would have been wiped out trying to defend their country with a pitiful supply of arms? The Germans would have taken the whole of France, the fleet, Dakar, everything. That is why when I read the hair raising headlines on Petain giving German the French fleet and Dakar, I feel that is really too silly.
After all, the Germans could have taken what they wanted without the least bit of trouble –they practically had all of France, but, thanks to the Marechal’s quick action, France was saved from complete annihilation.
(To Be Continued)
To those courageous but tiresome souls (French and others) who cry, “The French should fight to the death!” and who are usually the ones far away from France, comfortably installed, eating three meals a day, I can only say, “Go ahead – there’s plenty of chance still.” But you know, as well as I that the ones who cry the loudest are the ones who do the least.
We were there when Darlan came back from his first visit to Hitler and malicious tongues had already decided that he had given Dakar to the Germans – it later was found to be quite untrue – yet how many times more has Dakar been headlines as given over. No wonder that in America no one knows what’s going on, when even in Vichy itself lies like this are circulated.
* * *
Quite recently I saw the same scare in the papers, but I also noticed that a few days later, Admiral Leahy and his wife went for a vacation, saying that “affairs were all right.” Doesn’t go together, does it?
And through it all, in spite of the misunderstanding of some of his own people, the Marechal goes quietly on, fighting inch by inch a battle that is much harder than the one he fought at Verdun.
* * *
My heart aches for this man who has given the last years his life for the country he loves so well, and who, by his very name and the veneration it arouses, saves France even now from a revolution.
No one writes of what he has done; how, in spite of Hitler, Petain managed to repatriate and keep in France those Jews found to be of French ancestry and those who had really served France; how, although the Nazis would have liked Laval, in the government, he was kicked out. And yet people say that he is powerless under the thumb of Hitler.
There is nothing sadder than a country divided against itself.
DeGaulle (sic) – Petain – each fighting in his way, for France, but when you look closely you will find that Petain has chosen the harder way – there is nothing more difficult than apparent inaction – it is always easier to dash about full of patriotic enthusiasm and give vent to one’s feelings in battle; it is harder to stay day by day, misunderstood, criticized, trying to rebuild a rotten foundation with their new clean props; to try to give again to the people, the spirit which made France one of the greatest nations on earth –the spirit that has been slowly rotted by communism, bad government and “laisser aller.”
When one thinks of the havoc which communism has wrought in France one can not (sic) blame the Marechal’s lack of enthusiasm for Russia.
(To Be Continued)
Those reporters who can think of nothing more interesting to say, invariably bring up the marechal’s age. He is old, they say –even senile. Of course he is old –gloriously so, all his family is long lived.
But senile! That’s completely ridiculous. If you could have seen him at his estate of Velleneune-Toubet (sic), where we spent weeks, and how he tired us all out scramchards, his (dégradé)ean fields, his olive trees and at the end of which he emerged fresh as a daisy, while we were puffing like steam engines.
* * *
The gossips like to say that his mind is not lucid; those who say so betray the fact that they have never met him –for that is what one notices first –his remarkable clear mindedness, his quick repartees which show lightning thought; his unfailing aptitude for finding the truth in things and discarding the rest.
* * *
As for his memory –he recalled incidents that had happened 20 years ago when my husband spent his vacations with them – little things that my husband remembered with difficulty.
He can read people like a book –often causing quite a bit of discomfort. He has a way of looking at one with his piercing blue eyes that gives one the feeling that he sees all one’s blemishes, mental and physical. I remember he gave me quite a start one day by saying suddenly,
“Papaleaiaina, you have a grey hair” –a catastrophical event which even I had not noticed.
* * *
The purpose of these articles is to try to picture the marechal to you as we know him. A lovable old man become a martyr through his overwhelming love of his country; a man with a high purpose, who has been honorable all his life and who will not commence now to do something that is not right.
A man misjudged by them who do not understand his terrible task, criticized by the people he learned to love and admire through his great friend, General Pershing. A man in whom my husband and I, with millions of others, have all faith and confidence and for whom, if necessary, we will suffer untold criticism gladly.
* * *
I can only add that when you see malicious comment, please be a little kind –don’t jump to hasty conclusions. After all, the United States recognizes the Vichy government –there must be a reason.
COUPURE DE PRESSE
25 octobre 1941
Annoncé par la lettre du 26 octobre, elle-même ajoutée à la lettre du 23.
UNFAIR TO MARSHAL PETAIN
Editor The Star-Bulletin : Heretofore I have always found a certain news broadcast an interesting as well as unbiased report on world events. Last night, however, I was greatly surprised to hear the commentator, in a very unfair version of the present situation in France, call the Marshal Petain hypocritical.
In case there is any question let me say that I write this as an American citizen who has seen a great many unbelievable things happen in France before and since the beginning of the war and if my sympathy seems to lie with the French il is not because I am pro French or pro anything. I have only tried to picture as justly as possible, the other side of the question. I hope I have succeeded.
* * *
I hate unfairness in any form and, to hear a man whom the French honor, called a hypocrite by someone who does not, and evidently never will understand the Marshal’s policy, is more than anyone can stand.
It is one thing to call someone a hypocrite – it is another to prove it, and I am afraid that our commentator, relying solely on outside information which is not first hand, would hardly be in a position to judge.
Does he realize that the Marshal’s policy has always been to protect his people above everything? Is he not sacrificing the last years of his life for just that purpose? In his plea to the French to stop shooting the Germans is the anguish of knowing that if the assassinations continue many innocent will suffer. What heartfelt prayer for understanding must have gone into his appeal, what anguish, too, to feel that he would be helpless to save his countrymen should events, such as those which recently took place, occur. Is that hypocrisy?
No doubt many will applaud the shootings as acts of bravery but to me they are acts of pure cowardice. To shoot and run knowing that the death penalty will fall on innocent countrymen – tell me, what true Frenchman would do that?
* * *
Encouragement to revolt, the order to fight and attack are broadcast to disarmed civilians.for the most part by countries which have millions of soldiers well equipped for war. The foolish people who believe they must obey these orders would merit pity if they were nothing but fools, but they are cowards, too, they shoot in the back and run, knowing very well that by their acts useless and without glory, they murder at the same time one hundred of their innocent brothers.
I repeat, they are cowards. The day that a Frenchman assassinates a German and stands beside his victim, giving himself up proudly to his punishment – on that day will I believe that it was really a Frenchman who did it; for the act of shooting, and leaving his punishment to fall on others, is so unlike a true Frenchman, and so contrary to the French spirit, that I am forced to believe that such acts must have been dictated by those who are not French or those French who have sold their birthright.
Another part of the brodadcaster’s comment which seemed rather confusing was that in which he quoted: that the English (with all their munitions and arms) would be committing suicide if they went over to invade Germany now. And in the next breath he reproaches Petain for trying to keep the French from just exactly that – SUICIDE – a suicide all the more certain because they are unarmed.
* * *
The radio broadcast of world events should always be a means of unadulterated news – personal feelings and prejudices should have no place. To many cruel and unnecessary things have already been said since the war.
That is why I prefer to pin my faith on the Marshal Petain, who, by the very fact that he makes no useless boasts, nor has ever stooped to say an unjust word will one day be honored by the very people who rage against him now. Quickly, with his eyes ever lifted toward his goal, he watches over his people with a love that is greater than Self.
CONSTANCE DE BISSCHOP
LETTRE DE WILLIAM CHANERY (COLLIER’S)° A ERIC DE BISSCHOP
10 octobre 1941
a renvoyer de BISSCHOP
THE NATIONAL WEEKLY
THE CROWELL PUBLISHING COMPANY
250 PARK AVENUE
OFFICE OF THE EDITOR
Baron Eric de Bisschop
Consul of France
158 Dowsett Avenue
Dear Baron de Bisschop:
If you would be interested in
submitting your manuscript about Marechal
Petain to us on speculation, we should be
happy to read it and give you a prompt
decision. If we find the article accept-
able, we will pay around four or five
hundred dollars for it.
(signature manuscrite) William L. Chanery
William L. Chanery