PTtain file photo [928]

Philippe Pétain

Given NamePhilippe
Born24 Apr 1856
Died23 Jul 1951


ww2dbaseHenri Philippe Benoni Omer Joseph Pétain was born in Cauchy-à-la-Tour in Pas-de-Calais département in 1856. A graduate of the Saint-Cyr Military Academy and the École Supérieure de Guerre in Paris, he fought in WW1 as an infantry officer and earned the nickname of the "savior of Verdun" for his brilliant deployment of artillery for defensive purposes. The quote "ils ne passeront pas!", or "they shall not pass!", became the symbol of the determination of Pétain and his troops at Verdun. In 1917, before the war ended, he became Commander-in-Chief of the French army. As Commander-in-Chief he was credited with raising the morale of French troops. He received the rank of Field Marshal immediately after the war ended.

ww2dbaseDuring the interwar years, he contributed greatly to the construction of the Maginot Line (which would completely fail its purpose of stopping another invasion from the east when the German forces invaded France at the onset of WW2) and served in French Morocco in North Africa. He later entered politics, becoming the Minister of War in 1934, Secretary of State in 1935, and Ambassador to Spain in 1939. He became Premier of France in 1940.

ww2dbaseAfter the fall of France in the beginning of WW2, Premier Pétain, who held emergency powers at the time, cooperated with Nazi Germany. He signed an armistice with Germany on 22 Jun 1940 that ceded northern France to Germany. In return, Germany allowed Pétain to remain in power over southern France. Pétain established his new capital on 2 Jul at the resort city of Vichy, therefore his authoritative government would later come to be known as Vichy-France. He was generally considered the savior of the French people at this time for negotiating an end to the hopeless fight against the German invasion. On 10 Jul he took on the title of Head of the State of France, abolishing the positions of president and prime minister, and ruled with absolute power with his prime minister Pierre Laval. His government was influenced by German leader Adolf Hitler in that anti-semetic laws were passed and the government controlled the press. Pétain and Vichy-France's anti-semetic policies were viewed favorable by some elements of Islamic subjects living in French colonies in North Africa and the Middle East, whose hatred for the Jews brought them to support their new colonial masters. In addition, Pétain was also guilty of deporting French Jews to German concentration camps. When Americans entered the North Africa theater in Nov 1942, he publicly denounced Admiral François Darlan for cooperating with American General Dwight Eisenhower. After Allied troops secured their beachheads at Normandy, Pétain and his government fled to the neutral Switzerland.

ww2dbaseAfter the war, he was returned to France from Switzerland. He was conficted for collaborating with Nazi Germany and sentenced to death by firing squad. Charles de Gaulle lessened the sentence to life imprisonment on 17 Aug 1945 out of respect for Pétain's venerable age. Pétain passed away in prison on the island of Île d'Yeu in 1951.

ww2dbaseSources: Spartacus Educational, Wikipedia, the World at War.

Last Major Revision: Aug 2005


Philippe Pétain and Adolf Hitler, Montoire-sur-le-Loir, France, 24 Oct 1940; note Paul Schmidt and Joachim von Ribbentrop in backgroundFrench Marshal Pétain and US Ambassador Leahy, Vichy, France, 27 Apr 1942

Philippe Pétain Timeline

24 Apr 1856 Philippe Pétain was born.
16 Jun 1940 Marshal Philippe Pétain became Prime Minister of France when Paul Reynaud's government resigned.
25 Jun 1940 Philippe Pétain announced a new order for France on Radio Bordeaux Sud-Ouest. A period of difficulty would arrive but a intellectually and morally rejuvenated France would rise.
11 Jul 1940 Marshal Philippe Pétain declared himself head of state of the French Republic. On radio later on the same day, he spoke of the expected roles of the young people, the parents, and the government. "Let us give ourselves to France. She has always led her people to greatness." Privately, the younger generation responded poorly to Pétain's new vision, critiquing it as discriminatory toward young women, enslaving them as homemakers.
13 Aug 1940 Philippe Pétain gave a speech over radio, speaking about government programs for the youth. His radio speech was written by Minister of Education René Gillouin.
4 Oct 1940 The Secours National, being planned for revival in preparation of the first winter under German occupation, was placed under Philippe Pétain's authority. On the same day, Pétain wrote to Henry Dhavernas, founder of the youth group Compagnons, in support of his efforts.
24 Oct 1940 Adolf Hitler met with Philippe Pétain and Pierre Laval at Montoire-sur-le-Loir, France, agreeing in principle with collaboration but Pétain refused to declare war on Britain.
10 Nov 1940 Philippe Pétain spoke on radio, asking people to donate blankets, clothing, etc. to those in need in preparation for the predicted harsh winter.
12 Dec 1940 Philippe Pétain received an invitation from Adolf Hitler to attend the ceremony in which Napoleon II's remains were to be returned from Austria to the Les Invalides cemetery in Paris, France.
14 Dec 1940 Philippe Pétain declined Adolf Hitler's invitation to attend the ceremony during which the remains of Napoleon II would be re-interned at the Les Invalides cemetery in Paris, France. In the same message, he also told Hitler that Pierre Laval had been dismissed from his leadership position in Vichy France, which angered Hitler.
19 Jun 1941 Philippe Pétain visited the Richaud farm in Limousin, France and met the priest in charge of the youth of the Chantiers de la Jeunesse, who had the youth working in local farms.
20 Jun 1941 Philippe Pétain visited Valmatte, France and was met by more than 10,000 civilians. The Vichy French radio program reporting this event included a brass band playing La Marseillaise, which officially was not allowed by the Germans. A young girl presented Pétain 60,000 francs, donated by primary and secondary schools of the region.
7 Sep 1941 A sports exhibition was held at the Municipal Stadium in Vichy, France. It was attended by head of Commissariat général de l’éducation générale et aux sports (CGEGS) Jean Borotra and head of France Philippe Pétain. The event demonstrated sports that would be included in school curriculums.
22 Oct 1941 Marshal Philippe Pétain and Admiral François Darlan broadcast an appeal to the French nation calling restraint from any actions against the occupying German troops which could bring down reprisals on hostages.
17 Nov 1941 Philippe Pétain made an appeal for donations for Secours National d'Hiver over radio, aimed to help the less fortunate to survive the upcoming winter season in Vichy France.
13 Apr 1942 Philippe Pétain, under German pressure, decided to reinstate Pierre Laval whom the Germans favored.
27 Jul 1942 The French youth group Compagnons celebrated its second anniversary in Randan, Auvergne, Vichy France. Out of the 30,000 total members, 7,000 attended the event. Philippe Pétain, wearing a gray suit rather than the usual military uniform, attended the event as a civilian.
26 Apr 1944 Pétain made his first and only visit to Paris, France to inspect damage from Allied bombings.
26 Apr 1945 Petain was arrested at the Swiss border.
23 Jul 1945 The trial against Marshal Philippe Pétain began at Palais de Justice, Paris, France.
17 Aug 1945 A death sentence on Marshal Philippe Pétain, former head of the Vichy French Government, was commuted to life imprisonment.
23 Jul 1951 Philippe Pétain passed away.

Did you enjoy this article or find this article helpful? If so, please consider supporting us on Patreon. Even $1 per month will go a long way! Thank you.

Share this article with your friends:


Stay updated with WW2DB:

 RSS Feeds

Visitor Submitted Comments

1. irwan says:
27 Jan 2009 05:20:48 AM

good info for research
2. Anonymous says:
6 Oct 2010 01:13:47 PM

good info but no quotes
3. Katie says:
22 Feb 2012 12:29:01 PM

Sehr Gut (:
4. Austin says:
17 Jan 2013 01:30:56 PM

I am doing a research project for World War II on Henri Petain. This is a great site for important dates and events of his life! (Timeline). Thanks!
5. Anonomi says:
26 Sep 2016 10:32:36 PM

What a fall from grace... Did so much to save France in WW1, only to turn around, sieze power, and sell out to the Nazi then run and hide when USA gets near to his front door.
6. Anonymous says:
7 Feb 2022 07:56:19 AM


All visitor submitted comments are opinions of those making the submissions and do not reflect views of WW2DB.

Posting Your Comments on this Topic

Your Name
Your Email
 Your email will not be published
Comment Type
Your Comments


1. We hope that visitor conversations at WW2DB will be constructive and thought-provoking. Please refrain from using strong language. HTML tags are not allowed. Your IP address will be tracked even if you remain anonymous. WW2DB site administrators reserve the right to moderate, censor, and/or remove any comment. All comment submissions will become the property of WW2DB.

2. For inquiries about military records for members of the World War II armed forces, please see our FAQ.

Search WW2DB
More on Philippe Pétain
» Pétain's Address to the French People

Philippe Pétain Photo Gallery
Philippe Pétain and Adolf Hitler, Montoire-sur-le-Loir, France, 24 Oct 1940; note Paul Schmidt and Joachim von Ribbentrop in background
See all 2 photographs of Philippe Pétain

Famous WW2 Quote
"You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word. It is victory. Victory at all costs. Victory in spite of all terrors. Victory, however long and hard the road may be, for without victory there is no survival."

Winston Churchill

Support Us

Please consider supporting us on Patreon. Even $1 a month will go a long way. Thank you!

Or, please support us by purchasing some WW2DB merchandise at TeeSpring, Thank you!