On this day in 1944, Georges Mandel, France’s minister of colonies and vehement opponent of the armistice with Germany, is executed in a wood outside Paris by collaborationist French.
Born into a prosperous Jewish family (his given name was Louis-Georges Rothschild, though no relation to the banking family) in 1885, Mandel’s political career began at age 21 as a member of the personal staff of French Premier Georges Clemenceau. He went on to serve in the National Assembly from 1919 to 1924, and then again from 1928 to 1940. Although a political conservative, he fell into conflict with fellow conservatives over their too-often pro-German sympathies, especially during the two world wars.
In 1940, he was transferred to the Ministry of the Interior by then French Premier Paul Reynaud, with whom he shared the conviction that no armistice should be made with the German invaders, and that the battle should continue, even if only from France’s colonies in Africa. After the resignation of Reynaud and the establishment of the Petain/Vichy government, Mandel sailed to Morocco, where he was arrested and sent back to France and imprisoned. He was then handed over to the Germans, and put in concentration camps in Oranienburg and Buchenwald. On July 4, 1944, he was shipped back to Paris, where the French security police, the Milice, took him out to a wood and shot him. As he was being handed over to his countrymen by the German SS, he said: “To die is nothing. What is sad is to die without seeing the liberation of the country and the restoration of the Republic.”