Was General de Gaulle a “Revisionist”?

Charles de Gaulle and the Extermination of the Jews
Published: 2005-09-01

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Already by 1984 Professor Robert Faurisson had noticed that General De Gaulle never pronounced the words “gas chambers” for the simple reason that he did not believe in them[1]; nevertheless it wasn’t until the occasion of the Papon trial that people finally start publicly to question De Gaulle’s attitude toward the extermination of the Jews by the Germans.

For some, the general knew – and, by the way, from Pius XII to Papon everybody knew – but he held his tongue to the extent of not making any allusion to the extermination of Jews in his War Memoirs. Thus De Gaulle showed an unforgivable lack of sensitivity that might be explained by a quasi-atavistic anti-Semitism. Terrified by such accusations, especially the accusation of anti-Semitism, other people reply that the general was not anti-Semitic at all, but that he simply did not know. He was simply unaware of the existence of extermination camps and their gas chambers; he was aware only of the deportation of the Jews and he deplored those events several times in his War Memoirs.

In fact, all of this is vague, confused, and perhaps even hypocritical:

  • What are we talking about? What the general knew or what he did not know? Some people are confusing deportation with extermination in the gas chambers.
  • Which time periods are we concerned about here? Some people confuse with astonishing sloppiness the war period, the period immediately after the war, and the period following the publicized (sometimes even pedagogic) great trials organized by the winners (among them, France).
  • Why did the general have this attitude that some reproach him with? Because he was an anti-Semite? Because he didn’t know? Or more simply because he did not believe in the extermination of Jews in gas chambers or by any other means as Robert Faurisson claims?

Before studying in detail the arguments of each, let us remind ourselves of the chronology of some facts:

  • January 1942: Wannsee conference when, according to official historians, the signal is given to unleash the extermination of the European Jews. As early as the second quarter of 1942 the deportation of Jews living in Western Europe, notably in France, begins. The destination is Auschwitz and its gas chambers.
  • As early as 1942 Jewish associations inform the allies about the systematic extermination of Jews.
  • 1945: Capitulation of Germany. A small percentage of the Jews deported by the Germans return to the West (among them, even before the end of the war, some Auschwitz inmates).
  • From 1945 onwards: Trial of the Nazi leaders in Nuremberg. The French prosecutor is not in the least enthusiastic about bringing the accusation of genocide. The Nuremberg judgment is the reference used in the Gayssot amendment and is intended to repress any contesting of the official historical version concerning this topic.
  • From 1947 onwards: Trial in Krakow and Warsaw of the high-ranking SS officers associated with the extermination camps (Auschwitz and elsewhere).
  • 1949: Publication in French of the Memoirs of General Eisenhower.
  • From 1948 to 1954: Publication in French of Winston Churchill’s Memoirs
  • 1954: Publication of volume 1 of De Gaulle’s Mémoires de guerre (War Memoirs).
  • 1956: Publication of volume 2 of De Gaulle’s Mémoires de guerre.
  • 1959: Publication of volume 3 of the Mémoires de guerre.
  • 1961: Eichmann, presented as the main organizer of the Final Solution, is put on trial in Jerusalem. One should note that the press was already investigating this trial for a while.
  • 1963-1965: Frankfort trial, also named Auschwitz trial, in which SS subalterns from the camp were indicted.
  • 1967: De Gaulle’s declaration about the Jews, “elite people, sure of itself and domineering.”
  • 1970: The War Memoirs of De Gaulle are republished without any modification of the text until 1970 at least and so until his death.

The first one who replied to the charge brought against De Gaulle was Henri Amouroux. In the Figaro-Magazine of April 10, 1998 (pp. 30 and 32: “Is De Gaulle guilty?”), the notorious historian and member of the Institute of France questions the eventual responsibility of the general for “the French ignorance in the face of the genocide.” Amouroux acknowledges that the genocide of the Jews was “addressed in a little way or not addressed at all by General De Gaulle” in his War Memoirs. This can be explained, he states, because the extermination and the role of the Vichy government were not well known to the French of 1945. He backs his claim with the fact that in 1945 newspapers like Le Monde and Le Figaro did not contain any information about this topic.

General Charles de Gaulle

This analysis is really astonishing:

  • First, we can ask ourselves how was the chief of Free France not aware of the extermination of Jews as early as 1942/1943? Anyway, this thesis goes against the official historical teaching.
  • Second, Amouroux compares two periods: 1945, and 1954/1959, the period associated with the publication of the War Memoirs. Those periods are certainly close to each other, but also very different. Indeed as we saw, in the time between them there was a series of widely publicized trials against Nazi leaders in Nuremberg and SS chiefs in charge of the extermination camps (without forgetting the Jerusalem and Frankfort trials when we look at why there were no changes in the reprintings.)

Thus we must exclude the possibility that De Gaulle didn’t hear about the extermination of the Jews when he published his War Memoirs from 1954 to 1959. (Let me remind you that they were republished at least until 1970 without any correction of the original text.)

Responding to Gérard Boulanger, the defense lawyer during the Papon trial who remarked in his book Papon, un intrus dans la République, that De Gaulle never spoke about the extermination of the Jews in gas chambers or by other means (an observation that professor Faurisson has already made as we saw), Jean Foyer, a former minister of General De Gaulle and president of the Charles De Gaulle Institute, wrote in the November 8, 1977 issue of Le Figaro-Magazine, p. 11, that this was plainly false. Foyer then quoted the following excerpts from the War Memoirs (pagination from the paperback edition, Plon publisher; 1958 for the second volume and 1961 for the third volume):

  • Volume 2, p. 49:

    “During the summer [1942], the persecution of the Jews, led by a special ‘commissariat’ working with the invaders, was worsening.”

  • Volume 2, p. 109:

    “During the winter [1942], in spite of the public outrage, the protestations from bishops (Mgr. Salière in Toulouse, Cardinal Gerlier in Lyon), the condemnation of pastor Boegner, president of the Protestant French Federation, the persecution of the Jews redoubled.”

  • Volume 2, p. 209:

    “During the same period [first semester of 1944], the shameful horrors of the Jewish persecutions are taking place.”

  • Volume 3, p. 208:

    […] because the struggle was tarnished with crimes shameful for human kind.”

Unlike what Jean Foyer claims, it is very difficult to admit that those excerpts, even if we accept that they all concern Jews, refer to a massive “extermination” of the Jews according to a plan. Of course the general uses the epithet “horrible,” but he restrains himself from using the words “extermination” and “gas chambers.” Those excerpts seem rather to speak about a “shameful persecution,” here the deportation of women, men and children under “horrible” conditions. This description is quite banal, since everybody would admit that the prevailing conditions in Auschwitz were indeed deplorable when the deportation of Jews from France was reaching its peak.

Breaking with the official history and in support of an article of Georges Broussine (Le Point, June 20, 1998) – an article which didn’t bring anything to the debate – former minister and De Gaulle’s biographer Alain Peyrefitte stated (Le Point June 27, 1998):

“I can state from his own confidences that the general never confabulated on this kind of things [sic], and was not informed about the existence of extermination camps. In volume III of C’était De Gaulle (It was De Gaulle) I’m proposing to make public his private remarks. How could he be aware of their existence if Churchill and Roosevelt apparently were ignorant of it[2] Why didn’t they react?”

Meanwhile, Peyrefitte was protesting against the claim that the general “had omitted to speak about the Jews” in his Memoirs, but based his proof on the first three excerpts among the four quoted by Jean Foyer – and we have already stated that they are unconvincing.

Some took this promise for fact and did not even wait for the publication of volume 3 before using it as a source. In this case Jean-Louis Crémieux-Brilhac (former departmental information manager of the Free France in London) writes in La lettre des Résistants et des Déportés Juifs (“The Letter of Resistance Members and Deported Jews”) Sep-Oct 1998:

“General De Gaulle will be able 20 years later to tell Alain Peyrefitte that until a very late date he had not known about the existence of the extermination camps.”

As we know, Alain Peyrefitte has passed away since then but fortunately he had time to correct the volume 3 [published by Fayard in 2000]. From it we retrieved the following:

  1. In Warning [p. 8]:

    “Let’s remind ourselves however that General de Gaulle is committed only by what he wrote or what he stated publicly.”

    This is also our opinion.

  2. In chapter 3, entitled “Israelis have nothing to ask us and we haven’t anything for them” [pp. 275 to 283]:
    • [p. 282] Press conference, November 27: The only thing we retained from it, deplored Peyrefitte, is the reference to Jews as “an elite people, sure of itself and domineering,” but De Gaulle also mentioned in the same conference “the abominable persecutions to which they were subjected during the Second World War.” Max Gallo already had recalled this in the June 20, 1998 edition of Le Point, without figuring that his clarifications were just aggravating the general case.
    • [p. 283, footnote] Completely at the end of chapter 3, Peyrefitte added a very long footnote which started with this reminder:

      “Three months before this press conference, De Gaulle was in Auschwitz (cf. ch. 5, p. 297); we forgot it!”

      On page 297, Peyrefitte describes the short presence of De Gaulle in Auschwitz during his official visit to Poland on September 9, 1967:

      “We are walking across the vestiges of the extermination camp. A monument recalls the memory of the 80,000 men, women and children of France who vanished here. The general leaves a sheaf of flowers. In the golden book of the camp, he writes: ‘What a sadness, what a disgust and, however, what a human hope!’”

      Secondly, Peyrefitte states in this footnote:

      “I had the opportunity to underline that, unlike what is often written or said, De Gaulle, in his ‘War Memoirs’, isn’t silent on what he calls a persecution, the three times he mentions it […]”

      He then quoted the three excerpts from the Memoirs and texts dating from 1940 which are thus irrelevant (De Gaulle was already speaking of “persecutions”).

      And Peyrefitte concludes in this note:

      “The real question concerning all those texts is to know why they were occulted.”

To summarize, Peyrefitte didn’t hold his promises; he just recalled some excerpts from the Memoirs that Jean Foyer already had quoted and these do not refer to an extermination of the Jews.

But the general’s two former ministers are not just producing unconvincing quotes; they are also omitting some excerpts that would enlighten us better about what the general thought about this question:

  • Volume 3, p. 126: De Gaulle makes the human assessment of Vichy without speaking of the Jews:

    […] 60,000 people have been executed, more than 200,000 have been deported and only 50,000 of them will survive. Vichy’s tribunals condemned in addition 35,000 men and women; 70,000 ‘suspects’ were interned; 35,000 civil servants were revoked; 15,000 military were degraded under the assumption of being resisters.”

  • Volume 3, p 274: De Gaulle makes the human assessment of the war, again without referring to Jews:

    “Have just died in the hands of the enemy, 635,000 French, including 250,000 on the battle field; 160,000 fallen under bombardments or slaughtered by the occupants; 150,000 victims of the brutalities in the deportation camps; 75,000 deceased as prisoners of war or labor conscripts. In addition, 185,000 men became invalids.”

    We see that in this category, which could include the exterminated Jews, De Gaulle uses the words “brutalities” (and not “assassination” or “extermination”), and “deportation camps” (not “extermination camps”).

  • Volume 3, p. 290/291: De Gaulle issues the bill of indictment against Vichy and again he speaks about the persecution of Jews (more precisely of the “handing over” of the Jews to Hitler and of the “anti-Semitic measures,” words that do not necessarily concern the extermination of Jews), but he adds that those are “secondary facts” beside the essential facts of the capitulation, the abandonment of the allies, and the collaboration with the invaders. And he regrets that those secondary facts received, in the debates of that time, a priority that they did not deserve\.

    “All the faults that Vichy was led to commit: the collaboration with the invaders; the fight led in Dakar, in Gabon, in Syria, in Madagascar, in Algeria, in Morocco, in Tunisia against the Free French or against the allies; fights – in full coordination with the German police and troops – against the resistance; handing over to Hitler of French political prisoners and foreign Jews who sought asylum here; assistance provided to the enemy war machine (manpower, resources, fabrication, propaganda ) were all stemming infallibly from this poisoned source. So I was annoyed to see the High Court, the parliamentary circles, the newspapers to abstain largely from stigmatizing the ‘armistice’ and, on the contrary, to lengthily cease themselves with secondary or minor facts. And yet were they putting in evidence those who touched the political struggle rather than the fight of the country against the enemy from outside. Too often the debates were taking the shape of a partisan trial or sometimes of a settling of scores while the affair should have been looked at only from the point of view of national independence. The old plots from la Cagoule, the dispersion of the parliament after its abdication, the detention of members of the parliament, the Riom trial, the oath imposed upon magistrates and civil servants, the labor charter, the anti-Semitic measures, the prosecution of the communists, the fate imposed upon political parties and unions, the campaigns led by Maurras, Henriot, Luchaire, Déat, Doriot, etc… before and during the war, here’s what was taking a more prominent place in the debates than the capitulation, the abandonment of our allies, the collaboration with the invaders.”

The last excerpt, let’s remind ourselves, is taken from volume 3 published in 1959, and republished without any further correction until 1970. We can, without caricaturing, summarize the general’s position like this: The persecution of the Jews with the collaboration of Vichy (as we saw, the general keeps himself from talking about extermination) was certainly odious and deplorable, but it can be considered as an accessory fact with an importance similar to the Cagoule affair (about which not one Frenchman in a hundred could say more than three words).

We can still refer ourselves to a choice made by Admiral De Gaulle, the son of the general, from speeches and messages delivered between 1946 and 1969 and published in 2000:[3] The only interesting excerpt can be found in a speech made on April 30, 1947 in Bruneval during the inauguration of the fighters’ memorial. It is still consistent with the style we found in the Memoirs:

“The six-hundred-thousand men and women from our homeland who died on the battle field, at the execution post, or of misery in the camps, died for France and for France only.”

Conclusions

It seems we can reasonably conclude from this that:

  • De Gaulle had a lot of difficulties in recognizing any specific character of the “anti-Semitic measures” taken by Vichy and the occupying force;
  • De Gaulle did not believe in the extermination of the Jews either in the gas chambers or by other means, and this is the reason he never used the words “extermination” or “gas chambers.” In short, De Gaulle was a revisionist. The explanations given by historians and by those who have tried to defend the general’s memory (while betraying his thoughts?) cannot satisfy free and critical minds tired of dogmas, official truths, and politically-correct thought and lies.[4]

Notes

This article is the synthesis of an article published in Akribeia, no. 3, October 1998, pp. 241-245, from a complement published in Akribeia no. 6, March 2000, pp. 99-104, and from a non-published complement.

[1]Interview given to M. Mugarza on June 18,1984; see also “Précisions sur le detail,” National Hebdo, 1-7 January 1998, p. 15 and “Pires que Le Pen, les révisionnistes Churchill, Eisenhower et de Gaulle,” National Hebdo, 5-11 November 1998, p. 17. One can find the text in Ecrits révisionnistes (1974-1998), private, non-commercial edition, 1999: vol. II, p. 521; vol. IV, pp. 1843ff. and pp. 1889ff.
[2]Concerning Alain Peyrefitte’s remark on the silence kept by the two other great leaders of the Western anti-German alliance, Eisenhower and Churchill,
Robert Faurisson [Peyrefitte carefully avoids naming him!] noticed a long time ago how those two prominent personages had little more to say than General De Gaulle.

General Dwight D. Eisenhower in Croisade en Europe – Mémoires sur la deuxième guerre mondiale, Robert Laffont, 1949, 593 pages, speaks once about the extermination, but in surprising terms. In referring to the problem of the displaced persons (DP), Eisenhower states on pages 495 and 496:

"Among the D.P. [Displaced Persons], Jews were living in the most miserable conditions. For years, they were reduced to starvation, they were brutalized and tortured. It wasn’t possible, even by treating them decently, by feeding and clothing them, to pull them out of their torpor and despair in one step. They continued to crowd together in the same room, apparently finding a touch of security that way, and they were waiting passively for what will happen.”

The extermination? The gas chambers? Eisenhower does not refer to it in any way.

As for the British Prime Minister, Winston S. Churchill, it is almost as if he is touching lightly upon the topic in Mémoires sur la deuxième guerre mondiale (12 volumes that Plon published between 1948 and 1954 for a total of 5,309 pages); however he never uses the words “gas chambers.”
He writes on page 16 of the French edition:

"Under the Hitlerian domination that they let themselves impose, the Germans committed crimes which, in terms of unfairness and enormity, have no equivalent in mankind’s history. The general slaughter with systematic procedures of 6 or 7 million men, women, and children perpetrated in the German concentration camps[*] supersedes in horror the brutal and expeditious butcheries of Genghis Khan, [which are] reduced in the scale of monstrosity to minuscule proportions. The extermination of entire populations was pondered and applied both by Germany and Russia in the eastern war. The frightful progress made in the bombing of open cities – the Germans having taking the initiative, the allies, whose power grew constantly, responding to them with twenty times more fire power – culminated with the use of atomic bombs that razed Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”

* “Execution camps” in the English edition (The Second World War, Vol. I, The Gathering Storm, p. 17) according to Hugh in VffG, no. 2, July 2001, p. 234.

One must first reestablish the quote in its context. Once done, it then appears that such an excerpt is part of a parallel between both world wars. During the First World War, according to Churchill, the rules of war were, in general, respected; this wasn’t the case during World War II. And he acknowledges, to his credit, that the Allies also committed such deeds, but, to his shame, he acknowledges only in such terms as these:

"The Americans razed Hiroshima and Nagasaki after German’s precedents, but the Germans (and even the Russians) did much worse and systematically murdered millions of civilians.”

On one hand, Churchill evokes two American crimes, and this exempts him from evoking the more personal crime he committed in Dresden (250,000 dead in 24 hours?); on the other hand, if he is referring to German and Russian crimes in terms of human losses, he is reducing the allies’ crimes to terms of only material destruction (see for example, the word “raze”) and thus omits to speak about the hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilian victims of the American crimes. Finally the attribution to Germany of the responsibility for the population’s slaughter through air campaigns is, at least, excessive.
The reminder of the German crimes by Churchill is thus part of a pro domo plea and thus gives them less credibility. But it doesn’t matter that much, you might say, because this is not the heart of the question. You would be right; nevertheless, here is also what Churchill did not consider relevant for this passage:

  • to write the word "Jew" (without denying that he was thinking about them) from which we can conclude he did not see the unique character of the treatment reserved for them;
  • to write the words “gas chambers”; the use of the words “systematic procedures” (in the plural!) seems even to indicate that he hadn’t set ideas.

We find in the appendices of the so-called Memoirs some letters in which Churchill speaks about the deportation of Hungarian Jews and their slaughter. Those appendices, let’s notice, are made up of service notes excerpts, letters and speeches addressing miscellaneous topics: some important (like the conduct of the war), others less so (like the parking of civil servants’ bicycles or the shortage of playing cards in Great Britain). The elements which interest us appear in the appendix of Volume VI dedicated to the period June 6, 1944 to February 3, 1945: “Appendix B. Personal notes of the Prime Minister from June to December 1944”:

  • page 370: “July 11, 1944, Prime Minister to Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs:
    There is no doubt, this affair (the persecution of Hungarian Jews and their expulsion from the enemy’s territory)
    [This precision is Churchill’s own; we’ll come back to this.] is probably the gravest and the most dreadful crime which was ever committed in the world’s history, and it was perpetrated with scientific precision by men who claim to be civilized, in the name of a great state and of one of the dominant races of Europe. It is too obvious that those who have participated in this crime and who fall into our hands, even those who just followed the orders when they proceeded to this butchery, will be executed as soon their participation to such murders can be proven. Thus I can not estimate that it’s the kind of ordinary affair in the hands of the protecting power as, for example, the insufficiency of food or the defective sanitary conditions in some prisoner camps. Hence, in my opinion, no negotiation of any kind should take place concerning this subject. We should publicly announce that all those who have taken part in this will be hunted down and put to death.”

  • page 372: “July 14, 1944. Prime Minister to Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
    Escape of the Jews out of Greece.
    We must deal with this question with an extreme carefulness. It is quite possible that rich Jews pay a considerable amount to avoid slaughter in the hands of the Krauts.
  • page 375, concerning the creation of a fighting Jewish unit: “July 26, 1944. Prime Minister to Secretary of State for War.
    […]
    2. The idea of seeing Jews trying to cope directly with the assassins of their co-religionist fellows of central Europe pleases me and I think that this will cause a great satisfaction in the United States. […]
    3. […] I can’t conceive why this race of martyrs, scattered across the world and who suffered more than any other … would be deprived of the satisfaction of having a flag.
  • page 378: “August 4, 1944. Prime Minister to Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. This affair seems very troubling [the case of the Hungarian Jews]. Those unfortunate families, consisting mainly of women and children, bought back their lives probably at the cost of nine-tenths of their assets […]”

To summarize: after the war, far from the noise of weapons, of screams, and invective, Churchill undertook to write his Memoirs in order to transmit to posterity his own version of history. Like all memoirists, Churchill certainly weighed his words and was careful not to pen any statement which could appear to him as incongruous, or one that could tarnish his glory. He thus considered it useless to write a single word about the deportation and the slaughter of the Hungarian Jews (which he reduced in a parenthesis to the “persecution of the Hungarian Jews and their expulsion from the enemy’s territory”), the deportation of other European Jews, or about the gas chambers in which he obviously didn’t believe. Similar to De Gaulle and Eisenhower.

Concerning the content of the parenthetical remark, how can one explain what must certainly be called a revision? Probably in the same way as we can explain today the relations between Churchill, Roosevelt and De Gaulle:

  • On the one hand, during the war, the first two made not-so-courteous remarks about the third one, who eventually got even with them (Roosevelt even accused De Gaulle of collaboration with the Germans);
  • on the other hand, once the war was over and the time came for memoirs, they praised each other.
It is well known that in the heat of action words are sometimes hasty.
[3]Charles De Gaulle, “L’esprit de la Vie République,” Plon, 1996, 1163 p. The excerpt quoted is on page 329.
[4]The self-proclaimed defenders of De Gaulle embarrass themselves and, more seriously, betray the general and tarnish his memory. The simplest thing for them would be to adopt the Faurissonian hypothesis. But some of them have perverted our moral standards; today denying the genocide of the Jews or simply contesting its modalities has become a mortal sin. For Jospin, it has even become a crime, a “thought crime.” For Bensoussan, it’s the “continuation of the genocide”; the day will come, no doubt, when denying this crime will be even more serious than being accused of committing the deed. For the moment at least, or so it seems for the politically-correct pseudo-Gaullists, pleading ignorance is more opportune: The general didn’t say anything because he didn’t know. Of course, he was finally made aware, but apparently too late; he had already given the green light to his publisher. Amouroux, des Gallet, Gallo, and others make fools of themselves by proposing such an absurd thesis. And then there’s Peyrefitte, De Gaulle’s confidant, who commits a further blunder: The general apparently confided in him concerning his late knowledge and he, Peyrefitte, will “prove” this in his next book. When reading volume 3 however, one notices that, prior to his death, this poor Peyrefitte had the time to add a footnote about this question, but he also continued to rave that he could not fulfill his promises. Indeed, how should we date the “unaware” period of the general? After the publication of the last volume of his War Memoirs, that is 1959? This would be the equivalent of claiming that De Gaulle was a moron since back in those days everybody “knew.” To avoid looking ridiculous (but hasn’t he done that already?) Peyrefitte wasn’t able to fix it after the publication of the first volume in 1954 and thereby raised the point that De Gaulle persisted in keeping silent; this cheapens such a horrible tragedy. Wouldn’t it be justified for those who believe this story to see De Gaulle as a vile and despicable person?

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Author(s): Jean-Marie Boisdefeu
Title: Was General de Gaulle a “Revisionist”?, Charles de Gaulle and the Extermination of the Jews
Sources: The Revisionist 3(1) (2005), pp. 45-50
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Published: 2005-09-01
First posted on CODOH: July 23, 2012, 7 p.m.
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Comments: This article is the synthesis of an article published in "Akribeia," no. 3, October 1998, pp. 241-245, from a complement published in "Akribeia," no. 6, March 2000, pp. 99-104, and from a heretofore unpublished complement.
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