No. 19 NAI DFA Secretary's Files P12/1
VICHY, 1 March 1941
The really good Frenchmen – and they are unfortunately not very numerous – are very worried with the present situation. By these I mean those who are prepared to give their services without regard to personal or political gain. They are conscious that the 'Revolution Nationale' does not go very deep. The Marshal is very sincere in his intentions and ideas, but unfortunately the application of these ideas is not very widespread. There have been considerable changes in the personnel of the Governmental and Municipal administrations, but, with very few exceptions, the faults of the old administration persist. The number of cases of hoarding that have been discovered is considerable, but these represent only a small fraction of the actual cases. The slowness and the laisser faire attitude of the various Departments is exactly the same, and the attitude of the public in this zone, and it is said more so in the other, is one of hopelessness. The constant changes in the personnel of the Government has largely contributed to this state of affairs. While these changes have in a great part been due to the demands of the Germans, there has also been a good contribution from the regime itself. The result is that, instead of the stability which was hoped for and promised, there have been more changes of Government than under the old regime, a fact which has been much stressed in the Paris Press, which is, of course, entirely under German control.
It seems to be certain that Pétain, although universally respected and admired, suffers from the faults of an old man who has had a very successful career. He is vain, self-opinionated, and stubborn. He does not like disagreement with his views, and is apparently a bad judge of persons. He is inclined to treat the members of his Government as he would treat the members of his own 'Etat Major'. If they don't agree with his views, he ceases to consult them and finally gets rid of them with little or no explanation. He is impetuous and takes decisions very quickly, but he has no hesitation in rescinding these decisions with equal rapidity. You can imagine that that does not make for smoothness of administration and leaves the public at times in a state of wonderment.
It is said that the 'Conseil National' was the idea of Flandin.1 It was, how- ever, completely accepted by the Marshal, again at the advice of some of his collaborators. Its creation, of course, caused a lot of disappointment amongst those who thought they should have been nominated. It has now been decided that, instead of giving these Conseillers an annual indemnity of 100,000 francs a year, they will only receive an allowance for every day they sit. It is, in fact, generally believed that they will never be summoned. Whereas the payment of the 100,000 francs was very much criticised, it was in general approved by those who were to receive it. Now they have been added to the number of disappointed persons.
I think it is true to say that the great majority of the public feel that their only hope is in a German defeat, and they are inclined to sit and wait for that to happen. They see no incentive to try and do anything because of the uncertainty of the Government situation and the difficulties of the two zones. In addition to this, there is the difficulty of the food situation which is growing worse. The bread ration has been reduced for March, and it is thought will again have to be reduced in April. Some think that the danger of civil disturbances is quite possible in this zone.
I hope I have succeeded in giving a fair picture of the situation here as I see it. I may say that the Nuncio, with whom I have a walk every Thursday, shares most of the views I have expressed.
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