Following Germany’s invasion of France in 1940, Nazis permitted World War I French Hero Marshal Philippe Pétain to form the puppet Vichy government in southern France – as opposed to the real Nazi-occupied Paris and northern France – provided it pay a heavy tribute in gold, food and war materials.
Pétain, an authoritarian by inclination, established a reactionary regime reversing numerous democratic policies, imposing strict supervision of market forces and stringent control of labor unions and annulling the long standing independence of women. Media were tightly controlled and disdained, forced to stress virulent anti-Semitic “news.”
According to British historian Christopher Flood, Pétain, a narcissist, spoke frequently on French radio always using the personal pronoun “je,” portraying himself as a god-like figure who knew truths that the rest of the French did not. To rationalize his positions, he appealed to the minority fundamentalist right, composed of the old aristocracy and conservative Catholics, who had never accepted the democratic traditions of the French Revolution.