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by Dmeetry Raizman


When members of the British cabinet offered to drop bombs on German phosphorus forests, the Secretary of State for Air responded: "Come on, it is possible but if you want to damage private property, maybe we will bomb the Ruhr mining region?" Before his death in 1943 he had the chance to see for himself German bombs falling on London, manufactured from Ruhr iron.

The debilitating "peace process" which hastened France's defeat by Germany in World War II is not only a chapter in history. There are too many elements similar to today's reality.

The Daladier-Ribbentrop meeting
Reality today surrounds us with similar elements.

France's Military Might pre-World War II

70 years have passed since the "Phoney War". Why would we recall this almost forgotten event nowadays? In these days, filled as they are with the reprecussions of the Goldstone report, with recent discoveries of scandalous anti-Israeli activities by the New Israel Fund, with days of appeasement, with days of doubts of Israeli right to fight against Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon, with days dithering about withdrawal from the Golan Heights — is there anything to be learned from events far away in the stale pages of history The events in France in 1939-1940? Are they relevant?

Well, in early October 1939, France carried out the disengagement of Saarland, an area surrendered to her by a defeated Germany at the end of World War I. Without an apparent reason, the French army withdrew from a location of strategic importance, unilaterally, without a fight, without a shot, and then for months the French forces sat in idleness. So began the Second World War.

On September 27, 1939, a few days before the disengagement, Hitler called a secret meeting of the General Staff and the commanders of the German military and declared: "We must immediately start preparing an attack on the West. The goal is to defeat the French." The history of the subsequent German operation Fall Gelb ("Case yellow") is remembered primarily because of its consequences. The received wisdom is that the German army was strong, equipped with modern weapons and well-skilled while the French army was weak, armed with obsolete weapons, and untrained. If that were indeed the case, there would be no need to be a military expert to understand the reasons for France's defeat.

Without taking a comprehensive tally of France's divisions and generals, several facts are readily apparent: in May 1940 there were 215 French army infantry battalions — each battalion had about 3,000 soldiers and 80 officers — for a total of 645,000 and 17,200 soldiers and officers, respectively. Furthermore, regiments from France's former colonies were part of its defenses: 14 battalions of French soldiers from colonies in North Africa, 42 battalions of Algerian troops, and 59 battalions from Tunisia, Morocco, Senegal, Madagascar and the United India — China. Together with the Foreign Legion Infantry France had 1,130 battalions. The French generals, roughly, had available to them 1.2 million infantrymen and more than 30 thousand officers.

French armored corps included 430 fast and strong Somua S35 Tanks and 403 armored Char B1 and Char B1-bis tanks, which, at that time, were considered the best tanks in Western Europe. 1650 Renault R35/40s tanks constituted another armored force. Strength and quality of armor munitions (artillery guns) requirements for French tanks came from German models.

Toward the end of 30s, the French modernized the cavalry into motorized divisions that consisted of motorcycles, small vehicles, Kegresse half-tracks and Citroen-Panhard AMD trucks. French divisions against German Cavalry were also equipped with tanks: 100 Somua S35 tanks, about 100 Hotchkiss H39 and 70 AMR35 Renaults. The French artillery had always been considered a huge steel force. German General Erich Ludendorff expressed its strength, saying, "How I hate the French guns!" This force numbered 409 battalions equipped with approximately eleven thousand artillery pieces.

At the individual armament level, French infantrymen carried automatic weapons equipped with an excellent Chatellerault FM, a semi-automatic rifle and a modern design of the MAS36, a Berthier which, although older, was improved in 1936.

In 1939, European military experts had a great appreciation for France's military power and considered its army one of the strongest in the world. Therefore, trying to explain its military defeat by referencing a weak and outdated military is unacceptable. The opposite was true: France had the best military in the region and it had a well-equipped army, not only to defend against the Germans, but also to win. Why did France fall?

Concept spawns Strategy

France fell because she was a captured by a misconception. Marshal Henri Philippe Pétain, the pride of the French nation, its number one soldier, the legendary winner of the Battle of Verdun in 1916, a hero of World War I, head of the defense establishment, was the father of the misconception. All the strategies taught by French military academies, the legacy of battle experience, the wisdom of fighting, the principles, the tactics, and the acts of heroism, Marshall Pétain condensed into one simple formula: minimization of losses. Pétain defined the guiding criterion for the army: "We must prevent the losses the nation suffered during World War I". Victory in battle? War? Subduing the enemy? Sacrifice for the homeland? No more! Now — just the minimization of losses. This misconception gave rise to a defensive strategy, and a defensive strategy gave rise to the "Maginot Line" — the barricade that will guard France ... Hello!

A "Peace process" penetrated all aspects of French military doctrine: it paralyzed the strategic thinking of senior command and dictated all aspects of preparing the military-force structure, training, and the operational programs of the Joint Chiefs.

A debilitating "peace process" influenced the majority. However, some individuals understood where France's choice of peace would lead, including General Jean Baptiste Eugène Estienne, a French armored soldier who tried to promote the idea of putting a center tank formation as an offensive rather than defensive force. After the idea was rejected, young lieutenant colonel Charles de Gaulle tried to place a similar idea on the agenda. The French government, however, rejected his plan as "contrary to the global French strategy" of defense for peace. French General Staff operational plans for 1940 said: "avoid at all costs significant operations on the German front."

The alternative raised by France and her allies was a strategy of economic sanctions meant to deter Germany from taking aggressive steps.

Consequences of the Peace Process

The "peace process" gained momentum. In early October 1939, after the disengagement from Saarland, a journalist visited the French military on the front and wrote: "Wonderful peace and quiet prevail here — our artillery is located on the banks of the Rhine, nonchalantly looks over animated German trains and ammunition shells, all within range of our guns. Pilots hover over our enemies' factories without dropping bombs." The main task of the French General Staff was not to harass the Germans, "not to be dragged into provocations."

Enemies? Germany joined "the peace process" with great joy. Its army had gained strength. Field Marshal Kesselring wrote about those days: "Fortunately the enemy had discovered absolute passivity and allowed us, prior to May 1940, to close the gaps and deficiencies by equipping and arming Germany." On October 18, the senior command of the German Army published Order No. 7 instructing German forces to avoid any military action on the Western Front. The Wehrmacht was interested in hudna.

Did the Allies understand the absurdity and the danger in a French-German "peace process"? When a member of the Conservative Party British Cabinet, F. C. Amery, proposed to drop bombs on German phosphorus forests, Sir Kingsley Wood, Secretary of State for Air, answered him: "Come on, it is possible, but if you want to damage private property, maybe we will bomb the Ruhr mining region?" Before his death in 1943, Sir Kingsley Wood saw bombs falling on London — German bombs manufactured from the steel of the Ruhr.

The "Phoney War" led to despair and took away the French military's morale. French troops did not understand why they did not fight if they declared war? Gradually they lost the desire to serve and saw their presence on the front line as counterproductive and pointless. When the morale worsened, the French command was forced to turn to the government, on November 21, 1939, to get a ministerial decision regarding the establishment of an "entertainment force." On November 30 the French Parliament discussed increasing the alcohol ration to soldiers, and in February 1940 the Prime Minister signed an order canceling a tax on gambling in the army. Additionally, the government decided to purchase ten thousand soccer balls to keep the army on the front pacified.

Not only the soldiers at the front, but also the citizens at home stopped understanding what was happening, why there were soldiers in the army, and what was the government's policy.

Well, was army Secretary Pétain really the "destroyer" of France in June 1940? Yes, but he was not the only one. There is another factor that "contributed" just as much if not more to France's defeat: at the beginning of October 1939, the leftist bloc demanded an extraordinary meeting of parliament for an urgent discussion of a "peace process". The left representatives wrote to the Parliament Speaker: "With all our strength, we strive for peace, achievable peace; we believe that the peace process can bring peace." With Nazi Germany at the gate accruing power, the French left had its say: "We believe that peace is achievable, we call collectively to strive to achieve mutual confidence between all parties in Europe."

Although the French left sought peace, it was not the architect of the "peace process" in Europe on the eve of the German invasion of France. The Left only executed instructions from abroad. Instructions from the "directors" of the Peace Festival, "owners" of the real enlightened left, tried at the same time to neutralize the Allies, to erode the resolve to fight Germany, and to lull the public opinion by the propaganda of peace. And when fighting for peace, all means are acceptable. As an honored tradition, the "peace camp" mixed legal means (parliament, press, freedom of speech with underground activities — from strikes at plants of military necessity to direct sabotage of tanks, cannons, and aircraft on the production lines.

France fell victim to two parallel processes: an ideological sabotage by the extreme left-wing minority in France that was organized, guided, and funded by hostile interested parties abroad, and a consequent "second wave", a much wider process consisting of "striving for peace" and a preference for "minimizing losses" if there is no choice whether to fight.

Was the French leadership completely blind to what was happening? The French government eventually sobered up and realized it was suffering ideological sabotage and subject to extensive hostile action designed to topple the French interior. Indeed, a ban was imposed on the distribution of left-wing newspapers, extreme left organizations were "outlawed," and leftist deputies were removed from all institutions and committees. But the French government's measures were too little, too late. Subsequent events show that the left's ideological sabotage caused France irreversible destruction: The Phoney War ended on May 10, 1940, following a large-scale German offensive that instantly defeated France.

The most powerful army in the region before the war, detachment, a general that is a former national hero and head of a security establishment that avoids fighting and preaches minimizing losses, a defensive line misconception, an extreme left driving the "struggle for peace" under the direction and financing of hostile elements abroad, a broad public drifting into the whirlpool of a "peace process", decadence and despair among soldiers and civilians — are these the indicators of the next Israeli war?

Dmeetry Raizman is a former Soviet Union refusenik and Jewish activist. He has been an Israeli citizen since 1979, and has a business developing high-tech start-up apps. He was a long time supporter of the "peace process" — from the Rabin-Peres Oslo Accords up to Sharon's withdrawal from Gaza. The Middle-East reality of the recent years made radical changes in his viewpoint. Contact him by email at

This article was originally published in Hebrew and is available at


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