Philippe Petain was a French general who rose to prominence during World War I. He joined the army in 1873 as a private, and by 1914 had reached the rank of colonel. During World War I he was commander of the Second Army on the Western Front and was promoted to colonel in 1914. In 1916, Pétain led his troops in successful attacks against German positions at Verdun during World War I. In 1917 Petain became supreme commander of all forces on the Western Front after General Robert Nivelle’s disastrous offensive. An allied counter-offensive began in March 1918 and ended later in the year with Germany signing an armistice which marked end of World War I. Petain’s role in French victory over Germany was widely praised by both political factions and military leaders alike; he was promoted to Marshal of France (the highest rank).

Philippe Petain, Haig, Foch and Pershing, 1918 | Source: Wikipedia

Philippe Petain’s Involvment In WWII

In 1940 when Germany quickly overran Belgium before reaching Paris, France. The at the time, Prime Minister Paul Reynaud, made 84-year-old Philippe Petain his vice premier. Petain along with other government members would prefer an armistice with Germany after seeing their forces defeated. On June 22, 1940 an official armistice was signed by France and Germany. It split the north into German territory and the south would be administered by Pétain.

Railway Car Where June 22, 1940 Armistice Was Signed | Source: Wikipedia

Petain believed that cooperation would be the safest way to save the rest of the country. Under Petain the remaining parts of France implemented similar laws as Germans of the time. The motto of the territory under his control was “Work, Family, and Fatherland”. In 1944 General Charles de Gaulle eventually liberates Paris and Petain is detained and sent to prison where he eventually dies. Do you think that Philippe Petain was a traitor or a victim of circumstance?

Map of France During German WW2 Occupation | Source: Britannica

This Marshal Philippe Petain album contains three French coins that circulated during different phases of Marshal Petain’s life. The 5 centime coin was circulated during the First World War when Pertain became a national hero. The 2 Vichy franc coin circulated during Pertain’s reign as the head of the French State during the Second World War. It says “Work, Family, and Fatherland”. The 10 franc coin circulated during Pertain’s imprisonment.

Verdun to Vichy: Marshal Philippe Petain and the Making of a Collaborator Coin Set | Source: Banknote World

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