French Leader. He was born in Auvergnac, France and was well educated. Pierre Laval earned degrees in law and natural sciences. As a member of the Socialist Party, Laval entered into a successful political career being elected to parliament then holding the cabinet posts of foreign minister then prime minster. During the conquest of Europe by Hitler during the Second World War, the Fuhrer set up Nazi controlled provisional governments in conquered nations appointing their own citizens as a puppet leader. Every country in Europe had its Quisling. France, unfortunately had two: Philippe Petain and Pierre Laval. These governments allowed the Germans to control large areas of the continent without using their troops or resources. Laval was the leading spokesman for a faction demanding a new order in the wake of the French defeat. He owned a large commercial empire of newspapers, printing shops and radio stations which he used to support Petain and the formation of a Vichy government. In a speech to the National Assembly, he convinced them to abdicate its powers to Petain. The Marshal rewarded him with appointment as his Deputy (next in line). Laval met with Hitler offering his loyalty and after a meeting with Petain, the Marshal reciprocated. A Nazi puppet state was born with its capitol in Vichy, France. Germans were now in control of a large part of France without an invasion then leaving troops for occupation duty. Laval's tracheary was not without risk, Petain wary of his subordinate's quest for power had him dismissed and arrested. The Germans intervened and placed him under their protection and barely a year later named him head of the Vichy government with Petain as a figurehead. While reviewing Foreign Legion troops at Versailles, he was shot four times by a young student, Paul Collette, but survived his wounds and was returned to power. Vichy factories turned out war goods for the Nazi cause. Laval now ordered the French police to round up Jews for deportation to Nazi Germany, sent skilled laborers to Germany in exchange for French prisoners of war and gave permission for the Gestapo to hunt down French Resistance members in its territory. After the allied landings, Laval moved his government to Belfort and later fled to Sigmaringen, Germany. He was flown to Spain a few days before the German surrender. Franco had him arrested and turned over to the Americans in Austria who extradited him to French authorities. He was tried, convicted and executed for collaboration at Fresnes Prison in Paris at age sixty one.
Bio by: Donald Greyfield