History

Was it Charles de Gaulle who Betrayed Europe to the Soviets

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The Kremlin during the Second World War acknowledged Charles de Gaulle as the leader of the government in exile of Free France because he had helped torpedo Winston Churchill’s plan for the Western allies to occupy Central Europe, according to French historian and former head of Le Figaro Magazine Henri-Christian Giraud in his book ‘De Gaulle and the Communists’.

The book has been re-released, but this time supplemented with Russian archive material. The book has proven so controversial and harmful to the image of de Gaulle that Giraud has only managed to defend his thesis due to the multitude of sources he used. This is especially important due to the fact that the author is the grandson of Henri Giraud, who was de Gaulle’s main rival in the struggle to take over the French Resistance. Hence, the creation of this monumental, 1,000-page tome took 10 years of academic research.

‘In response to accusations of subjectivity, I can only defend myself with the strength of the arguments I am using. There are many of them, and they have never been questioned for a simple reason; that I base my story on the reports of leading figures in the Gaullist movement,’ Giraud told the Polish media outlet Rzeczpospolita.

Until now, de Gaulle, the founder of the Fifth French Republic, has been viewed in Poland as a pristine figure and one of Warsaw’s main roundabouts bear his name. Yet, after reading Giraud’s book, one can have doubts about whether he deserves such an honour. Although the general found safety as a fugitive in London after France’s fall, he had already contacted the Soviets in secret behind the backs of the English in November 1940 when Germany and the USSR was still tied by the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact.

De Gaulle became an important partner for Stalin following Hitler’s preemptive strike on the Soviet Union in June 1941. Very quickly, the fundamental conflict between Stalin and Churchill appeared which involved the allies’ plan to open a second front. Moscow wanted the landing to take place as far away from the USSR as possible, preferably in Northern France. This would give the Red Army not only enough time to eject the German Wehrmacht from Soviet territory, but also to take over Central Europe and Poland before his Western allies could arrive.

Churchill however had a different idea. He championed the strategy of striking against the ‘soft underbelly of Europe’, the Balkans. Following that would be the liberation of Vienna, Prague and maybe even Poland. President Roosevelt, to whom the final decision fell, went back and forth between the British and Soviets. At the end of 1942, Roosevelt gave in to British demands and agreed to take over North Africa and use it as a base to strike Italy and then Germany itself.

Yet, Stalin had an ace up his sleeve. It was de Gaulle who agreed on the rules of cooperation with Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov in their secret meeting in the Soviet embassy in London on May 24, 1942. The most important condition of this partnership was expressed by de Gaulle’s declaration made five months later: ‘I hope that the Russians will reach Berlin before the Americans.’

This means that the Frenchman would be doing everything he could to reject the allied plan to strike through the Balkans.

This is not the end of the story. The leader of Free France, by breaking his agreement with Polish Prime Minister in Exile Władysław Sikorski, agreed very early to strip Poland of its territories lost to the USSR due to the Nazi-Soviet Pact in exchange for compensation in the West.

He also did not oppose Moscow imposing Communism in Poland, although he had participated in the 1920 battle to push the Soviets back at Warsaw. Finally, in 1944, when Germany still occupied Warsaw, he accepted Stalin’s demand to send French representatives to the Polish Committee of National Liberation which was subordinate to Moscow. In France itself, he agreed for Communists to play a key role in the post-war landscape of France.

In exchange, Moscow would pressure Roosevelt to acknowledge de Gaulle as the leader of Free France. Although General Giraud stood at the helm of 300,000 French troops in North Africa, he was pushed to one side. This opened the way to France becoming one of the four main powers after the war, including gaining an occupation zone in Germany and a permanent UN membership.

This agreement was consummated in the summer of 1944. At the time, the Wehrmacht was so entrenched in France and the French Resistance (despite de Gaulle’s assurances) so weak that the landing in Normandy had to be initiated as late as June 6, 1944, two days after the allied forces attacked and occupied Rome.

In Italy, the allies had four times the number of soldiers (1.6 million) than had the Reich. The road to Vienna was wide open and along with it, the chance that Central Europe and maybe even Warsaw could be occupied by the Western Allies ahead of the Red Army.

De Gaulle, who had earlier led to the marginalization of Giraud, pulled back French troops from Italy at the key moment and moved them to Provence. The Americans, although on a smaller scale, followed in his footsteps.

All that remains is to dot the i’s and cross the t’s. On March 16, de Gaulle sent Soviet-friendly ambassador Roger Garreau to Warsaw. On May 8, 1945, on the day of the capitulation of Germany’s armed forces, he sent Stalin a telegram concerning the ‘gratitude of all of Europe.’ Source

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MICHAEL WALSH is an Irish British-born journalist. His 70 books include best-selling historical books  THE ALL LIES INVASION, WITNESS TO HISTORYTESTIGO DE LA HISTORIA: HISTORIA SIN CENSURA (SPANISH EDITION),  REICH AND WRONG,  HEROES HANG WHEN TRAITORS TRIUMPH , HEROES OF THE REICH,  THE FUHRER’S PROCLAMATION TO THE GERMAN PEOPLE ,  FOR THOSE WHO CANNOT SPEAKMEGACAUST, THE RED BRIGANDSRANSACKING THE REICH,    PORCELAIN OF THE THIRD REICHSupreme Ceramics and Porcelain Lost to War and  DEATH OF A CITY

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