Laval, Pierre

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Laval, Pierre

(pyĕr läväl`), 1883–1945, French politician. Elected (1914) to the chamber of deputies as a Socialist, he held various cabinet posts and in 1926 became a senator as an Independent, moving away from his leftist affiliations. In 1931–32 and 1935–36 he was premier and foreign minister. With Sir Samuel Hoare (later Viscount TemplewoodTemplewood, Samuel John Gurney Hoare, 1st Viscount,
1880–1959, British statesman. He entered parliament as a Conservative in 1910, served (1922–24, 1924–29) as secretary of state for air, and in 1931
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), he proposed (Dec., 1935) a settlement to halt the Italian conquest of Ethiopia; the plan was seen as appeasement of Benito MussoliniMussolini, Benito
, 1883–1945, Italian dictator and leader of the Fascist movement. Early Career

His father, an ardent Socialist, was a blacksmith; his mother was a teacher.
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, and his government collapsed. After the start of World War II and the fall of France in 1940, Laval reached new prominence. In the VichyVichy
, city (1990 pop. 28,048), Allier dept., central France, on the Allier River. Vichy's hot mineral springs made it one of the foremost spas in Europe, with a casino (now a convention center) and grand hotels.
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 government under Marshal Pétain he became vice premier and foreign minister, but in Dec., 1940, he was dismissed and replaced by Admiral DarlanDarlan, Jean François
, 1881–1942, French admiral. A career naval officer, he became commander of the French navy in 1939 and joined the Vichy government (see under Vichy) in 1940 as minister of the navy. After the fall of Pierre Laval, Darlan was made (Feb.
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, apparently on suspicion that he was planning to overthrow Pétain. Entering the German-occupied part of France, Laval outspokenly advocated collaboration with Germany. Pétain reinstated Laval in Apr., 1942, and in November gave him dictatorial powers. Laval's government drafted laborers for German factories, cooperated in the persecution and deportation of Jews to death camps, authorized a French fascist militia, and instituted a rule of terror. After the Allied invasion of France he was taken (Aug., 1944) with the retreating Germans to Germany. He fled (May, 1945) to Spain, was expelled, and finally surrendered in Austria to American forces, which extradited him to France. Tried for treason, he was sentenced to death, and after an unsuccessful attempt at suicide he was executed. While the verdict may have been just, Laval's trial was conducted so poorly that it was denounced by many. Laval defended himself brilliantly and ascribed patriotic motives to his opportunist policies. His notes for his defense were edited by his daughter, Josée Laval, comtesse de Chambrun, and appeared in English in 1948.


See biography by Hubert Cole (1963); D. Thompson, Two Frenchmen: Pierre Laval and Charles de Gaulle (1951); G. Warner, Pierre Laval and the Eclipse of France (1968).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Laval, Pierre


Born June 28, 1883, in Châteldon; died Oct. 15, 1945, in Paris. French statesman. A lawyer by profession.

Laval was a parliamentary deputy from 1914 to 1919 and from 1924 to 1927. From 1927 to 1940 he was a senator. He was a member of the government for several terms. From January 1931 to January 1932 and from June 1935 to January 1936 he was prime minister; from October 1934 to June 1935 he was minister of foreign affairs. In 1935 he concluded agreements with Italy (the Rome Pact) and Great Britain (the Hoare-Laval Agreement of 1935), which facilitated aggression by fascist Italy. He bowed to the pressure of public opinion and on May 2, 1935, signed the Franco-Soviet mutual aid pact prepared by L. Barthou; however, he stubbornly avoided ratifying and implementing the agreement. From the beginning of World War II he held a defeatist position, seeking the conclusion of a separate peace with fascist Germany. On June 23, 1940, after France signed the armistice, Laval assumed the post of state minister in the Pétain government. From July 12 to Dec. 13, 1940, he was vice-premier. He acted as an outright accomplice of the Hitlerites. From April 1942 to August 1944 he was prime minister of the collaborationist Vichy government. The moment France was liberated (1944), he fled the country. He was arrested in the American occupation zone of Austria and in August 1945 turned over to the French authorities. At a court trial he was sentenced to death as a traitor and was subsequently shot.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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