André François-Poncet

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André François-Poncet
André François-Poncet (standing on the lowest step) as ambassador to Berlin, in front of him Prime Minister Pierre Laval and Foreign Minister Aristide Briand , October 1931
André François-Poncet (left) with Erhard Milch , photo from 1937

André François-Poncet (born June 13, 1887 in Provins , Département Seine-et-Marne , † January 8, 1978 in Paris ) was a French Germanist , politician and diplomat , ambassador of France in the German Empire (1931-1938) and the only French High Commissioner in Germany from 1949 to 1955.

life and work

François-Poncet was the son of a former judge at the Paris Court of Appeal. He attended schools in Meaux and Offenburg in Baden, as well as the Parisian Lycéen Carnot and Henri IV . He then studied German from 1907 to 1910 at the École normal supérieure as well as in Munich , Heidelberg and Berlin . He wrote his dissertation in 1909 on Goethe's elective affinities . Afterwards he was a teacher in Montpellier and a lecturer at the Polytechnic. After being wounded as a reserve officer in World War I , François-Poncet joined the French Foreign Ministry in 1917 and came to Bern as a press attaché . After the war he worked as an observer in the occupied Rhineland and later in Berlin.

François-Poncet was Undersecretary of State for Education, Art and Economics from 1928 to 1931. From August 1931 to 1938 he represented his country as ambassador in Berlin. Poncet was one of the driving personalities who campaigned for an economic understanding between German and French industry. According to Count Harry Kessler , Poncet's idea was “that German heavy industry could find support against its workers in French military power in order to lower their standard of living and to be able to produce cheaper.” After the Nazis came to power in 1933 , he pursued a flexible policy in Germany, the vacillated between understanding and confrontation. Originally, he also wanted to allow the Nazi state a controlled armament. When this plan failed, he sought an alliance directed against Germany. François-Poncet soon returned to a policy of understanding. He hoped that it would improve France's security. From 1938 to 1940 he was ambassador to fascist Italy . In Rome he tried to influence Adolf Hitler through Benito Mussolini .

In 1940 he was briefly a member of the National Council and after the defeat of France was a permanent advisor to the Vichy regime . As a columnist at Le Figaro , he always represented Pétain's politics in Vichy and defended the development of Germany during National Socialism. After the German occupation of Vichy France (November 11, 1942), François-Poncet was arrested by the Germans in 1943 and interned relatively comfortably at Itter Castle . In autumn 1943 it was moved to the Hotel Ifen in Hirschegg in the Kleiner Walsertal. He was held there until the beginning of May 1945. He describes his experiences in Carnets d'un Captif, which appeared in 1952.

After the Second World War , François-Poncet advised the French military governor in occupied Germany and the French government from 1948 . From 1949 to 1955 he worked as his country's high commissioner in the Federal Republic of Germany , where he resided at Ernich Castle. After the Allied High Commission was dissolved in May 1955, he held the position of ambassador in Bonn until September . He was a member of the Académie française ( Fauteuil 18 ) since 1952; also from 1955 to 1967 President of the French Red Cross. From 1955 to 1960 he served as President of the French Council of the European Movement. His son Jean François-Poncet was French Foreign Minister under Valéry Giscard d'Estaing from 1978 to 1981.

Fonts (selection)

  • Souvenirs d'une Ambassade à Berlin . Librairie Ernest Flammarion, Paris
    • As an ambassador in the “Third Reich”. The memories of the French ambassador in Berlin, September 1931 to October 1938. Translated by Erna Stübel. Florian Kupferberg, Mainz 1947
  • Carnets d'un captif . Librairie Arthème Fayard, Paris 1952
    • Prisoner's Diary: Memories of a Witness of the Century . Edited by Thomas Gayda. From the French by Barbara Sommer, Geneviève Unger-Forray. Berlin: Europa-Verlag, 2015
  • The way from Versailles to Potsdam . German 1964


  • Hans Manfred Bock : On the perception of the early Federal Republic of Germany in French diplomacy: The Bonn monthly reports of the High Commissioner André François-Poncet 1949 to 1955 . Francia , 15, 1987, pp. 579-658
  • Claus W. Schäfer: André François-Poncet as ambassador to Berlin (1931–1938) . Oldenbourg, Munich 2004 ISBN 978-3-486-56844-8
  • A witness resigns . In: Der Spiegel . No. 10 , 1955 ( online biography; cover story).
  • Herr Hitler wants to save the peace. England's double game in the summer of 1939 . In: Der Spiegel . No. 38 , 1964 ( online ).
  • Jean-Marc Dreyfus (Ed.): Secret dispatches from Berlin. The French Ambassador François-Poncet and National Socialism. German by Birgit Lamerz-Beckschäfer. WBG, Darmstadt 2018, ISBN 978-3-534-26966-2 .

Web links

Commons : André François-Poncet  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Guido Müller: European social relations after the First World War, The Franco-German Study Committee and the European Cultural Association , Munich 2005, p. 265.
  2. ^ Harry Graf Kessler : Diaries 1918-1937 . Complete edition. Entry December 9, 1931.
  3. Volker Koop : In Hitler's hand. Special prisoners and honorary prisoners of the SS. Böhlau Verlag, Vienna 2010, ISBN 978-3-412-20580-5 , 295 pages.
    Augusta Léon-Jouhaux: Prison pour hommes d'État. Denoël / Gonthier, 1973.
  4. Helmut Vogt : Guardians of the Bonn Republic. The Allied High Commissioners 1949–1955 . Verlag Ferdinand Schöningh, Paderborn 2004, ISBN 3-506-70139-8 , pp. 246-250