Georges Pompidou

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Georges Pompidou (1965)

Georges Jean Raymond Pompidou [ ʒɔʀʒ pɔ̃piˈdu ] (born July 5, 1911 in Montboudif , Cantal , † April 2, 1974 in Paris ) was a French politician of the Gaullist movement. After Charles de Gaulle , Pompidou was the second president of the Fifth Republic . He ruled from June 20, 1969 until his death on April 2, 1974.


Origin, education and family

Birthplace of Georges Pompidou in Montboudif

Georges Jean Raymond Pompidou was the son of a family of teachers and the grandchild of farmers who lived under extremely simple circumstances in the French Massif Central . The family knew how to use the framework conditions under the Third Republic : the grandfather was still a simple farmer, the father was already a primary school teacher and the son was both a functionary and a top politician.

Georges started school in Albi in the south of France , where his father also taught. He was a brilliant high school student and in 1927 won the annual concours général in ancient Greek . After he had passed the Baccalauréat ( Abitur ) in the high school Lapérouse d'Albi , he devoted himself to the preparatory classes (→ Classe préparatoire ) for admission to one of the Grandes écoles of France. He made the acquaintance of Léopold Sédar Senghor and Aimé Césaire at the Lycée Louis-le-Grand in Paris . In 1931 he was accepted into the École normal supérieure and received his doctorate in 1934 as the best of his class in classical philology (→ agrégation de lettres classiques). Pompidou then entered high school education and taught first in the Lycée Saint-Charles of Marseille and later in the Lycée Henri IV of Paris .

On October 29, 1935, he married the law student Claude Cahour (1912-2007). The couple adopted a son ( Alain Pompidou , * 1942).

Georges Pompidou graduated from the NCO school in Saint-Maixent-l'École . During the Second World War , Pompidou was divided into the 141st (Alpine) Infantry Regiment in 1940 and demobilized again after the defeat in June 1940 .

Political career

Post-war years (1946–1958)

Georges Pompidou, who at the end of the Second World War was still a teacher at the Lycée Henri IV , never made a secret of the fact that he had not been involved in the Resistance . Via the detour of friends who were close to General Charles de Gaulle - now President of the Provisional Government - he was appointed to the civil service. Pompidou benefited from the fact that he could serve as a liaison to the universities. During the future years of the Fourth Republic, he held the following public and private-sector functions:

  • Project manager for the Ministry of Education
  • After de Gaulle's temporary departure, he remained in the close advisory circle of the general and was particularly committed to the Anne de Gaulle Foundation
  • Director of the Tourism Commissariat (1946–1949)

Algerian crisis (1958–1962)

When General de Gaulle returned to power in 1958 from his voluntarily chosen "exile" in Colombey-les-Deux-Églises and soon afterwards proclaimed the Fifth Republic , Georges Pompidou became head of cabinet and his closest confidante. In 1959 he was nominated to the Constitutional Council, where he worked until 1962. He took the Algerian independence movement Front de Libération Nationale (FLN) directly as well prepared as part of the secret preliminary negotiations in Neuchâtel and Lucerne , the agreements of Evian before which the Algerian war finally ended, the independence of Algeria result had and France threatening ago Civil war preserved.

Prime Minister (1962–1968)

Georges Pompidou, left, with Federal Chancellor Ludwig Erhard , 1965

From April 15, 1962 to July 13, 1968, Georges Pompidou was Prime Minister under Charles de Gaulle. He advocated France's withdrawal from the military integration of NATO as well as de Gaulle's "No" to Great Britain joining the EEC .

After the French people had confirmed the Évian treaties in a referendum, Georges Pompidou, who was hardly known by the general public at the time, was appointed Prime Minister on April 14, 1962 as the successor to Michel Debre . His career was almost interrupted when he threatened to resign to obtain von de Gaulle's pardon for a coup d'état from Algiers who had been sentenced to death by shooting .

Pompidou worked during the so-called “Trente Glorieuses” from 1945 to 1974, an era characterized by long boom phases, which transformed France into a progressive, economically prosperous country of the western affluent society under the sign of technocracy . Despite some upheavals ( decolonization , problems in the relationship between political leadership and the military, strikes , May 1968 ) Pompidou embodied the spirit of optimism within the new Gaullist movement like no other in the 1960s.

In 1967 Pompidou was elected MP for the 2nd district of the Cantal department in the first ballot .

During the student unrest of May 1968 , Pompidou negotiated tenaciously and patiently with union leaders and the employers' association, receiving valuable support from then Secretary of State for Labor Jacques Chirac . These talks led to the Grenelle Agreement , which, however, was rejected by the grassroots and therefore never came into force. In this acute situation, Pompidou advised the dissolution of the National Assembly and with this far-reaching measure finally prevailed. Many around General de Gaulle considered this to be political suicide because of the new elections that were now required, in view of the radical left-wing forces that dominated the streets and enjoyed popular sympathy. They saw holding a referendum as the less risky way out of the impasse. Disgruntled and reluctant, de Gaulle ultimately followed his Prime Minister's request. Lo and behold: the new elections were a triumph for the Gaullists. Their party, the Union pour la défense de la République (UDR), won an absolute majority, Pompidou was confirmed in his constituency, the left was defeated and some of its protagonists (including the former and once popular Prime Minister Pierre Mendès France ) became voted out. But de Gaulle, annoyed by the successful coup of his protégé and unsettled in his authority, forced Pompidou to resign from the office of prime minister. This was replaced on July 10, 1968 by Maurice Couve de Murville and the general commanded him to the second row, where he was not assigned any specific function (original: en réserve de la Republique ).

When Pompidou was asked in a 1969 interview by French-speaking Switzerland television whether he saw a political future for himself, he replied: “I probably have no political future; I have a political past and I may one day - God willing - have a national vocation. ”(Original:“ Je ne pense pas avoir d'avenir politique; j'ai un passé politique; j'aurai peut-être un jour, si Dieu le veut, un destin national »). This declaration earned him an official reprimand from the Élysées and was dismissed as premature .

In the post-1968 era, Georges Pompidou came under suspicion in connection with the so-called Marković affair of maintaining contacts with the underworld. (Marković was a former bodyguard of popular actor Alain Delon and was found murdered in a garbage dump). In the course of the investigation, Pompidou's wife, Claude, was attempted to be compromised by police questioning spreading rumors that there were photos of them showing group sex orgies. Deeply hurt by this dishonorable gossip, Pompidou turned to the Élysée and complained that he had not been warned and that no denials were given. However, his complaint was met with little understanding there. This was the moment that finally shattered the relationship between Pompidou and his political foster father de Gaulle. He devoted himself to his offices in the province: Councilor of Cajarc (1965–1969) and Member of the Cantal Department (1968–1969). The latter also earned him a seat in the National Assembly, in the midst of the Gaullist faction Union pour la défense de la République .

President (1969–1974)


On April 29, 1969, Charles de Gaulle resigned. In the presidential elections that followed, Pompidou prevailed on June 15, 1969 in the second ballot against Alain Poher with 55.2% of the vote and became French President . He stayed that way until his death in 1974.

A first focus of his foreign policy was to lead France out of the diplomatic isolation in which the country found itself. If the interests of France were properly guaranteed, he was entirely European. He also gave the green light to expand the EEC from six to nine member states. Thus, Great Britain could now join the community, which his predecessor de Gaulle had blocked. Nonetheless, he tried to fend off the growing influence of the Anglo-Saxon axis (and thus especially the United States ), not only on the political and military level, but also in terms of the impact on the French language and culture. He was skeptical of the zeitgeist of pushing the USSR into isolation. A purely bipolar world, in which powers like France no longer played an essential role, could not be what he wanted. Pompidou knew just as little what to do with the Germans as Ludwig Erhard did with the French.

At home, Pompidou made a decisive contribution to modernizing France. Repeatedly he called on his compatriots not to remain in sentimentality. Under his presidency, the economic framework was adapted to the new needs and strengthened. Until the 1970s, France was largely a rural country. With the advancing industrialization , many jobs shifted away from agriculture to industry. Pompidou particularly promoted the French auto industry and private transport . With this in mind, entire neighborhoods were sacrificed in many cities to make way for expressways. On the other hand, numerous branch lines were finally shut down in the rail transport sector , so that nowadays many rural towns can only be reached by road. Agriculture has been rationalized through the use of fertilizers and pesticides while intensifying it (see French economy # Agriculture ). In energy policy , the course was set in the direction of nuclear power (see nuclear energy in France ). The Center Georges Pompidou in Paris deserves a special mention when it comes to services in the cultural field . Finally, he also reformed the structures of the state television broadcasters, which had previously been considered boring, servile and uncritical, and called on television journalists to become more involved.

The presidency

After the Fourth Republic of France, which was characterized by numerous changes of government and the dissolution of parliament, de Gaulle had created a form of government with the Fifth Republic , which gave the President of the Republic such a high degree of authority and responsibility as can only be found in a few democratic systems. The president was also elected for seven years (since 2000 only for five years), which was a long time in international comparison. When Charles de Gaulle failed in April 1969 with a referendum on the realignment and upgrading of the Senate , which he had hyped up to a vote of confidence without external pressure, he resigned immediately, as announced, in order to clear the way for new elections. The President of the Senate, Alain Poher, duly acted as interim president. For the election of the President of the Republic (also known as the "President of the Republic"), two ballots are usually required, whereby only the two best placed in the first ballot qualify for the second ballot.

The 1969 election

Georges Pompidou applied for candidacy on April 29 and received the green light from his Gaullist party that same day. Only the left wing of the Union pour la defense de la République (UDR) behind René Capitant , who was also considering running for a moment, and Louis Vallon did not support him. Valéry Giscard d'Estaing took a zigzag course: first he tried to launch Antoine Pinay , who however refused, then he approached Alain Poher before he decided to support Pompidou's candidacy. With an offensive in the direction of the centralists, Pompidou tried to restore the old majority and succeeded in winning René Pleven , Joseph Fontanet and Jacques Duhamel for himself. In contrast to the 1965 elections, the left could not agree on a common candidate.

According to election observers, Pompidou's most dangerous opponent, Alain Poher, initially had the better cards for the second and decisive ballot, but Pompidou managed to reverse this tendency by conducting a very active election campaign, especially in the provinces, and emphasizing his alliance with the aforementioned centralists .

The first ballot took place on June 1st and resulted in the following result:

Voting shares in the 1st ballot for the French President 1969 (broken down by candidate)
  candidate Political party comment %
  Georges Pompidou Union des démocrates pour la République supported by the Républicains indépendants Gaullists supported by the free republicans 44.5
  Alain Poher Center democrate Democratic center 23.3
  Jacques Duclos Parti communiste français Communist Party of France 21.3
  Gaston Defferre Section française de l'Internationale ouvrière French section of the Workers' International 5.0
  Michel Rocard Parti socialiste unifié Socialist Unity Party 3.6
  Louis Ducatel Radical-Socialiste Indépendant Independent, radical socialist 1.3
  Alain Krivine Ligue Communiste Trotskyist 1.1

With this result, Georges Pompidou and Alain Poher passed the hurdle for the second ballot. With no left-wing candidate left in the running, the Communist Party called on its voters to boycott, and so the second ballot became a purely formal matter. Pompidou won it on June 15 with 58.2 percent of the valid votes. He took office on June 19 and nominated Jacques Chaban-Delmas as his first prime minister the following day.

Stations of his presidency

Jacques Chaban-Delmas Government (June 20, 1969– July 5, 1972)

  • 1969
  • June 20: Jacques Chaban-Delmas is appointed Prime Minister.
  • June 26th: Under the motto The New Society , Chaban-Delmas presents his government program, which is to be supported by the following four pillars: Extension of fundamental rights ( libertés publiques ), participation in companies, strengthening of regional authorities and promotion of solidarity.
  • September 16: In a fundamental political debate, Chaban-Delmas expresses the will to ensure that real competition is introduced between the two state television chains ORTF . Two autonomous news channels under separate management should ensure this in the future.
  • December: The Renault Workers' Ownership Act is passed.
  • December 15th: Pompidou, who is enthusiastic about culture, announces the establishment of a center for contemporary art in Paris. On January 31, 1977 it was inaugurated as the "Center Beaubourg". After Pompidou's death it was named Center Georges-Pompidou .
  • 1970
  • January 7th: The calculation of the statutory minimum wage receives a new basis. The SMIG is replaced by the SMIC .
  • February 28: Pompidou gives a speech in Chicago on environmental problems in cities.
  • June 4th: The law on vandalism ( Loi anticasseurs ) is passed.
  • July 2nd: Pompidou declaration regarding the state television chains (ORTF) that reporting must be free, independent and impartial. He reminds the ORTF journalists that their word has weight with the French.
  • November 9: Charles de Gaulle dies on his country estate in Colombey-les-Deux-Églises . Pompidou addresses the French people and begins his address with the words: Le général de Gaulle est mort. La France est veuve… (General de Gaulle is dead. France is now widowed…).
  • 1971
  • January: Cabinet reshuffle
  • November 23: Pompidou makes use of his grace and gives Paul Touvier an amnesty . The public is indignant about this.
Federal Chancellor Willy Brandt gives a dinner for Georges Pompidou at Gymnich Palace , 1972
  • 1972
  • January 19: The satirical newspaper Le Canard enchaîné publishes a copy of Prime Minister Chaban-Delmas' tax return.
  • July 3: The 18th Franco-German summit takes place in Bonn .
  • July 5th: Chaban-Delmas is forced to resign at the request of President Georges Pompidou and is replaced by Pierre Messmer.

Pierre Messmer Government (July 7, 1972 - May 27, 1974)

  • 1972
  • July 14th: On the French national holiday, the new statute for the national television chains ORTF comes into force. Arthur Conte becomes president .
  • December 31: The third channel of the ORTF goes on air for the first time.
  • 1973
  • January 3: The law known as Loi Rothschild enters into force. The French legal text: Loi No. 73–7: Le Trésor public ne peut être présentateur de ses propres effets à l'escompte de la Banque de France . As a result, the French state is forced to borrow on the private financial market, which means that the national debt increases continuously from this point on. The law, which was repealed in 1993 as part of the implementation of the Maastricht Treaty , was given the nickname Loi Pompidou-Giscard or Loi Rothschild , alluding to Georges Pompidou's previous function as General Manager of Banque Rothschild .
  • January: The EEC becomes a community of nine.
  • March 4th and 11th: The legislative elections end with a victory for the Gaullist UDR and its allies the independent Republicans. Pompidou can therefore continue to rely on a comfortable majority in Parliament.
  • April 3: Pompidou proposes an amendment to the constitution that would reduce the presidential term from seven to five years. (This postulate was only implemented in 2000 under President Jacques Chirac ).
  • April 5: Cabinet reshuffle
Georges Pompidou with the President of the United States Richard Nixon, 1973, in Reykjavík (Iceland).
  • June 1: French- US summit in Reykjavík . Georges Pompidou warns President Richard Nixon of a unilateral troop withdrawal from Europe.
  • June 12th: The watch factory Lip opens bankruptcy proceedings. The plant in Besançon is occupied and the workers continue to run it autonomously for a while. Eventually, however, it comes to a shutdown.
  • June 21 and 22: Pompidou meets Federal Chancellor Willy Brandt in Bonn.
  • August 25: Local farmers, environmentalists and anti-militarists demonstrate against the expansion of the military training area on the Larzac plateau in southern France .
  • October 17: The decision of OPEC to sharply increase the price of oil and the oil embargo against the Israeli allies in the Yom Kippur War trigger the first oil crisis . Although France is not directly affected by the embargo, concerns about dependence in the energy sector are growing in the country.
  • October 24: The constitutional amendment to shorten the presidential term from seven to five years is postponed indefinitely.
  • December 22nd: The voluntary curbing of crude oil exports by some Arab countries by 25% means that the oil price continues to rise sharply. This is seriously affecting France's trade balance .
  • December 27th: Introduction of Loi Royer . This law aims to protect retail trade in the inner cities by restricting the opening hours of the large shopping centers , which are very common in the suburbs.
  • End of December: France has 421,000 unemployed; that is 2.7% of the working population.
  • 1974
  • March 1: Cabinet reshuffle again.
  • March 11-13: Pompidou's last trip abroad takes him to the USSR , where he meets Leonid Brezhnev . The press photos show the French President as a visibly aged man with a sick, bloated face. This is fueling speculation about his health.
  • April 2: Pompidou dies in office. The President of the Senate, Alain Poher, is once again taking over state affairs ad interim.
  • April 6: The day of the funeral is declared a national day of mourning.

Pompidous death

Georges Pompidous burial site in Orvilliers , Yvelines department

When Pompidou, who suffered from Waldenström's disease, had to cancel his appointments, official authorities spoke of the President's "cold". A week before his death, the Élysée Palace described his condition as having "a slight but painful vascular disease." On April 2, 1974, he died of acute blood poisoning in his studio on île Saint-Louis in Paris . The church memorial service took place on April 6, 1974 in Notre Dame de Paris . The mourners included US President Richard Nixon , British Prime Minister Edward Heath , Federal Chancellor Willy Brandt , King Hassan of Morocco, Tunisian President Habib Bourguiba and Prince Rainier .

After his death, there was a public debate over the question of whether the president had the right to gloss over or cover up his state of health. It was finally agreed that future heads of state must periodically publish an official health bulletin. And so it happened - but only until the next critical point in time: François Mitterrand also glossed over his state of health from the beginning to the end of his reign by keeping his prostate cancer a secret.

Pompidou's successor was Valéry Giscard d'Estaing ; he remained president until 1981.



As French President, Georges Pompidou was ex officio Co-Prince of Andorra .

In an urgent judicial procedure before the Tribunal de Grande Instance in Paris, the well-known lawyer René Floriot obtained the ban on the publication of an advertisement which was commissioned by the company Mercury and which was to be published in the news magazine L'Express . The controversial advertisement contained a photo that showed Pompidou on vacation in Brittany on a boat equipped with an outboard motor from the company mentioned.


  • 1966, quoted by Thierry Desjardins to Jacques Chirac, who submitted laws for him to sign: Mais arrêtez donc d'emmerder les Français! (Stop pissing off the French!)
  • 1969, on February 13th, in an interview on Télévision Suisse Romande , a French television company , when Pompidou was asked whether he still saw a political future for himself: Je ne pense pas avoir d'avenir politique; j'ai un passé politique; j'aurai peut-être un jour, si Dieu le veut, un destin national. (I probably don't have a political future; I have a political past and I may, God willing, one day have a national calling.)
  • 1970, published on July 8th in Canard enchaîné, illustrated by the cartoonist Leffel : La puissance économique allemande doit être pour nous un aiguillon, et non pas une terreur. (The strength of the German economy should spur us on, but not frighten us.)
  • 1970, on the occasion of the televised address after de Gaulle's death: Français, Françaises, le général de Gaulle est mort, la France est veuve ... (Dear French, General de Gaulle is dead. France is now widowed ...)
  • 1971, Il faut adapter la ville à l'automobile. (You have to adapt the city to the automobile.)
  • 1972, at the press conference on November 15: Chère vieille France! La bonne cuisine! Les Folies-Bergère! Le Gai-Paris! La Haute-Couture […]! C'est terminé! La France a commencé et largement entamé une industrial revolution. (Beloved, old France! The good kitchen! The Folies Bergère ! The Gai-Paris ! The haute couture ! […] This is over! An industrial revolution has begun in France, which is already well advanced!)
  • 1973, when journalists questioned the newly inaugurated Paris ring road: Les Français aiment la bagnole! (The French just love their box!)
  • In his notes: Pour rétablir une vérité. published in 1982 as a book: L'année 1968 a eu un goût de cendre. (1968 had a taste of the scorched.)

See also

Web links

Commons : Georges Pompidou  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Georges Pompidou sur le site de la mairie d'Albi ( Memento from May 9, 2013 in the Internet Archive )
  2. Exclusive interview by Georges Pompidou for Télévision Suisse Romande on February 13, 1969.
  3. Peter Scholl-Latour: Between the Fronts: Experienced World History. Ullstein-Verlag, 2008, ISBN 978-3-548-37234-1 .
  4. Niklaus Meienberg: The Blaring of the Gallic Rooster: Reports from France. Limmat-Verlag, Zurich 1987, ISBN 3-85791-123-9 .
  5. ^ Ernst Weisenfeld: Poher contra Pompidou. In: time online. May 16, 1969.
  6. Pompidou president! - Candidate Pompidou is conducting an American election campaign ( Memento of the original from November 11, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. from May 30, 1969 on Télévision Suisse Romande @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  7. Le discours du Président Pompidou à Chicago on
  8. Allocution prononcée par le président Pompidou au dîner offert par le chancelier Brandt au château de Gymnich (PDF; 98 kB)
  9. Recording of the conversation between Willy Brandt and Georges Pompidou (June 21, 1973)
  10. ^ Ernst Weisenfeld: History of France since 1945: from de Gaulle to the present. 3rd, completely revised and updated edition. Beck, Munich 1997, ISBN 3-406-42007-9 , p. 338.
  11. Jean Schoos : The medals and decorations of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and the former Duchy of Nassau in the past and present. Verlag der Sankt-Paulus Druckerei AG, Luxembourg 1990, ISBN 2-87963-048-7 , p. 344.