Pierre Mendès France

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Pierre Mendès France, 1968

Pierre Mendès France (born January 11, 1907 in Paris , † October 18, 1982 , also known as PMF in French politics ) was a French politician ( PRS , PSU ). From June 1954 to February 1955 he was Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of the Fourth Republic . Mendès France was the end of the Indochina War , the decolonization of Morocco and Tunisia, as well as the Paris Agreements in which the Federal Republic of Germany , the sovereignty conceded and in the NATO recordings.



The paternal ancestors, belonging to the Marranen , immigrated from Portugal to France between 1500 and 1600 and settled in Bordeaux . They called themselves Mendes de França. Her involvement in the colonization of Santo Domingo was of particular importance in the history of the family . The grandfather married a woman who was not a Marranin for the first time. The father Cerf-David Mendès France moved from Bordeaux to Paris , where he ran a medium-sized retail business with women's clothing. The maternal family emigrated from Strasbourg to Paris in 1870 during the Franco-Prussian War .

In 1933, Pierre Mendès France and Lily Cicurel (1910–1967) married. The marriage had the children of Bernard Mendès France (1934–1991) and the mathematician Michel Mendès France (1936–2018). In his second marriage, Pierre Mendès France was married to the journalist Marie-Claire de Fleurieu (née Servan-Schreiber; daughter of Suzanne Schreiber and sister of Jean-Claude Servan-Schreiber ) since 1971 .

Third Republic

Pierre Mendès France, 1932

Mendès France, who during the Third Republic of in 1924 républicain Parti, radical et radical socialiste- joined, studied law at the University of Paris , he with a doctorate Dr. jur. finished. He continued to study political science at the private École libre des sciences politiques . In 1928, at the age of 21, Mendès France became France's youngest lawyer in Louviers .

In 1932 Mendès France won the Louviers elections for the Radical Party. At the age of 25, he became the youngest member of the National Assembly . He took over the chairmanship of the Customs Committee of the Chamber of Deputies .

Pierre Mendès France became mayor of Louviers in 1935 and State Secretary in the Ministry of Finance of the Popular Front government of Léon Blum in 1938. There, together with Blum's head of cabinet Georges Boris, he became the first French politician to advocate a Keynesian , i.e. demand-oriented economic policy, and in particular proposed one Increase in government military spending to stimulate the economy.

Second World War

When the Second World War broke out , he joined the French Air Force . After the armistice , he was arrested by the Vichy regime authorities . A business trip to North Africa was interpreted as desertion by the military tribunal, which had been brought into line - despite several exonerating witnesses. Mendès France was imprisoned, but in 1942 he managed to escape via Spain and Morocco to Great Britain, where he joined the Free French armed forces under Charles de Gaulle . After his service as a bomber pilot, Mendès France was sent by de Gaulle to the Algiers Committee as his envoy for financial matters . In 1944 he attended the Bretton Woods conference as head of the French delegation.

Provisional government

After de Gaulle's return to liberated Paris in September 1944, he appointed Mendès France as Minister of Economics in the Provisional Government.

Mendès France quickly fell out with Finance Minister René Pleven . While Pleven sought a market economy policy, Mendès France preferred state wage and price controls to curb inflation . When de Gaulle sided with Pleven, Mendès France resigned in April 1945. De Gaulle appreciated his skills, however, and therefore appointed him in 1947 director of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and as French representative at the UN Economic and Social Council .

Fourth republic

When normal political life returned to normal political life in France under the Fourth Republic in 1946 , Mendès France was elected to the National Assembly as a member of the Eure department . In June 1953 he tried to form his first cabinet, but he did not achieve the necessary majority in the National Assembly. Since 1950 he was a consistent opponent of French colonialism . In 1954 the colonial conflict in Indochina had become hopeless for France. After French troops in Đilagen Biên Phủ suffered a decisive defeat in the Battle of Điện Biên Phủ in June 1954 against the Việt Minh troops of General Võ Nguyên Giáp , the government of Joseph Laniel resigned and Mendès France formed on June 19 a new government made up of socialists, radicals and left-wing balkans, in which he himself took over the foreign ministry. Among his ministers was the young François Mitterrand . In parliamentary terms, Mendès France was dependent on the support of the communists.

Mendès France negotiated an immediate ceasefire with the communist Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh at the Geneva Indochina Conference . He believed that there was no choice but to withdraw completely from Indochina. The National Assembly supported his policy with 471 votes to 14. The Indochina Conference made the states of Indochina independent from France - and at least freed France from one of its colonial mortgages. However, part of the French public was dissatisfied with the result; The Catholics in particular saw their Vietnamese fellow believers at the mercy of communism . A wave of predominantly anti-Semitic abuse was poured out over Mendès France. Jean-Marie Le Pen , then a Poujadist member of the National Assembly, declared his “patriotic, almost physical dislike” for Mendès France.

Undeterred, Mendès France contacted the nationalist leaders in Morocco to talk about a French withdrawal. Next he took up negotiations with the Tunisian Neo-Destur party Habib Bourguibas , which in 1956 led to an agreement under his successor Edgar Faure on the complete internal autonomy of Tunisia . On July 31, 1954, he gave his "Speech of Carthage " on this. He also preferred concessions to the nationalists in Algeria , but the fact that there were a million French settlers living there meant that there would be no easy path to decolonization here.

As an advocate for greater European integration, he favored cooperation with other European states, but the National Assembly rejected the proposal for a European Defense Community in late August 1954, mainly out of unease about German participation. Nevertheless, in October 1954 he succeeded in establishing the Western European Union (WEU) and proposed far-reaching economic reform. Konrad Adenauer, on the other hand, at the London Nine Powers Conference in October 1954, at which the Federal Republic's accession to NATO was being prepared, apparently for a Soviet agent of influence and allegedly made anti-Semitic remarks about him. Against great opposition, Mendès France was able to get the National Assembly to accept the Paris Treaties at the end of December 1954 , with which the Federal Republic of Germany was admitted to NATO and the WEU.

His cabinet was overthrown on February 5, 1955 by a vote of no confidence . His internal party rival Edgar Faure followed him in office, he headed a center-right coalition without the socialists but with the Gaullists. In the parliamentary elections in January 1956, the Parti radical split: Faure, who belonged to the more conservative wing of the party, sought an electoral alliance with the center-right parties. Mendès France and his left wing then prompted Faures to be expelled from the party. Instead, they entered into an alliance with the Section française de l'Internationale ouvrière (SFIO; predecessor of today's Socialist Party) and the UDSR of François Mitterrand - under the name Front républicain .

Mendès France hoped that his Parti Radical would bring the modernization and renewal of French politics and sweep away the SFIO, which was looking nostalgically at the 1930s . From February to May 1956 he was a member of the cabinet of the SFIO chief Guy Mollet as Ministre d'État (without portfolio), but resigned because of the controversy over Algeria, which was an important political issue in France at the time. Due to his indulgent stance on the Algeria question, which was viewed as "treasonous" even in his own party, Mendès France had to resign in May 1957 as deputy party leader.

Fifth Republic

Like the majority of the French left, Mendès France opposed de Gaulle's return to power in May 1958, as the escalating crisis in Algeria brought about the collapse of the Fourth Republic. After the army coup in Algeria, he led the Union des Forces Démocratique (Union of Democratic Forces) - an anti-Gullist alliance - u. a. together with Mitterrand, voted against the constitution of the Fifth Republic and lost his seat in the National Assembly in the November 1958 elections. Because of his resistance to de Gaulle, whom he accused of establishing a “presidential dictatorship”, he was excluded from his Parti Radical Socialiste by the majority wing in 1959.

Mendès France then joined the Parti socialiste unifié (PSU), a small party of the intellectual left. After the parliamentary elections in March 1967 he returned to the National Assembly as a member of the PSU for the Isère constituency , but lost his mandate again in de Gaulle's nationwide landslide election victory in the early elections after the May riots in 1968 and then left the PSU. When François Mitterrand founded the Parti socialiste français (PS) in 1971 , Mendès France supported him, but made no effort to make another political comeback. Even after retiring from active politics, he remained the moral figure of integration of all parties in France.


In many French cities streets are named after Mendès France, e.g. B. The 2002 established Avenue Pierre-Mendès-France in the 13th arrondissement of Paris. The University of Grenoble II was named Pierre Mendès-France from 1970 to 2015. A skyscraper of the Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne on rue de Tolbiac in the 13th arrondissement is called Center Pierre-Mendès-France . The Pierre-Mendès-France Institute, established in 1985, is dedicated to documenting and remembering the life and work of the politician. Opened in 1989, Espace Mendès France is a cultural center in Poitiers . In Tunis there is a French school called Lycée Pierre-Mendès-France .


  • Michel Mendès France, Simone Gros: Pierre Mendès France au quotidien. Editions L'Harmattan, Paris 2004, ISBN 978-2-7475-6999-6 .
  • Alexander Werth : The Strange History of Pierre Mendès France and the Great Conflict over French North Africa. Barrie, London 1957.
  • Alain Chatriot: Pierre Mendès France. Pour une République moderne . Armand Colin, Paris 2015, ISBN 978-2-200-60319-9 .

Web links

Commons : Pierre Mendès France  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Alexander Werth: The Strange History of Pierre Mendès France and the Great Conflict over French North Africa. Barrie, London 1957, p. 4.
  2. Alexander Werth: The Strange History of Pierre Mendès France and the Great Conflict over French North Africa. Barrie, London 1957, pp. 5-7.
  3. Alexander Werth: The Strange History of Pierre Mendès France and the Great Conflict over French North Africa. Barrie, London 1957, p. 7.
  4. ^ Robert Gildes: The Past in French History. Yale University Press, 1996, p. 331.
  5. August H. Leugers-Scherzberg: Adenauer's secret statements in the Claridge Hotel in London or the latent anti-Semitism of the Federal German founding chancellor. In: theologie.geschichte Vol. 1 (2006).
  6. ^ Died: Pierre Mendès France. In: Der Spiegel , No. 43/1982 (October 25, 1982), p. 292.
predecessor Office successor
Joseph Laniel Prime Minister of the Fourth Republic
June 19, 1954 to February 5, 1955
Edgar Faure
predecessor Office successor
Georges Bidault Foreign Minister of France
June 19, 1954 to January 20, 1955
Edgar Faure