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Obituary: Georges Lamirand

Georges Lamirand, industrialist and politician: born Toulouse 12 June 1899; National Secretary for Youth, Vichy Government 1940-43; Mayor of La Bourbole, Puy de Dome 1955-71; died 5 February 1994.

GEORGES LAMIRAND was a secondary figure in the Vichy government, but he well illustrates the complexity of this period in French history.

An engineer by profession, he was the Director of the Renault factories when the armistice was signed in 1940. As a devout Catholic with an elevated sense of social purpose he was an enthusiastic supporter of Marshal Petain's national revolution. Petain believed that it was essential that the youth of France should be properly educated and that this education should not be confined to the classroom, but that it should encompass many types of youth activites and organisations. He personally appointed Lamirand to be the first Secretaire National de la Jeunesse and as such he became responsible for many special schools and training establishments.

'You are the future of France' was his constant message to young people, envisaging a time when the French nation would not longer be humiliated.

Lamirand has often been described as naive, with his complete confidence in Marshal Petain and his faith in the cult of Joan of Arc and other symbolic gestures. But he was well aware of the darker side of Vichy and he was frequently attacked by the more Fascist of his colleagues, especially when he tried to apply some of their regulations hostile to Jews and foreigners with a certain suppleness. He was also aware of the existence of resistance movements. One day he visited a school in Brittany and asked a teacher about the morale of her pupils. 'It's excellent,' she replied, 'especially now that the British have sunk the Bismarck.'

November 1942 was for Lamirand the breaking-point. When the Allies landed in North Africa he tried to persuade Petain to go there. When he failed in this he lost confidence in Vichy. At what moment he made contact with London is not clear, but he seems to have served the interests of the Resistance until he was dismissed from his post in 1943. He then worked actively in the Resistance.

After the war he went into local politics, and described himself as a left-wing Gaullist. But he remained loyal to Marshal Petain and played an important role in the association for the defence of Petain.

In 1962 a French officer, Jean Bastien-Thiry, was the leader of an attempt to assassinate de Gaulle. He was sentenced to death, but when de Gaulle learnt that there was a possible history of mental instability he started to make inquiries. But Bastien-Thiry's family said that they did not wish to plead mental instability and he was therefore executed. Amongst the family was Lamirand - Bastien-Thiry's father-in-law.