The World at War


Edouard Daladier

French politician and three times premier of France, signer with Neville Chamberlain of the Munich Pact.

     Edouard Daladier was born June 18th, 1884 at Charpentras in France and died October 10th, 1970 in Paris. He was educated as a lawyer and survived four years of trench warfare during World War I. His wartime experiences had a strong effect on Daladier and go far to explain his willingness to appease Hitler. After the war he entered politics and was elected to the Chamber of Deputies in 1919 as a member of the Radical Party from Vaucluse. Daladier quickly made his mark in Paris. In June 1924 he joined the first Herriot government as the minister of colonies. In the turbulent years from 1925 to 1933 he served in several different Cabinets as minister of war, minister of public instruction, or minister of public works.

     On Jan. 31, 1933, he formed his own government, but it survived only until October 1933. In January 1934 he formed a second ministry that survived only four weeks. He continued to move in and out of ministerial assignments as he led his Radical Party into the Popular Front, a coalition with Leon Blum's Socialists and the Communist Party in 1935. Amid a deteriorating international situation, Daladier, in his effort to avoid war, joined the British prime minister, Neville Chamberlain, in signing the Munich Pact with Adolf Hitler's Germany. When France fell to Germany in June of 1940, Daladier was one of those who sought to escape to French North Africa to set up a government-in-exile, but in Morocco he was arrested on Vichy orders and brought back to France. At his trial in Riom in February 1942, he and the other defendants accused the Philippe Pétain group of partial responsibility for the failure to prepare for war. He thereafter was handed over to the Germans, whose prisoner he remained until 1945. After the war he returned to the Chamber of Deputies from 1946 to 1958. He became president of the moribund Radical Party in 1953, and opposed de Gaulle's new constitution of 1958 after which he retired to write lengthy justifications of his record and cast aspersions on Paul Reynaud and Charles de Gaulle. Even in victory he could not let go the partisan past that had proved so costly to France.

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