The World at War


Albert Lebrun

French Politician

Born: August 29, 1871 at Mercy-le-Haut, Lorraine
Died: March 6, 1950 at Paris

President of the Republic: May 10, 1932 - July 10, 1940

     Lebrun gave up a promising career as mining engineer to enter politics at age 29. He was elected to the Chamber of Deputies in 1900, received his first cabinet appointment, Minister of Colonies in 1911 and served in Clemenceau's Union Sacree government as Blockade Minister and Minister for Liberated Regions from 1917 to 1919. He moved to the Senate in 1920 as a member of the conservative Democratic Alliance and rose to the presidency of that body in 1931. Lebrun was elected President of the Republic in 1932 following the assassination of Paul Doumer.

     Lebrun's selection as Head of State owed more to his lack of enemies than to his convictions. He scrupulously observed the constitutional limitations of presidential power. His deference to parliament was rewarded in 1939 when became only the second man to win reelection as President under the Third Republic.

     The Assembly's choice of weak and indecisive presidents, perhaps tolerable in peacetime, proved fatal when war demanded national leadership. Lebrun was emotional. Laval described him as a man, "who cried whenever a cloud covered the sun". He was also lapsing into senility when the crisis struck in 1940. Third Republic presidents had few powers beyond approving the appointment of premiers but Lebrun's acceptance of Reynaud's resignation and approval of Petain doomed the constitutional order. He deferred to the National Assembly's July 10, 1940 vote and yielded power to without resigning.

     Lebrun retired to Vizille in the Italian zone of occupation. He was arrested after the Germans moved in and deported to Austria from 1943 to 1945. He met with de Gaulle shortly after the war to acknowledge the General's leadership. He blamed Weygand's defeatism for his decision to accept the armistice and noted that he had never formally resigned because the dissolution of the National Assembly left no one to whom he could offer a resignation.

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