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Paul Reynaud: “The Situation Is Grave” – an Address To The World – June 16, 1940

Paul Reynaud.
Premier Paul Reynaud -portrait of a man stepping into the abyss.

Premier Paul Reynaud – address to the world – Radio Paris, via Shortwave – June 16, 1940

On June 16, 1940, Prime Minister Paul Reynaud addressed the world with ominous words and an uncertain future.

“Frenchmen, having been called upon by the President of the Republic, I today assume the leadership of the government of France. Certain of the affection of our admirable army that has fought with a heroism worthy of its long military traditions against an enemy that is superior in number and in weapons, certain that by its magnificent resistance it fulfilled its duties to its allies, certain of the support of veterans that I am proud to have commanded, I give to France the gift of my person in order to alleviate her suffering.

In these painful hours, my thoughts go out to the unfortunate refugees who, in an extreme penury, are furrowing our roads. I express to them my compassion and my concern. It is with a heavy heart that I say to you today that the fighting must stop.

I spoke last night with the enemy and asked him if he is ready to seek with us, soldier to soldier, after the honorable fight, the means to put an end to the hostilities. May all Frenchmen rally to the government over which I preside during this difficult ordeal and calm their anxieties, so that they can better listen only to the faith they have in the destiny of the fatherland.”

Paul Reynaud became premier on March 21, 1940. He made de Gaulle undersecretary of state for war and, as France was collapsing under the German onslaught that May, he urged French resistance and maintenance of the alliance with Britain. But Marshal Philippe Pétain, a World War I hero whom Reynaud had made vice-premier to strengthen his cabinet, and other ministers preferred armistice with Germany. Unwilling to be party to an armistice, Reynaud resigned on June 16; arrested shortly thereafter, he was kept in captivity for the duration of the war.

Here are the addresses given by Paul Reynaud on June 16, 1940 – one as it came directly from Paris Radio and the other with translation as broadcast by NBC.

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