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Pierre Laval

Pierre Laval (June 28, 1883 - October 15, 1945) was a French politician and Prime Minister of France under the Vichy France government.

He was born in Châteldon and after gaining a degree he worked as a lawyer, in Paris from 1907. A socialist, he was elected to the Chamber of Deputies as a member of SFIO in 1903. He did not serve in WW I but the period saw a change to his politics as he moved towards the right. He lost the first post-war election, he became mayor of Aubervillers in 1924 and left the socialist party, he was elected to the French Senate in 1927.

A prominent figure in the 1930s governments he was frequently in cabinet and was Prime Minister from January 27, 1931 to February 6, 1932 (succeeding André Tardieu) and again from June 7, 1935. During his second stint as Prime Minister in October 1935, together with the British foreign minister, Samuel Hoare, he proposed a solution to the Abyssinia crisis. Leaked to the media in December the realpolitik Hoare-Laval Pact was widely denounced and Laval was forced to resign on January 22, 1936.

Pierre Laval was TIME magazine's 1931 Man of the Year.

The victory of the Front Populaire in 1936 meant that Laval returned to business and following the German occupation his media outlets were prominent in forcing out the existing government and then supporting the new government of Henri Philippe Pétain and on July 12, 1940 Laval became vice-president together with Jean-Francois Darlan.

Laval was enthusiastically pro-Nazi, his demands for a Franco-German military alliance led to him being sacked from the government and arrested in December 13, 1940. The German ambassador in France, Otto Abetz, had him freed and moved to Paris. He was injured in an assassination attempt on August 27, 1941 at a Legion des Volontaires Francais review but recovered and was recalled into the Vichy government on April 18, 1942. Laval was largely blamed for the increase in anti-Jewish activities and also the decision to send French workers to Germany through la releve and the later the Service du Travail Obligatoire. The creation of the Vichy Milice, the wartime police, in January, 1943 has also been credited to Laval.

Following the Allied invasion of France the government moved from Vichy to Belfort and then to Germany and Sigmaringen in August, 1944. In May 1945 Laval fled, he was held in Austria and given over to US forces. On July 30, 1945 he was handed to the new French government. Accused of collaboration and violating state security he was tried and sentenced to death. After a failed attempt at suicide he was executed by firing squad at Fresnes prison, near Paris.

Preceded by:
Théodore Steeg
Prime Ministers of France
Followed by:
André Tardieu
Preceded by:
Fernand Bouisson
Prime Ministers of France
Followed by:
Albert Sarraut
Preceded by:
Philippe Pétain
Prime Ministers of France
Followed by:
Charles de Gaulle