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La Cagoule (The Cowl, press nickname coined by the Action Française nationalist Maurice Pujo), officially called Comité secret d'action révolutionnaire (Secret Committee of Revolutionary Action), was a violent French fascist-leaning and anti-communist group, active in the 1930s, and designed to attempt the overthrow of the French Third Republic. Its leader was Eugène Deloncle.

Contents

In the Third Republic

Prominent members of the Cagoule (Cagoulards) included Eugène Schueller, the founder of the French cosmetics giant L'Oréal, who was also founder of the group. Some of the early meetings of the Cagoule took place at l'Oréal headquarters, and some former Cagoulards, such as Jacques Corrèze, were later hired as executives. Another important activist was Joseph Darnand, who later founded the Service d'ordre légionnaire (SOL), the ancestor of the Milice Collaborationist group. Other notable members were Jean Filliol (who became the head of the Milice] in Limoges, and fled to Spain at the end of World War II, finding a position at the Spanish subsidiary of L'Oréal), Gabriel Jeantet (who recommended François Mitterrand for the Francisque), Dr. Henri Martin (a medical doctor who is suspected of having forged the Pacte Synarchique, and worked for the Organisation de l'armée secrète (OAS) after World War II),[1] Henri Charbonneau (nephew of Joseph Darnand) and Mohammed El Maadi (head of La Cagoule for French Algeria, creator of the antisemitic Er Rachid and of the North-African Brigade on January 28, 1944 also known as SS-Mohammed). General Henri Giraud was the head of the military branch of La Cagoule for Metz.[2] In Nice, Cagoulards were submitted to an initiation ritual, in which new members, in the presence of the Grand Master dressed in red and accompanied by his assesseurs dressed in black, with their faces covered, stood before a table draped with a French flag on which a sword and torches would be deposited, raised their right arm and swore the oath Ad majorem Galliæ gloriam ("for the greater glory of France")[3]. This oath echoed the Jesuit motto Ad Majorem Dei Gloria (for the greater glory of God). Treason would be punished by death. For instance, the arms suppliers Léon Jean-Baptiste and Maurice Juif were murdered by the Cagoulards respectively in October 1936 and in February 1937 for attempting to enrich themselves by lying on the price they had paid for the arms.

The group was founded in 1935, drawing its troops mostly from Orléanists disappointed by the lack of action from Charles Maurras' Action Française, and undertook various actions aimed at destroying the French Republic. On January 26, 1937 Jean Filliol stabbed to death Dimitri Navachine in the Bois de Boulogne using a shortened bayonet.[4] In order to obtain arms from fascist Italy, the group assassinated two Italian antifascists, the Rosselli brothers,[5][6] on June 9, 1937 and sabotaged airplanes clandestinely supplied by the French government to the Spanish Republic. The Cagoule blew up two buildings owned by the Comité des Forges (Ironmasters Association) on September 11, 1937 to create the impression of a communist conspiracy. Although at the time it was widely believed that the bombs had been deposited by communists, to the disappointment of cagoulards no action was taken against the French Communist Party. The Cagoule also tried to infiltrate the International Brigades for the same purpose. The group, organized along military lines,[7] infiltrated parts of the French military via Georges Loustanau-Lacau Corvignolles organization (especially in order to get weapons), and prepared the overthrowing of the Popular Front government in November 1937. The plans of the Cagoulards were, after having overthrown the French Republic, to make Philippe Pétain chief of state. After Pétain's refusal, they had to chose Marshall Louis Franchet d'Esperey as their future chief of state. However, they were themselves infiltrated by the police (it is believed that Laetitia Toureaux, assassinated in the Paris subway on May 16, 1937 was an informant of the French Police, and that she was stabbed by Filliol), and, on November 15 1937, Marx Dormoy, Minister of the Interior (and thus in charge of law enforcement) denounced their plot and ordered arrests. On this occasion, the French police seized 2 tons of high explosives, several anti-tank or anti-aircraft guns, 500 machine guns, 65 submachine guns, 134 rifles and 17 sawed-off shotguns.[8]. Some of the arms were of German or Italian origin. About 70 men were arrested, but Deloncle boasted that he had 12,000 men under his order in Paris, and 120,000 in the Province. At the time, the revelations of the French government were disbelieved by the editors of the New York Times, but taken more seriously by Time Magazine who viewed La Cagoule as a French Ku Klux Klan. At the outbreak of World War II, the imprisoned cagoulards were released so that they could fight in the French Army. During the Occupation of France, as reprisal for the arrest, Marx Dormoy was assassinated in Montélimar with a clockwork bomb in 1941.[9]

Organization of the Cagoule

  • Premier Bureau: Eugène Deloncle and Jacques Corrèze
  • Deuxième Bureau (intelligence): Dr. Henri Martin, Alfred Corre (Dagore)
  • Troisième Bureau (operations): Georges Cachier
  • Quatrième Bureau (recruits and equipment): Jean Moreau de La Meuse
  • Sources of funding: Eugène Schueller, Louis Renault, Lemaigre-Dubreuil (owner of table oil Lesieur and department stores Le Printemps), Gabriel Jeantet (Lafarge cements), Pierre Pucheu (Comptoir Sidérurgique)

La Cagoule was organized into cells. Light cells comprised 8 men with armed with submachine guns (typically one per light cell), rifles, automatic pistols and hand grenades. Heavy cells comprised 12 men, and the submachine gun was replaced by a heavy machine gun. A group of three cells formed one unit, three units a battalion, three battalions a regiment, two regiments a brigade, and two brigades a division. Battalions could be divided into automobile squads of about 50 men. Written communications were avoided as much as possible, and the street fighting handbook was entitled Secret Rules of the Communist Party to avoid revealing the existence of the organisation in case it would be found by the police.[10]

World War II

During World War II, members of the Cagoule were divided. Some of them joined various Fascist movements; Schueller and Deloncle founded the Mouvement Social Révolutionnaire, which conducted various pro-Nazi Germany activities in occupied France, including the October 1941 bombing of seven synagogues in Paris. Others were prominent members of Philippe Pétain's Vichy Regime. Darnand was the leader of the Milice, the Vichy paramilitary group of who fought the French Resistance, and enforced anti-semitic policies; he took an oath of loyalty to Adolf Hitler, and had a Waffen SS rank.

On the other hand, many sided with the anti-German camp, either as members of the Resistance (such as Marie-Madeleine Fourcade, Pierre Guillain de Bénouville or Georges Loustaunau-Lacau) in the Maquis, or as members of Charles de Gaulle's Free French Forces such as General Henri Giraud or Colonel Passy. In the latter case, this has led to charges by Henri de Kérillis that de Gaulle himself was a member of La Cagoule and that he would install a fascist government if the Allies let him become France's chief of state.[11] The cagoulards arrested for the 1937 conspiracy were brought to trial only after the liberation of France, in 1948.

References

  1. ^ Pierre Péan Le Mystérieux docteur Martin, 1895-1969 Fayard 1993
  2. ^ Pierre Péan Vies et Morts de Jean Moulin (Fayard, 1998)
  3. ^ Rémi Kauffer La Cagoule tombe le masque Historia, n°108, July 1, 2007
  4. ^ Annette Finley-Croswhite and Gayle K. BrunelleMurder in the Metro
  5. ^ Stanislao G. Pugliese Death in Exile: The Assassination of Carlo Rosselli Journal of Contemporary History, 32 (1997), pp. 305-319
  6. ^ M. Agronsky Foreign Affairs 17 391 (1938)
  7. ^ Time Magazine Monstrous Conspiracy Monday December 6, 1937
  8. ^ Time Magazine Terrible Gravity Monday, Nov. 29, 1937
  9. ^ Time Magazine Death by bomb Aug. 4, 1941
  10. ^ John L. Spivak Secret Armies, the new tactics of nazi warfare Chapter III, France's Secret Fascist Army p. 31 (Modern Age books, NY, 1939)
  11. ^ Henri de Kérillis, I accuse De Gaulle Harcourt, Brace & co. (1946)

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