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Former President Speaks With Emotion N.Z. Press Association —Copyright Rec. 12.30 p.m. LONDON, July 25. President of the French Republic when France fell to the German Army in June, 1940, and imprisoned in Germany for the remainder of the war, M. Albert Lebrun, aged 73 years, entered the witness box after the luncheon adjournment to-day at the trial of Marshal Petain. He was led into Court with the ceremony reserved for the Chief of State.

In a voice trembling with emotion, M. Lebrun told of . exchanges of messages with Mr. Churchill relating to the British offer to make every Frenchman a British citizen, which the French Cabinet rejected.

M. Lebrun said that as Petain had a majority he was compelled to call on him to form a Cabinet. He added that Laval called on him (M. Lebrun) on June 21, 1940, and insulted him as he had insulted M. Daladier by asking him to sign the armistice. Laval persisted in his request throughout the following day, but witness up to the last minute refused to sign.

Forbidden To Go To Africa Both Petain and Weygand wanted the armistice, witness said. Petain, when it was proposed that the Government should go to North Africa, said that no one had the right to abandon a country as unhappy as France and that she must suffer before she could again rise. Witness added that Petain forbade him to go to North Africa. M. Lebrun said he refused the request of unnamed officials for his resignation, stating that he would serve to the end of his term. Two days later he learned that the Vichy Government intended revising the Constitution.

M. Lebrun, at the end of his declaration, said he could hardly express his profound distress at the sight of a man, a warrior of France, who had risen so high to fall so low. The judge in the afternoon loudly ordered Petain, who earlier had refused to reply to a juryman, to get up and answer questions. Petain, at the suggestion of his. counsel, complied when the order was repeated. Murder of French Minister One question asked at the Petain trial yesterday led to the most dramatic moment of the day. M. Reynaud was asked if he knew of a letter of protest sent by Petain to the German authorities when M. ißeynaud and a man afterward murdered were taken out of their French prison by a German S.S. detachment. M. Reynaud said he did know of the letter, but several days before he had realised what was likely to happen. He had therefore written to Petain saying: "Are you going to deliver your former chief to the enemy?" In other words, said M. Reynaud, the Petain protest was merely a formal one. He had known what was going to happen. In telling of the murder of the French Minister of the Interior at the fall of France, M. George Mandel, M. Reynaud said he was taken to a car. Not far from Paris the driver of the car said it was running badly and they would have to stop. The driver got out and so did Mandel. From behind the car the driver poured a volley of bullets into. Mandel's back with an automatic pistol/ M Reynaud reminded the Court that Darnand was head of the Vichy militia and that this man, who ordered the cold-blooded murder, remained a Cabinet Minister under Petain. . •

Picture of "Different" Petain

Referring to the evidence of M. Reynaud, a British correspondent at the Petain trial, Mr. Thomas Cadet, said: M. Reynaud again devoted most of his time to a general historical survey, but he nevertheless brought up a picture of a Petain very different from the patriotic statesman-like soldier _so long accepted by so many of his countrymen. Here, instead, was a picture of underhanded intrigue, of personal ambition, of defeatism and of treachery. M. Reynaud said he did riot at first realise what sort of man the marshal was. It was only after he, witness, had been thrown into prison by the Vichy Government that he began to ponder on the nature of the man. . "I began to study Petain's career in the last war," M. Reynaud told the Court. He then described how he had read Marshal Joffre's estimate o£ Petain and how, according to Marshal Joffre, Petain had actually ordered the evacuation of Verdun which order was countermanded from above. After this, Petain was promoted and "kept upstairs. M. Reynaud also quoted another man as saying in later years that it was in spite of Petain that the Allies won the war. . . .. Witness bitterly reproached the marshal for allowing the French Fleet to ride safely at anchor in 1942, and for uttering no protest against the German annexations of Alsace and Lorraine.

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Bibliographic details

'RISEN SO HIGH TO FALL SO LOW", Auckland Star, Volume LXXVI, Issue 175, 26 July 1945

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'RISEN SO HIGH TO FALL SO LOW" Auckland Star, Volume LXXVI, Issue 175, 26 July 1945

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