“I am France.”
So spoke General Charles de Gaulle to British Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax in1941. At the time France was under the control of the treacherous Vichy French, the puppets of the Nazis, the latter having invaded France in May of 1940. With Adolf Hitler himself personally appearing in Paris to inspect his new conquest. de Gaulle had refused to bow to Hitler, instead going across the Channel to Britain and presenting himself to the British government and anybody else who cared to listen (there weren’t many) not just as the legitimate head of what was quickly known as “Free France.” For de Gaulle that was not even close to the reality of what he represented. As he made plain to Halifax, de Gaulle saw himself — then and always — as France.