Georges–Étienne Bonnet


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(b. Basillac, 23 July 1889; d. Paris, 18 June 1973)

French; Foreign Minister 1938–9 Georges Bonnet was an ambitious, and controversial, member of the French political class of the 1930s who lingered on in politics until the early 1970s. A lawyer by training, he joined the centre left Radical Party after the First World War and established a durable power base in the Dordogne department.

He entered Parliament in the 1924 Cartel des Gauches victory and held a number of government posts in the short-lived Radical governments of the early 1930s. Although he took part in the electoral pact linking Radicals, Socialists, and Communists known as the Popular Front, he was very far from being a left-winger and was appointed United States ambassador by Leon Blum to get him out of the way. Back in France, he became Foreign Minister in the 1938 Daladier government and rapidly became one of the most dedicated supporters of appeasement. He gave no support at all to the Czech government in the Munich crisis and sought subsequently to prevent war at all costs; he was the architect of the official visit Ribbentrop paid to Paris in January 1939 which led to Jewish ministers being excluded from official receptions. When war broke out, he was one of the most active proponents of an early peace and then, after the fall of France, of Marshal Pétain's policy of diplomatic collaboration with the Germans. He was a member of Vichy's Conseil National.

Despite the series of exculpatory memoirs he subsequently wrote, Bonnet's reputation never recovered from his pre-war and wartime activities. In 1945 he was sentenced to a period of national indignity, the first part of which he spent in exile in Switzerland. He did not, however, abandon his political ambitions and in 1956 succeeded in being re-elected deputy for the Dordogne. He remained a member of the National Assembly until 1968 and was active in Radical Party politics for some years after that. He masterminded the electoral campaigns of his son Alain, who inherited his Dordogne constituency as a Socialist and was a minister in the 1981 Mauroy government.

Subjects: Politics.

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