The World at War

FRANCE - The Popular Front & The March to War 1936 - 1939

FRANCE - The Popular Front & The March to War Timeline

1936January 17 The Stavisky Affair trial ends with the conviction of 9 defendants including former Radical-Socialist deputies Joseph Garat and Gaston Bonaure. 11 defendants including Stavisky's widow are acquitted.
January 22 Laval is forced from office after the British Government abandons the Hoare-Laval Pact which would have divided Ethiopia between Mussolini and Haile Sallasie
January 24 Albert Saurraut is appointed Premier.
January 25 German Chancellor Adolph Hitler announces that Germany intends to recover her lost colonies during an interview with France Soir.
February 13 Léon Blum is pulled out of a his car and beaten by members of the Camelot du roi while leaving the funeral service for historian Jacques Bainville. Later in the day, the Government issues a decree dissolving L'Action Francaise and its auxiliaries. Charles Maurras, leader of L'Action Francaise, is later convicted of incitement to murder and sentenced to four months in prison.
Three accomplices to the 1934 Marseilles assassination of Yugoslav King Alexander and Foreign Minister Louis Barthou are convicted and sentenced to life at hard labor. Former Croatian deputies Ante Palevich and Lyon Kavaternik are sentenced to death in absentia.
February 28 Paris Midi publishes an interview with Hitler given to Bertrand de Jouvenel. The German Chancellor expresses his desire for reconciliation with France, proposes an entente between the two countries and opposition to any Franco-Soviet cooperation
March 10 The Locarno Pact signatories, except Germany, gather in Paris to discuss Hitler's re-occupation of the Rhineland. Great Britain and Belgium oppose French military action against Germany.
March 24 The Paris Committee for the Formation of a German Popular Front led by Heinrich Mann calls for mobilization of troops in response to German remilitarization of the Rhineland.
April 26 The Popular Front parties garner 5,628,921 votes against the Right's 4,218,345 in the first round of balloting for a new Chamber of Deputies.
April Louis Leplée, the manager of Le Gerny's, an elegant cabaret on the Champs Elysées, is murdered. Edith Piaf, together with many other of Leplée’s Pigalle 'underworld' connections, is called in for questioning.May 3
The Popular Front wins 378 seats in the new Chamber of Deputies. The Right carries 220 seats.
Party - Seats Won - Net Gain or Loss
Socialist - SFIO 147 +16
Communist - PCF 82 +61
Radical Socialist 116 -43
May 11 Workers at Breguet aircraft in Le Havre go on strike.
May 14 Workers at Bloch aircraft in Courbevoie go on strike.
May 24 The Popular Front sponsors a memorial parade commemorating the 1870 Paris Commune. Hundreds of thousands of supporters march.
May 26 Workers at Nieuport aircraft in Issy-les-Moulineaux go on strike.
May 27 Striking autoworkers occupy the Renault works in Paris. French workers stage an American style sitdown strike for the first time.
May 30 President Lebrun presides over the opening of the Naval Academy at Brest.
June 3 350,000 workers in the Paris region are on strike. Another 700,000 are on strike in the provinces.
June 5 Léon Blum forms the first Popular Front Government with the support of but without the participation of the Communists. Women cabinet under-secretaries are appointed for the first time (Suzanne Lacore for Children, Irene Joliot-Curie for Research and Cecile Brunschwig for Education). Leo Lagrange is appointed under-Secretary for Leisure and Sports and dubbed "Minister for Laziness" by the Right.
June 8 The Matignon Accords grant workers the right to organize and wage increases of 7 to 15%.
June 12 The National Assembly enacts legislation limiting hours of work to 40 per week and requiring employers to provide workers with two weeks of paid holidays per year.
June 14 Communist Party Secretary General Maurice Thorez declares, "Our goal remains, power to the Soviets but that is not for tonight. It is time to end the strikes."
June 18 Interior Minister Roger Salengro issues a decree dissolving the extreme rightist paramilitary leagues. Colonel de la Rocque reorganizes les Croix de Feu as the Parti Social Francais.
June 28 Jacques Doriot forms the Parti Populaire Francais, a fascist movement that hopes to erode working class support for the Communists.
July 14 The Popular Front organizes a grand parade to mark Bastille Day led by Paul Faure, Leon Jouhaux, Maurice Thorez, Benoit Frachon, Marcel Cachin and Premier Leon Blum. The Right protests the against identification of the Republic with the Revolution.
L'Action Francaise and Gringoire publish a series of articles accusing Interior Minister Roger Salengro of desertion and giving information to the Germans in 1915. The same papers attack the Blum Government as a "Jewish conspiracy" while more traditional conservative publications content themselves with referring to it as a "Communist conspiracy"
July 20 Léon Blum agrees to supply the Republican Government of Spain with arms.
July 24 The Bank of France is reorganized. The Council of Regents and the Assembly of the 200 Grand Families are abolished.
The Popular Front established a commission to welcome German refugees.
July 26 King Edward VIII unveils the Canadian National Memorial at Vimy Ridge before a crowd 100,000 including former Prime Minister Robert Borden, French President Albert Lebrun and 6000 veterans of the Canadian Expeditionary Force.
"For this glorious monument crowning the hill of Vimy is now and for all time part of Canada."
July 29 An official French delegation takes part in the Counter-Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. The event is organized by opponents of the Nazi regime to protest the Berlin games.
August 1 The Government authorizes shipment of supplies to the Spanish Republicans after discovering that Italy has delivered airplanes to Franco's insurgents. France urges other powers to adhere to the rule of non-intervention in Spain's civil war.
August 3 The French National Railways introduce annual vacation tickets at a 40% reduction from normal fares. 600,000 workers are able to travel on vacation for the first time.
August 5 The success of Black American Jesse Owens at the Berlin Olympics instigates a call by Jacques Goddet, editor in chief of the sports journal L'Auto, for a search for talent Black athletes in the French Empire. Goddet declares that, "in the backwaters of our colonies are subjects who truly represent the dignity of the French race."
August 8 The Government suspends arms shipments to Spain and adopts a policy of non-intervention.
August 9 The National Assembly enacts a law extending the age of compulsory school attendance to 14.
August 11 The aircraft industry is nationalized and reorganized into six regional companies.
The Government creates a national wheat board composed of farmer, consumer and state representatives. The board raises the price per bushel from 80 to 141 francs in hope of stimulating the rural economy.
August 25 The term of military service is extended from 18 months to 2 years.
September 4 Edith Piaf makes her debut at the Alhambra.
September 6 Léon Blum, speaking before a meeting of the militant Socialist Federation of Paris, justifies his policy of nonintervention in Spain. The Premier expresses fears that an arms race in Spain could lead to a general war in Europe.
September The Government agrees to allow business to recoup salary increases through price increases. Inflation fears spur a flight of capital. 18 billion francs are moved out of the country during the month.
September 15 Jean Charcot's arctic research ship Pourquoi Pas? sinks during a violent storm off Iceland. Commander Charcot and 42 crew members go down with the ship. One man survives.
September 26 The Government devalues the franc by 30% against the dollar.
November 13 The Chamber of Deputies accepts the findings of a Court of Honor clearing Interior Minister Roger Salengro of desertion charges by a vote of 427 to 103.
November 17 Roger Salengro commits suicide.
November 18 André Japy completes a flight from Paris to Hanoi in 50 hours, 59 minutes.
December 7 Pilot Jean Mermoz and three crewmen of the flying boat Croix du Sud disappear on a flight across the South Atlantic.
December 12 The battleship Strasbourg is launched at Ateliers et Chantiers de la Loire, Saint Nazaire.
December 18 A new law passed in the wake of the Salengro Affair increases penalties for defamation.
During the Year Charles Trenet makes his solo debut at the Théâtre de l’ABC in Paris.Goncourt Prize for Literature
Maxence van der Meersch for L'Empreinte de Dieu
Notable Books Mort a Credit by Louis Ferdinand Celine
Les Jeunes Filles by Henry de Motherlant
Journal d'un Cure de Campagne by Georges Bernanos
Les Beaux Quartiers, tome II by Louis Aragon
Retour de L'URSS by André Gide
Notable Films Marinella - directed by Pierre Caron, starring Tino Rossi
Le Roman d'un Tricheur - written, directed & starring Sacha Guitry
Notable Recordings Ma pomme - Maurice Chevalier
Mon legionnaire - Edith Piaf
Marinella - Tino Rossi
1937January 21 The Chamber of Deputies authorizes the Government to take all measures necessary to prevent the departure of volunteers to Spain
February 19 Enlistment in Spanish armies is prohibited and recruiting offices in France closed.
March 7 Ambiguous Popular Front policy, rising inflation and fears of further devaluation of the franc, spur a flight of capital. Premier Blum announces that, "a pause is necessary" signaling an end to economic reform and a return to monetary orthodoxy.
March 16 A demonstration organized by the Socialist mayor of Clichy and the town's Communist deputy to protest a rally of the Parti Social Francais turns riotous. Police fire on the mob killing 5 and wounding 150.
April 24 Belgium abandons the alliance with France in favor of neutrality.
April 30 Chansons de Paris, a new revue starring Mistinguett, Suzy Delair and Georges Guetary premiers at L'ABC.
May 21 A television transmitter is installed atop the Eiffel Tower.
May 24 President Lebrun and Premier Blum opens l'Exposition Internationale d'Arts et Techniques. The theme of the 1937 Paris Exposition is Art and Technology in Modern Life. The exposition draws over 34 million visitors during its five month run.
June Finance Minister Vincent Auriol demands full powers over financial policy. The Chamber of Deputies agrees to the Minister's demands but the Senate refuses.
June 9 Italian anti-fascist intellectuals Carlo and Nello Rosseli are murdered by Cagoulards near Bagnoles de l'Orne on orders from Rome.
June 17 The Palais de Tokyo, future home of the Musee National and the Museum of the City of Paris, opens.
June 21 The Blum cabinet resigns after the Senate blocks legislation giving the Government decree powers to deal with speculation against the franc and exports of capital.
June 29 Camille Chautemps is appointed Premier and forms a new cabinet dominated by the Radical-Socialists with Socialist participation.
July 9 Léon Blum presides at the opening of the Paris Exposition's Pavilion of Peace.
September 19 Exiled Russian White Army General Evgeni Miller is kidnapped in Paris and taken to Le Havre where he is put on board a Soviet freighter, the Maria Ouliovna. Miller is later killed by agents of the Soviet OGPU. General Skobline who is implicated in the kidnapping disappears. Miller's wife, singer Plevtiskaia, is sentenced to 20 years at hard labor for her role in the affair and dies in prison three years later.
September 22 La Cagoule, the Secret Revolutionary Action Committee of L'Action Francaise, attacks the Paris headquarters of the General Confederation of French Employers and those of the Union of Metallurgical and Mining Industries, killing 2 policemen. La Cagoulards hope to cast blame on the Left and bring Marshal Franchet d'Esperey to power in a coup d'etat.
October 7 Marcel Cerdan appears in his first professional boxing match at la salle Wagram.
October 10 Bonneville de Marsannoy, commander of the 500 man French brigade fighting for Franco's Nationalists, is killed in Spain.
November 23 Interior Minister Marx Dormoy uncovers a Cagoulard plot and orders the arrest of the leaders, Eugene Deloncle, Pozzo di Borgo and General Dusseigneur and hundreds of their supporters. Arms stocks, including a cache of Italian Beretta rifles buried under the Luxembourg Gardens, are seized.
December 3 Directors of the French Athletic Federation depart Bordeaux on Mission L'Auto, a scouting trip through French West Africa to find talent for the 1940 Olympics.
December 17 The War Council, at the urging of General Massiet, votes to retain two regiments of horse cavalry scheduled to be replaced with mechanized units.
December 28 Maurice Ravel dies in Paris.
During the Year Maurice Chevalier stars in the new revue Paris en Joie at the Casino de Paris.
The International Skiing Federation holds its championship competition at Chamonix.
Nobel Prize for Literature
Roger Martin du Gard "for the artistic power and truth with which he has depicted human conflict as well as some fundamental aspects of contemporary life in his novel cycle Les Thibault."
Goncourt Prize for Literature
Charles Plisnier for Faux Passeports
Notable Books L'Amour Fou by André Breton
L'Envers at l'endroit by Albert Camus
L'Espoir (Man's Hope) by André Malraux
Bagatelles pour un massacre by Louis-Ferdinand Celine
Notable Films La Grande Illusion - directed by Jean Renoir, screenplay by Charles Spaak & Jean Renoir
Regain - written and directed by Marcel Pagnol based on a novel by Jean Giono
Notable Recordings Naples au baiser de feu - Tino Rossi
Y'a d'la joie - Charles Trenet
1938January 1 Premier Chautemps dismisses the Communist from the cabinet. The Socialist withdraw from the cabinet. Chautemps continues to govern with a Radical-Socialist minority.
The French National Railways completes the nationalization of private lines.
January 17 L'Exposition internationale du surréalisme organized by André Breton and Paul Eluard and featuring the work of Max Ernst, Salvador Dali, Yves Tanguy and André Masson opens at the galerie des Beaux Arts, Paris.
January 22 Cagoulard Jean Bouvyard is charged in the murder of Italian anti-Fascists Carlo and Nello Rosseli.
February 16 Leon Sedov Trotsky, son of the exiled Soviet leader Leon Trotsky, is killed by agents of the Soviet NKVD while being held in a Paris hospital.
March 10 The Chautemps Government resigns in the face of financial crisis and the German invasion of Austria.
March 13 Leon Blum is appointed Premier and calls for a tax on capital and foreign exchange controls.
April 2 France and Great Britain recognize the union of Austria and Germany.
April 7 Edouard Tenet defeats Jupp Bessellmann of Germany to win the World and European Middleweight Boxing Championship.
The Senate rejects the Blum Government's economic program by a vote of 214 to 47.
April 8 The Blum Government resigns.
April 12 Edouard Daladier forms a new government which includes two prominent conservatives Paul Reynaud and Georges Mandel. The Socialists and Communist agree to support Daladier in the Chamber of Deputies but refuse to participate in the cabinet. Daladier's government is granted decree powers by a vote of 514 to 8 in the Chamber of Deputies and 290 to 0 in the Senate
April 17 Edith Piaf and Charles Trenet top the bill of the 40th Anniversary Revue at l'ABC.
May 13 Pierre Dac launches L'Os à Moelle, a journal of irrational and absurdist humor.
May 23 Great Britain assures France that it will come to her aid in case of a German attack but refuses to risk a World War to save Czechoslovakia.
Bertolt Brecht's play The Great Fear and Misery of the Third Reich premiers in Paris.
June 9 Charles Maurras is elected to the Academie francaise.
June 23 André Maurois is elected to the Academie francaise.
June 28 The first transatlantic passenger flight between France and the United States is flown by a Boeing 314 flying boat between New York and Marseilles.
July 13 The National Assembly approves new laws on the organization of the Nation in time of war.
July 23 State visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth of England to Paris
July 20 André Malraux begins filming Sierra de Teruel, a tale of the Spanish Civil War based on his novel L'Espoir.
August 8 Marcel Carne's film Quai des brumes opens at the Venice Film Festival.
August 21 Premier Daladier issues a decree suspending the 40 hour work week declaring, "it puts France back to work"
September 3 The Trotskyite 4th International is formed at Perigny.
September 5 France reinforces the Maginot Line in the face of an increasing German threat to Czechoslovakia.
September 18 Premier Daladier and Foreign Minister Georges Bonnet agree to follow British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's appeasement policy. France and Great Britain offer guarantees of her new borders to Czechoslovakia in return for cession of the Sudetenland to Germany.
September 28 France and Great Britain sign a reciprocal neutrality accord with the Spanish Nationalists.
September 29 Premier Daladier signs the Munich Pact allowing Hitler to occupy the Sudetenland.
September 30 Premier Daladier is given a triumphal welcome upon his arrival at Le Bourget Field, Paris.
October 3 The Chamber of Deputies approves the Munich Pact by a vote of 535 to 75. Socialist Georges Bouhey and National Republican Henri de Kérilis join the 73 Communists in opposing the resolution.
October 28 A fire at Les Nouvelles Galleries de Marseille on the Canebière kills 75 people.
November 1 Premier Daladier breaks with the Communists ending the Popular Front. Paul Reynaud is appointed Minister of Finance.
November 7 Ernst von Rath, a consul at the German Embassy, is assassinated by Herschel Grynszpan an 18 year old Polish Jew. The murder is used as a pretext for the launching of the Kristalnacht in Germany.
November 10 The last meeting of the Comite national du rassemblement populaire formally ends the Popular Front.
November 12 Premier Daladier informs General Gamelin that the Government will provide 25 billion francs for rearmament in 1939.
November 13 Finance Minister Paul Reynaud decrees a return to the 48 hour work week. Eight hours are to be paid at overtime rates.
November 26 The keel of the Marshal Joffre, the first true aircraft carrier ordered by the French Navy, is laid at the Penhoët shipyard in Saint Nazaire.
November 30 The General Strike launched by the Confédération Générale du Travail in response to the Government's labor decrees ends in failure.
December 6 Foreign Ministers Bonnet and Ribbentrop sign a Franco-German Goodwill Treaty in Paris recognizing the existing frontier as definitive.
December 29 The Shah of Iran takes umbrage at innuendos published in the French press regarding a romance between his son and an Egyptian princess. Iran breaks off diplomatic relations with France.
During the Year Maurice Chevalier opens a new revue Amours de Paris at the Casino de Paris.
Goncourt Prize for Literature
Henri Troyat for L'Araignee
Notable Books La France et son armée by Charles de Gaulle
Le Theatre et Son Double by Antonin Artaud
La Conspiration by Paul Nizan
La Psychanalyse du Feu by Georges Bachelard
Notable Films Quai des brumes - directed by Michael Carne
La Bete Humaine - written and directed by Jean Renoir after a novel by Emile Zola
La Marseilles - directed by Jean Renoir
Notable Recordings J'attendrai - Renée Ketty
Vieni Vieni - Tino Rossi
La java bleue - Frehel
1939January 5 Jean Renoir's La Grande Illusion wins the American Academy Award for best foreign film of 1938.
January 17 The battleship Richelieu is launched and the keel is laid for the battleship Clemenceau is launched at the Arsenal de Brest.
January 30 Frederic Joliot delivers an address to the Academy of Science on his work with Uranium nuclei.
January 30 - February 1
The "Berne" Conference of the German Communist Party in Exile is held in Paris.
February Marguerite Perrey discovers the radioactive element Francium
February 19 President Lebrun writes the Shah of Iran to express regrets for his inability to assist the Crown Prince in his quest to marry an Egyptian princess and for the deplorable coverage of the affair by the French press.
February 23 Ensign Marc Aubert and his accomplice Gruneberg are condemned to death for espionage by a Navy tribunal in Toulon.
February 24 The Chamber of Deputies votes to recognize Francisco Franco's Nationalists as the Government of Spain by a vote of 323 to 261.
February 27 France accords diplomatic recognition to the Nationalist Government of Spain.
February 900,000 Spanish Republican refugees cross into France.
Marguerite Perrey discovers the radioactive element Francium.
March 6 Ensign Aubert is executed by a firing squad in Toulon following his conviction for delivering information on the French Mediterranean Fleet to the Abwehr.
March 7 Education Minister Jean Zay holds a press conference dedicated to the reorganization of sport, physical education and military preparedness.
March 17 Marshal Philippe Petain takes up his new post as ambassador to Spain.
March 18 Frederic Joliot, Lev Kowarski and Hans von Halban publish the results of their experiments using neutron bombardment to produce a chain reaction in uranium
March 19 France and Great Britain enter negotiations with the Soviet Union for an anti-Nazi pact following German annexation of Czechoslovakia.
The Daladier Government is granted the power to govern by decree.
March 20 The city of Marseilles is placed under direct supervision of the central government.
March 21 National defense decrees issued regarding increased production in armament factories, additional manpower for the armed forces and reduction of the civil administration
March 23 France and Great Britain issue a declaration promising to intervene in case of an attack on Belgium, the Netherlands, or Switzerland.
March 31 France and Great Britain issue a guarantee of the Polish borders and offer assistance in case of a German attack.
April 3 Duke Ellington makes a triumphal appearance at the palais de Chaillot.
April 5 Albert Lebrun is re-elected President of the Republic.
April 13 French and British Governments extend their guarantees of assistance previously offer to Poland to Romania and Greece.
April 18 Naval spy Gruneberg is executed by firing squad at Nancy.
A fire destroys the luxury liner Paris at Le Havre.
April 21 Governmental decrees are issued on the protection of racial minorities
April 30 The Soviet Union offers to conclude a military alliance with France and Great Britain.
May 5 Edouard Herriot delivers the keynote address at ceremonies marking the 150th Anniversary of the French Revolution held in Versailles.
May 26 France and Great Britain offer to conclude a tri-partite defense pact with the Soviet Union.
June 17 President Lebrun bans public executions citing the hysterical behavior by spectators at the Versailles guillotining of mass murdered Eugene Weidmann.
June 21 Yves Montand makes his debut at the Alcazar in Marseilles singing his own composition Dans les plaines du Far West.
June 23 France signs a treaty of mutual assistance with Turkey and cedes the Syrian Sandjak of Alexandretta to Turkey.
June 24 Francois Darlan is named commander of the French navy and promoted to Fleet Admiral.
The French Rugby football championship match is cancelled.
June 25 The 50th meeting of the Union of Physical Education and Military Preparedness Societies convenes at Saint Maur with a dozen athletes from French West Africa in attendance.
June 27 The Chamber of Deputies adopts a measure introducing proportional representation for the next legislative elections scheduled for May, 1940
June 29 France and Great Britain break off negotiations for a military alliance with the Soviet Union.
Pan American Airways Dixie Clipper begins operating scheduled trans-Atlantic passenger service between Port Washington, New York and Marseilles via the Azores and Lisbon.
June 30 Daladier issues a decree extending the life of the Chamber of Deputies and postponing legislative elections until May, 1942.
July 1 Pope Pius XII removes L'Action Francaise from the Vatican's Index of Prohibited Books.
July 2 Premier Daladier orders the expulsion of Nazi agent Otto Abetz from France.
July 10 L'Oeuvre publishes an editorial by Marcel Deat entitled, Why Die for Danzig?
July 27 French and British diplomats resume negotiations for a tripartite defense pact with Soviet representatives in Moscow.
July 29 The Chamber of Deputies approves a revised Family Code meant to encourage higher birth rates.
July 30 Spanish gold reserves held in France are turned over to the Nationalist Government of Francisco Franco.
August 8 The Portsmouth Accords assign control of the western Mediterranean to the French fleet and the eastern Mediterranean to the Royal Navy.
August 22 French forces on the Maginot Line are put on alert.
August 24 The Government orders a partial mobilization of reservists according to age, profession and military qualification.
August 26 Premier Daladier issues a decree banning the Communist newspapers Humanite and Ce Soir.
August 27 The Government bans 51 French films including Quai des brumes and Regles de Jeu.
August 30 Security measures are put in place. Paris school children are evacuated to the countryside.
September 1 The Government orders a general mobilization following the German invasion of Poland. French railways dispatch 5,200 troop trains to the northeast.
September 2 The National Assembly approves 69 billion francs in military credits by a unanimous vote. The Communists support the measure unaware of the conclusion of the German-Soviet Pact.
September 3 France declares war on Germany at 5 p.m.

UP - Homepage - Timeline Index