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Joseph Darnand (19 March 1897 – 10 October 1945) was a soldier in the French and later German militaries, a leader of the Vichy French collaborators with Nazi Germany and a Waffen-SS officer.

Joseph Darnand
Joseph Darnand c1940.jpg
Joseph Darnand c. 1943–1944.
Born(1897-03-19)19 March 1897
Coligny, Ain, Rhône-Alpes, France
Died10 October 1945(1945-10-10) (aged 48)
Fort de Châtillon, Paris, France
Allegiance France (to 1940)
 Vichy France (1940–1943)
 Nazi Germany (1943–1945)
Service/branch Schutzstaffel
Years of service1916–1918
RankSS-Sturmbannführer collar.svg SS-Sturmbannführer (Major)
Battles/warsWorld War I
Franco-Turkish War
World War II
  • Officer of the Legion of Honor (May 1940) (Knight: 7 April 1927)
  • Military Medal (23 July 1918)
  • Cross of War 1914–1918 (6 citations, 2 at army level)
  • Belgian Cross of War 1914–1918
  • Cross of War 1939–1945
RelationsAntoinette Foucachon (1899–1994; spouse)
Jean-Philippe Darnand (son)

Early years and war serviceEdit

Darnand was born at Coligny, Ain, Rhône-Alpes in France.

On 8 January 1916, he enlisted in the 35th Infantry Regiment. He was promoted to corporal in April 1917, sergeant on 1 June 1917 and to adjutant (warrant officer) in 1918. Demobilised after the armistice, he again enlisted for two years in the army in September 1919. After a stint in the army of occupation in Germany, he participated in the campaign against the forces of Kemal Atatürk in Cilicia. He ended his service in July 1921 as a sub-lieutenant (second lieutenant). He worked as a cabinetmaker and later founded his own transportation company in Nice.

Between the wars, Darnand joined a number of far-right political, paramilitary organizations: l'Action Française in 1925, the Croix-de-Feu in 1928, La Cagoule and Jacques Doriot's French Popular Party (PPF) in 1936.[1] He formed his own Fascist outfit, the Chevaliers du Glaive (Knights of the Sword); in the 1930s he became prominent among La Cagoule, or the Cagoulards ("Hooded Men"), a secret terrorist group that organised bombings and assassinations, and that stored arms in depots all over France.[2]

Vichy collaboratorEdit

At the beginning of World War II, Darnand volunteered to join the French army and was commissioned as a lieutenant. He served in the Maginot Line and was decorated for bravery. During the Phoney War he took part in several commando actions against German forces. He was captured in June 1940 but fled to Nice. He became a leading figure in the Vichy French organization Légion Francaise des combattants [fr] (French Legion of Veterans) and recruited troopers for the fight against Bolshevism.

The next year, he founded the collaborationist militia, Service d'ordre légionnaire (SOL), that supported Philippe Pétain and Vichy France. He offered his help against the French Resistance. On 1 January 1943 he transformed the organization into the Milice. Although Pierre Laval was its official president, Darnand was its de facto leader. Darnand's political convictions were of the far right but he was known as a Germanophobe:[3] On three occasions he attempted to join the Resistance or flee to free French territory, but each attempt was rebuffed.[4] The last overture to the Free French was made in July 1943.

SS officerEdit

After failing to join the Resistance, Darnand definitively turned to Nazi Germany and the next month was made an officer of the SS. Darnand's turn to the SS was also influenced by the fact that miliciens were being targeted for assassination by the Resistance but Vichy and Wehrmacht authorities refused to arm the Milice.[5]

In joining the SS, Darnand took a personal oath of loyalty to Adolf Hitler, receiving a rank of Sturmführer (Lieutenant) in the Waffen SS in August 1943. In December 1943, he became head of police and later secretary of the interior. Joseph Darnand expanded the Milice and by 1944 it had over 35,000 members. The organization played an important role in investigating the French Resistance.[6] After the Normandy Invasion and Allied advance, Darnand fled to Germany in September 1944 and joined Pétain's puppet government in the Sigmaringen enclave. He received a promotion to Sturmbannführer on 1 November 1944.

Capture, trial and executionEdit

In April 1945, he fled from Sigmaringen to Meran in Northern Italy. He was captured by the British in Italy on 25 June 1945 and taken back to France, where he was sentenced to death on 3 October 1945 and executed by firing squad on 10 October 1945 at the Fort de Châtillon. [7]


  1. ^ "Joining Right Wing Groups - World At War Biography"
  2. ^ "New Bully". Time Magazine. 1944-02-07. Retrieved 2008-08-10.
  3. ^ World at War Biography, see reference below
  4. ^ Dominique Venner, "Un destin français" in (2010) 47 La Nouvelle Revue d'Histoire at p. 31, citing Colonel Groussard, Service Secret at p. 464 and Henri Frenay, La Nuit finira at p. 267
  5. ^ Venner, at p. 31
  6. ^ "Impact of Joseph Darnard on Milice and French Resistance from Spartacus Educational" Archived 2008-04-23 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ "France — The Aftermath of Liberation Timeline". The World at War. Retrieved 29 April 2010.


  • escape of Darnand Gerald Steinacher, „Ich mache Sie zum Erzbischof von Paris, wenn Sie uns helfen” Die Flucht der Vichy-Regierung nach Norditalien 1945, in: Der Schlern, Heft 1, 2007, p. 23–35.
  • Max Lagarrigue, 99 questions sur...les Français pendant l'Occupation (The French during German Occupation), Montpellier (France), CNDP, 2007.
  • This article incorporates text translated from the corresponding French Wikipedia article.