« Travail, famille, patrie… 

and sport

« To better myself and serve my country »

Under the octogenarian Marshal Petain, the Vichy regime was fixated on the physical education of young people.

The “Tennis Musketeer” Jean Borotra was chosen as General Commissioner for General and Sporting Education, and was made responsible for building up bodies and disciplining minds. Following the example set by Italy's 1926 Carta dello sport, Borotra took control of the sporting federations with the Sports Charter of 20th December 1940. At major sporting events from 1941 onwards, the Olympic Salute was performed, and the Athlete's Oath, declared: I promise to take part in this sport with impartiality, discipline and loyalty, to better myself and serve my country.

With support from the Minister for National Education, Jérôme Carcopino, and the blessing of eugenicist surgeon Alexis Carrel, Jean Borotra introduced nine hours of compulsory physical education per week for primary and secondary school pupils.

When Pierre Laval once again became Head of Government in April 1942, Borotra was sidelined, and subsequently deported by the German authorities for “patriotic fervor”. He was replaced by an ex-colonial artillery officer and rugby union player, Joseph Pascot. The new general commissioner made his mark through a cult of personality, strong authoritarianism, and above all through his passive complicity with the occupying forces. He dissolved the French Union of Secular Physical Education (UFOLEP) in July 1942, in the same terrible month that the German authorities, abetted by the French Police, arrested 13,000 Parisian Jews en masse, and imprisoned them in the Vélodrome d'Hiver stadium.

Rather than countering the occupying forces' interfering tendencies, “Jep” Pascot's commission limited itself to policing the implementation of the German ruling of July 8th 1942, forbidding Jews “access to any sporting event, as participants or as spectators, as well as to beaches and swimming pools”. In addition, the net is tightening both on communists and jewish athletes. Members of the FSGT were hunted down, while their secretary-general Auguste Delaune was arrested, imprisoned, put before the Gestapo and tortured to death. Champions such as “Artem” Nakache and Victor Perez were deported to Auschwitz. Next >>

quizz Before Jean Borotra became General Commissioner for General and Sporting Education, in which sport was he a champion? Tennis   Fencing