Double Victory: Minorities and Women During World War II
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Dentz, Henri Fernand (1881–1945)

French army general. Born in Roanne on 16 December 1881, Henri Dentz entered the French Military Academy of Saint Cyr in 1900. On graduation he was assigned to Tunis, and later (1920–1923) he headed the army's Information Services in Syria. In December 1927 he was promoted to lieutenant colonel and in June 1931 to colonel. From 1934 to 1937, he commanded the 54th Brigade, earning promotion to brigadier general in December 1935. He was then vice chief of the General Staff the following two years and was advanced to the rank of major general in December 1937. In September 1939, he was promoted to lieutenant general; he commanded first XV Corps and then XII Corps. On 14 June 1940, as military governor of Paris, Dentz surrendered the city to the Germans.

In December 1940, the Vichy government appointed Dentz high commissioner of the Levant (Lebanon and Syria). On 11 May 1941, Adolf Hitler met with French Admiral Jean Fran=ois Darlan and General Maxime Weygand to demand use of Syrian airfields. Acting on orders from Darlan, Dentz then permitted German aircraft to fly from Syrian airfields to support the uprising of Rashid Ali in Iraq against the British. He also allowed the Germans to use Syria's ports, roads, and railroads to move supplies. Dentz rejected Allied appeals that he switch sides and receive their military support. British and Free French Forces under Lieutenant General Maitland Wilson counterattacked on 8 June 1941. Lacking reinforcements, Dentz was obliged to ask for an armistice. On 14 July 1941, Dentz signed terms at Saint Jean d'åcre that allowed Vichy forces to evacuate without their equipment. Dentz returned to France with 33,000 men, including some 1,400 injured; about 1,000 others had been killed during the month of fighting. British forces had lost 3,600, while Free French casualties were some 800 men in one of the fiercest fraternal struggles of the war between French forces.

Promoted to full general by Vichy in June 1941, Dentz retired from the army, primarily because of his age, in June 1943. Brought to trial after the war on charges of collaboration with the enemy, Dentz was found guilty by the High Court of Justice on 20 April 1945 and was condemned to death. In October, Charles de Gaulle commuted this sentence to life in prison. Dentz died in prison at Fresne near Paris on 13 December 1945.

John MacFarlane


Further Reading
Laffargue, André. Le général Dentz, Paris 1940–Syrie 1941. Paris: Les Îles d'Or, 1954.; London, Géorge. L'amiral Estéva et le général Dentz devant la haute cour de justice. Lyons, France: R. Bonnefon, 1945.; Masson, Philippe. Histoire de l'armée français. Paris: Perrin, 1999.; Mockler, Anthony. Our Enemies the French: Being an Account of the War Fought between the French and the British: Syria, 1941. London: L. Cooper, 1976.
 

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