French Jewish Prime Ministers

Commentary by Dr. Gerhard Falk



Leon Blum (1872 - 1950) & Pierre Mendes France (1907 - 1982) 


     Religious hate is so endemic in France that the Prime Minister of Israel, Ariel Sharon, advised the Jews of France in 1994 to move to Israel at once. It is therefore surprising that in the 1930’s and again after the Second World War, two Jews were elected prime minister or head of the government in France.

    The first Jew to ever hold that office was Leon Blum. He held the office of prime minister from June 1936 to June 1937 and then again for one month in 1938. He was re-elected in 1946 and remained in office until January 1947. The parliamentary system of government, then in vogue in France, lends itself to constant changes in the prime minister's office wherever it is practiced.

     Blum held two college degrees, one in literature and the other in law. Blum became a literary critic and socialist politician. He was first elected to parliament in 1929 and thereafter re-elected twice. He was then elected prime minister over the opposition of the French fascists, who could not tolerate a Jewish head of state.

     As a socialist, Blum wanted to support the Spanish Republic, which was under attack by the Nazi supported Francisco Franco. This would have caused the governing coalition to split up, as the conservatives would not support the Spanish government in the civil war then consuming Spain, This led to Blum’s resignation.  His subsequent life included several years in Nazi concentration camps after the Germans invaded France in 1941 and arrested all Jews.

     Blum survived the camps, in part because of his prominence. After the war he was again elected prime minister from 1946-1947. Thereafter he wrote for a newspaper, Le Populaire, until his death in 1950. There is a village in Israel called Kfar Blum.


     Pierre Mendes France came from a Portuguese Jewish family which had settled in France because of the medieval inquisition. He too joined a socialist party and was then elected to parliament in 1932. He joined the French air force at the outset of the Second World War. After the French surrendered to Germany in 1941, Mendes France was imprisoned but escaped and made his way to London, where he was employed by Charles De Gaulle, the leader of the “Free French”. He was appointed to a number of positions in the De Gaulle government after the Second World War. When the French army was defeated by the Viet Namese in 1954, parliament elected Mendes France to become prime minister. He negotiated the withdrawal of all French forces from Viet Nam and initiated a withdrawal of the French from Algeria and Tunisia.

     Mendes France did not govern long. He resigned in 1955 but continued in politics as Minister of State under Guy Mollet. Mendes France died in 1982.

     The significance of these two Jewish heads of state in France does not lie in their contributions to the Jewish community but in the fact that they were elected. This could not happen today. Now the French Jewish community is under constant attack. For this reason a good number of Jews have moved to Israel from France, while others have moved into the Jewish neighborhoods in Paris so as to escape attacks in smaller communities.

     Because France has a Muslim population of more than five million, the future for French Jews is poor. Physical attacks on Jews are common. Jewish interests are ignored and, in sum, the Jewish community in France is sitting on a powder keg.

     What is true for France is also true of all of Europe. It is unlikely that Jews can remain in any  part of Europe much longer. Hounded by the Muslims and their allies, hatred of Jews is endemic from Sweden to Italy and from the Ukraine to Ireland. There is no chance that Jewish life in Europe will succeed.  All Jews will have to leave Europe for Israel or the United States. Thereby the enemies of the Jews are creating a stronger Israel by furnishing Israel with an ever increasing population. 

Shalom u’vracha.

Dr. Gerhard Falk is the author of numerous publications, including Women & Social Change in America (2009).

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