Single party sigmaringen
It was here that Marshal Philippe Pétain, , and several hundred Vichy government officials and prominent German sympathizers and collaborators of different hues, were brought by the Wehrmacht on 8 September 1944, as the Allies advanced across France.The leaders were installed in the castle, other ranks in the town below.This town and those bizarre eight months are erased from France’s collective memory.
“Fench Sigmaringen” is relegated to the margins of memory. The castle’s magnificent halls and about a tenth of its 300 rooms are open to guided tours, but there are no Petainist mementos of any kind.
A richly appointed color book about the castle disposes of the French episode matter-of-factly in a single sentence.
The initial impression is operetic: pure Leharian pastiche, an unreal world in which France’s prominent are but a parody of their former selves.
There is also a more sinister image, however: Sigmaringen as a trap, an open prison in which the principals go on with their performance, but at the same time watch helplessly as the end of the show – and for many the end of their lives – is approaching steadily, relentlessly.
They were followed by their wives, hangers-on, and mistresses.