“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”
— Mark Twain

The Last Free French Consul General of Shanghai

Posted: April 6th, 2010 | 4 Comments »

One of the most interesting niche aspects of Shanghai’s history is the role of the French Concession during the Second World War. While after Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the Japanese moved into the International Settlement and started interning allied nationals (which included some French) for the duration, most of those in the French Concession were left alone. The reason of course was that Shanghai Frenchtown was considered to be under the control of Vichy France, Petain’s pro-Nazi puppet government. The same was true of French Indo-China.

Truth to tell it seems that most French residents of Shanghai either kept their heads down or supported Vichy – i.e. they were collaborators. Some did not – one great Frenchman Roderick Egal, Frenchtown’s best known purveyor of wines and spirits, did call a meeting to form a group loyal to General de Gaulle and the Free French. Only a half a dozen people reportedly turned up and at least one was a traitor – Egal was arrested and transported out of Shanghai to French Indo-China for ‘questioning’. I believe he did escape and got to Hong Kong where he fought with the Volunteers before being interned in Stanley Camp at the Fall of Hong Kong. His wife taught English and was much liked at the College Municipal Francaise in Frenchtown. Apparently her English was rather impenetrable due to her heavy French accent but she was popular with the kids.

The ‘Vichyfication’ of Frenchtown also included the diplomats – Marcel Baudez was the French Consul General in Shanghai from November 1938 until May 1940 and the Fall of France to the Nazis. He was a veteran diplomat and Shanghailander having been, as the French would say, Consul Général de France à Changhai previously between January 1935 and February 1938. However, he was obviously not considered loyal enough by Petain who replaced him with a Vichy appointee Roland Jacquin de Margerie, who in 1943 was to formally cede France’s treaty port rights in China.

Portrait of French Consul-General in Shanghai Marcel BaudezBaudez was apparently a China Hand (or probably a Chine Main or something in French) and author of a 1913 essay on the issue of foreign extraterritoriality in China – Essai sur la condition juridique des étrangers en Chine.

De Margerie proved to be long lived (died 1990) and like many others dodged any real punishment after the war and was French Ambassador to Bonn in 1963 when President Charles de Gaulle and Chancellor Konrad Adenauer signed a treaty of friendship and cooperation. Despite this he actually was a total shit in many ways as well as being a Vichyite – he had written vociferously to Paris while Ambassador to Belgium in 1921 warning of the growing strength of the Pan-Negro League and the threat to French and Belgian colonialism in Africa.

However, de Margerie was apparently something of a contradiction. A former Chief of Staff in Paul Reynaud’s Third Republic Government he was rumoured to be an Anglophile and despised the Nazis and their crudity though most French in Shanghai sympathetic to de Gaulle considered him a traitor. While no Nazi and perhaps no great fan of Petain, de Margerie was also no admirer of de Gaulle’s either, considering him arrogant (which of course he was but surely a forgivable sin during the war when organising the resistance to the occupiers of your country from abroad!) and so had chosen to ‘self-exile’ himself to Shanghai to get out of Europe.

In his defence it has been pointed out that de Margerie did not demand, as he could and should have, the expulsion of Jewish children from French-run schools.

Such were the times perhaps – seems to me someone should get to work on a decent study of de Margerie and the Vichy regime in Frenchtown Shanghai.


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4 Comments on “The Last Free French Consul General of Shanghai”

  1. 1 H. Ash said at 2:15 am on January 6th, 2016:

    Hello,
    I have an item gifted from the mayor of Shanghai to Consul General Marcel Baudez. I was wondering if you had any further information on his time in Shanghai.

  2. 2 Baudez said at 9:32 pm on May 27th, 2017:

    Hello I am one of his grand-daughter and the family could be interested by this gift. What is this?

  3. 3 VIDAL said at 12:46 pm on October 14th, 2017:

    I am a grand daughter. What kind of item do you have?

  4. 4 Christine Rapoza said at 9:12 am on September 21st, 2019:

    Greetings and Blessings,
    I am also a grand-daughter to Marcel Baudez and I am interested in this conversation.


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