1940-45: French Difficulties, Breton opportunities.


1932 Yann Fouéré during Military Service in Compiègne, centre in profile.

Discharged from the army a few years before the conflict and safe in the knowledge that he is not liable to be recalled, Yann Fouéré takes advantage of his presence at the Ministry of the Interior to help the Basque nationalists in exile who had been pursued by pro-Franco troops south of the Pyrenees. Thus he becomes the official representative of the Ligue des Amis des Basques, making every effort to ease the life of the exiles on French soil. In particular, he enables the president in exile,Aguirre, to cross borders by obtaining passes for him

During the ensuing chaos of the German invasion in May-June 1940, Fouéré, a civil servant, has to follow the government, which eventually leads the newly-weds to Pau, a small town at the foot of the French Pyrenees. By the middle of August, impatient of the inactivity within a phantom ministry and pulled to attend the developments in Brittany, he is unable to carry on in Pau. He decides to leave Pau and return with his wife to Brittany.They settle in Rennes where he reunites with most of the personalities of Emsav who have already formed the coordinating bodies of the Breton nationalists: the Breton National Council and a secret grand council called the Kuzul Meur.

In that spring of 1940, there is much political activity In Brittany, but the German authorities have quickly realised the ease with which French soil is occupied and the feeble support given to the Breton nationalists by French public opinion. It is no longer necessary to favour Breton separatists by using them as a threat against the French nation. Henceforth they only tolerate Breton activities.

Yann Fouéré undertakes a reconnaissance journey. He draws up a “Projet de Statut” for Brittany and works towards creating a movement based on regional concerns, taking advantage of the political climate which could propel France in the direction of federalism, or at least towards a new regionalism. He is asked by Delaporte to become a member of a modified Kuzul Meur in order to coordinate their different roles: Fouéré the regionalist and Delaporte the separatist.

His position of civil servant on leave from the Ministry of the Interior draws the attention of the préfet for the Finisterre at the time, M.Georges, who offers him the post of sous-préfet for Morlaix. Rather than find himself obliged to take up a post in Vichy where the government is, the Breton militant accepts the post in Morlaix in October 1940.

At the same time he makes numerous contacts with a view to creating a newspaper that would advance a “provincialist” trend, directly in line with the project for the revival of the provinces as promised by Pétain. The margin for manoeuvre is a narrow one as neither Vichy nor the German authorities will tolerate a clearly “anti-French” project. Both Jacques Guillemot and Hervé Budes de Guébriant give their financial support for the future daily paper “La Bretagne”, with the latter arranging for the necessary authorisation from Vichy. Consequently,Yann Fouéré cannot avoid the intervention of the German press if he wishes to create his new newspaper.

Yann Fouéré’s days as acting sous-préfet quickly come to an end and the Ministry of the Interior summons him to Paris at the end of November. Soon afterwards, he makes a request for leave of absence which is ignored by the authorities. Finally, he decides to make the break: Yann Fouéré’s life is now devoted to the Breton cause and early in February 1941 he rejoins his wife in Rennes.

The newspaper “La Bretagne” is created there, in offices near the cathedral, and an agreement is reached for the printing of it with another daily paper, the “Ouest Éclair”. On Thursday 20th March, the first issue of “La Bretagne” goes on sale. It is publicised as “a daily paper safeguarding Breton interests” for a “prosperous and happy Breton province in a reformed France”. Yann Fouéré knows he cannot directly oppose Vichy. He applies the following tactic: “as Breton nationalism has resulted from the failure of the moderate Breton movement, the only solution is to grant the Bretons their legitimate claims”.

The many and various contributors to the newspaper include Ronan de Fréminville(alias Jean Merrien), the illustrator Xavier de Langlais and Yves Le Diberdier (alias Youenn Didro). ‘La Bretagne’ is, in Yann Fouéré’s own words, “vigorous and critical of central authority and of the Vichy administration”.

He gathers the support of numerous personalities and forms the “Comités des Amis de La Bretagne”, launching a campaign for the adoption by town councils of a proposal broadly based on the “Projet de Statut”: an administrative unity, an assembly composed of delegates from all the municipalities, from the Breton field of economics and from the professional and religious fields, together with the teaching of Breton language and the history of Brittany in all the teaching establishments of Brittany…

In autumn of 1941, “La Bretagne” finds itself in a difficult economic situation and its basic capital is melting away. The promised subsidy from Vichy is slow in materialising. Steps are taken to convert the daily into a weekly paper.

 In April 1942, as a result of a complex situation detailed in L’Histoire du Quotidien “La Bretagne…”, Victor Le Gorgeu’s position