Discussion of responsibility for the defeat of France in 1940 has been a matter of controversy
and debate among historians of France. Given the importance of this event in French history, which
brought the downfall of the Third Republic, the establishment of the collaborationist Vichy Regime and
Occupation by the Germans, these debates have led to accusations of incompetence and even treason.
One author has called these individuals the “gravediggers” of France. A number of these individuals
were arrested by the Germans in 1943 and assigned to a prison, the Château d’Itter (or Schloss Itter) in
annexed Austria from 1943-45. This imprisonment compelled those whom some see as the guilty parties
to confront one another and assess their own roles in the conduct of French politics leading up to the
defeat and armistice. The paper revisits the way these individuals assessed their roles in the immediate
aftermath of defeat, going back to the atmosphere at the time and a reexamination of responsibilities
through the eyes of the participants. The article concludes that the severe condemnation of these
individuals as “gravediggers” is excessive, reflecting the anger and frustration felt in the immediate
aftermath of defeat.