Lebanon, under French mandate since 1920, entered the turmoil of the Second World War when many questions arose, including that of its accession to independence or even its functional structures.

Following the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany on September 1, 1939, Gabriel Puaux, French governor, announced the suspension of the Constitution on September 21, 1939. Lebanon was then chaired by Emile Eddé. The latter will remain head of state and will be accompanied by a secretary of state, Abdallah Bayhum to help him.

Marshal Pétain signed the Armistice on June 22, 1940, General Mittelhauser, however favorable to the continuation of the fight against the Hitler regime, announced the end of hostilities in the Levant on June 28. Henri Ferdinand Dentz, appointed by the Vichy Regime, succeeds Gabriel Puaux as Commissioner General in the Levant. Thus, after more than a decade of civilian commissioners, the Lebanese returned to military supervision.

Already tested by the First World War, the Lebanese population feared while a new famine would settle in favor of the new conflict. The prices of the main raw materials are soaring and food stocks are dwindling. Troubles then affected Beirut and the main cities of the country.

Ferdinand Dentz will then push Emile Eddé to resign and replace him with Alfred Naccache

April 9, 1941: Alfred Naccache becomes Head of State, replacing the President of the Republic, Emile Eddé, who resigned on April 4.

June 8, 1941: Free France troops backed by British troops take control of Lebanon in reaction to Germany’s use of military infrastructure in Syria and Lebanon against the British based in Iraq.

In July 1941, the British bombed the French base and the Rayak depots held by the troops of the Vichy Regime due to the presence of German planes used to bombard British targets.
In July 1941, the British bombed the French base and the Rayak depots in the Bekaa held by the troops of the Vichy Regime due to the presence of German planes used to bombard British targets. Here, a British soldier posing next to a destroyed plane at the Rayyak base

General Catroux abolished the Mandate and proclaimed the independence of Lebanon before being appointed General Delegate of Free France in the Levant on June 26.

July 12, 1941: General Ferdinand Dentz accepts the cease-fire and will sign 2 days after the armistice.

November 26, 1941: Alfred Naccache, previously head of state, is proclaimed President of the Republic.

1941 : The fighting between Forces de la France Libre supported by English troops against men who remained loyal to the Vichy regime, as presented by Vichy propaganda.

On December 25, Patriarch Arida, in front of the delegations of all the Lebanese communities, calls for the total independence of Lebanon. General Catroux refuses, considering this independence premature as long as the Second World War lasts. In August 1942, General de Gaulle then traveling to Lebanon denounced foreign interference and considered it impossible to hold legislative elections as long as the conflict lasted.

January 24, 1943 , General Catroux restored the Lebanese Constitution, appointed Ayoub Tabet new President of the Republic and decided to organize legislative elections in the next 3 months. He will then be replaced by Jean Helleu. The latter will dismiss Ayoub Tabet to replace him by Petro Trad.

Béchara Khoury, First President of Lebanon

A new parliament will then be elected, which in turn will elect Béchara Khoury President of the Lebanese Republic on September 21, 1943. This same chamber will annul the articles of constitutions relating to the French Mandate on November 8. Governor Helleu responded by arresting Lebanese leaders including President of the Republic Béchara Khoury and Prime Minister Riad el Solh and members of the government. They will be transferred to the citadel of Rachaya.

Also on November 11, 7 parliamentarians (Maroun Kanaan, deputy for South Lebanon; Henri Pharaon, deputy for Béqaa; Saadi Mounia, deputy for North Lebanon; Mohamad al-Fadl, deputy for South Lebanon; Saeb Salam, deputy for Beirut; Rachid Beydoun, deputy of South Lebanon; Sabri Hamadé, president of the Chamber and Khalil Takieddine, secretary general of the Parliament) enter the parliament despite a blockade of the Forces of the Order and adopt the Lebanese flag.

The President of the Republic and his government will not be released until November 22 following a British ultimatum in their favor. It is on this date that the Independence of Lebanon will henceforth be celebrated.

The March of Women, during the independence of Lebanon, November 12, 1943
The March of Women, during the independence of Lebanon, November 12, 1943

Following this crisis, General Beynet, who replaces the disowned Jean Helleu, will return most of his powers to the Lebanese Government. On December 20, 1943, the administrations and services of common interest will be handed over. The President of the Republic Béchara Khoury, anxious to mark the end of the French Mandate, will create the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defense and will make the Land of the Cedars join the Arab League in October 1944 as a founding member.

On May 8, 1945, the armistice treaty between the United Nations, that is to say the allies, and Germany will be signed.

August 1, 1945 , will be created the Lebanese Army placed under the command of General Fouad Chéhab and which takes again the traditions of the troops of the Levant.

The Franco-British treaty of December 13, 1945 decides the departure of French and British troops from Lebanon. The last troops left Beirut on April 7, 1946. Thus ended, with several dramatic events, the mandate and the French presence in Lebanon and the independence of Lebanon began.


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