Heroes and Villains: The Effects of Heroism on Autocratic Values and Nazi Collaboration in France
We measure how a network of heroes can legitimize and diffuse extreme political behaviors.
We exploit newly-declassified intelligence files, novel voting data and regimental histories to
show that home municipalities of French line regiments arbitrarily rotated under Philippe
Petain's generalship through the heroic WWI battlefield of Verdun diverge politically there-
after, particularly following Petain's own overt espousal of authoritarian views. Further,
under Petain's collaborationist Vichy regime (1940-4), they raise 7% more active Nazi col-
laborators per capita. These effects extend across all forms of Nazi collaboration and diffuse
beyond the veterans themselves.