11.00 am to 12.10 pm
To what extent can heroes coordinate and legitimize otherwise strongly- proscribed and potentially repugnant political behavior? In this paper, we exploit the purposefully arbitrary Noria rotation of French regiments to measure the legitimizing effects of heroic human capital, gleaned through exposure to the pivotal Battle of Verdun under General Philippe Pétain in 1916. We wed this with a unique newly declassified dataset of 97,242 individual collaborators with the Nazis collected by French army intelligence in 1945 to show that, during the Pétain-led Vichy regime (1940-44), municipalities that raised troops that served under Pétain at Verdun later housed more collaborators with the Nazis than otherwise similar municipalities. Individuals from these municipalities were 5% more likely to join Fascist political parties or paramilitary groups that conducted the internal repression of the regime against Jews and resistants, or to directly join German military units. We interpret these results as reflecting the role that Verdun played in generating both credentials for leadership and organizational capacity that legitimized otherwise proscribed values, forging political identities that proved durable in explaining the Left-Right divide in France throughout much of the post-war period, and that were particularly salient in times of social and political crisis.