Mitterrand, Francois Maurice Adrien Marie, born 26-10-1916, in Jarnac, France, the fifth child of a stationmaster, Joseph Mitterrand and Yvonne Lorrain. His family was devoutly Catholic and conservative. His father worked as an engineer for the Compagnie Paris Orléans railway. He had three brothers, Robert, Jacques, and Philippe, and four sisters, Antoinette, Marie-Josèphe, Colette, and Geneviève.
Mitterrand’s wife, Danielle Mitterrand (born Gouze, 1924–2011), came from a socialist background and worked for various left-wing causes. They married on 24-10-1944 and had three sons: Pascal (10 June – 17 September 1945), Jean-Christophe, born in 1946, and Gilbert, born on 04-02-1949. He also had two children as results of extra-marital affairs: an acknowledged daughter, Mazarine (born 1974), with his mistress Anne Pingeot, and an unacknowledged son, Hravn Forsne (born 1988), with Swedish journalist Chris Forsne .
An intelligent student Mitterrand studied law and political science at the University of Paris. François Mitterrand studied from 1925 to 1934 in the Collège Saint-Paul in Angoulême, where he became a member of the Jeunesse Etudiante Chrétienne (JEC), the student organisation of Action catholique. Arriving in Paris in autumn 1934, he , age 17, then went to the École Libre des Sciences Politiques until 1937, where he obtained his diploma in July of that year. François Mitterrand took membership for about a year in the Volontaires nationaux (National Volunteers), an organisation related to François de la Rocque’s far-right league, the Croix de Feu; the league had just participated in the 06-02-1934 riots which led to the fall of the second Cartel des Gauches (Left-Wing Coalition).
From 1937 to 1939, Mitterrand then completed his military service with the colonial troops. He left the national-royalist movement of Action Française and in 1938 became the best friend of Georges Dayan, a Jewish socialist. After completing his law studies, he was drafted in September 1939 and billeted as a sergeant in the Maginot Line near Montmédy.
On the outbreak of World War II Mitterrand was wounded, hit by a shrapnel in his chest, during Germany’s Western Offensive. He was interned in Stammlager IX A (today: Trutzhain) and in Stammlager IX C in Rudolstadt-Schaala. There he worked as a forced laborer in road construction and in arable farming. His political beliefs were influenced by the encounter with the other POWs and their different social backgrounds. On his sixth attempt in 18 months, Mitterrand escaped German captivity before returning home in December 1941 to the unoccupied part of France – Vichy France.
Mitterrand arrived in Vichy in January 1942 and as a strong supporter of Henri-Philippe Petain was given a post in the documentation service of the Legion Francaise des Combattants. However in 1943 he broke with the government over the decision by Pierre Laval to introduce a policy of sending French workers to Germany.
He now joined the French Resistance and began working with the Organization of Armed Resistance (ORA). In November, 1943, he travelled to London where he met General Charles De Gaulle, who put him in charge of unifying the different groups representing former soldiers. Mitterrand played an important part in bringing the socialists together around his presidential candidature in the mid-1960s, and kept presenting a left alternative to Gaullism (often as a single individual). On his return to France in February 1944, Mitterrand became head of Mouvement National Des Prisonniers de Guerre. At the end of the war Mitterrand was given the job of arranging the return of the thousands of French prisoners and deportees that were still in Germany.
In 1946 was elected as a Deputy in the French National Assembly. Between 1947 and 1958 Mitterrand held ministerial posts in 11 short-lived centralists governments.
Mitterrand was opposed to the decision by Charles De Gaulle to create a Fifth Republic. This resulted in him losing his seat in the 1958 elections. His political views now became more radical and in the 1960s he began the task of building up a new, left of centre anti-Gaullist alliance, the Federation of the Left.
Mitterrand returned to the French National Assembly in 1962 and three years later was the Federation’s presidential candidate and although achieving 32 per cent of the vote was defeated by Charles De Gaulle.
In 1971 Mitterrand became the leader of the Socialist Party. Over the next few years he embarked on a strategy of electoral union with the Communist Party. This proved highly successful and by 1978 it became the single most popular party in France and in 1981 Mitterrand was elected president.
As president Mitterrand introduced a series of radical economic and political reforms. This included nationalizing financial institutions and several large corporations, raising the minimum wage, improved welfare benefits and abolishing the death penalty. However, after the 1986 elections the Socialist Party lost its National Assembly majority and Mitterrand was forced to work with a right-wing coalition government.
Mitterrand was re-elected president in 1988 and secured another seven year term. As the conservative parties lost their majority, a new left of centre administration was established. Worried by the economic growth of Germany, Mitterrand supported the Treaty of European Union (1991) which aimed at providing a centralized European banking system and a common currency.
Death and burial ground of Mitterrand, Francois Maurice Adrien Marie.
In 1992 the Socialist Party suffered a crushing defeat with the right-wing parties winning 484 seats to the left’s 92. Three years later Mitterrand lost the presidential election.
Francois Mitterrand died in Paris at the age of 79, 08-01-1996, in Paris, after a long illness that started when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1981. He hid his illness for the first ten years of his presidency. The disease was able to remain stable for a long time with medication. He had reports falsified about the health of the head of state. It wasn’t until 1992, when the disease got worse and operations became inevitable, that the president was seriously ill. Mitterrand, Francois Maurice Adrien Marie was buried in the family plot in the Cimetière des Grands-maisons, Jarnac.