As soon the War began, many children were evacuated to the the country for their security, far from the more dangerous cities. The British and Germans (later in the
War) had Government run programs to coordinate the evacuation. We have less information on this in France. Quite a few children were evacuated by their parents, but not as part of any government program. Many children were sent by their parents to live in the country or rural villages with grandparents and aunts and uncles. Agfter the Germabs launced their Western Offensive (May 1940) there were many refugees caused by the fighting in Belgium and northern France. During the German occupation, some children were evacuated from cities targeted by Allied bombers.
After the Germans invaded Poland (September 1939), Britain and France decalred War, but made no subatantial effort to attack Germany or assist the Poles. The newspapers as a result began calling this period the Phony War. There was ar first great fear that the Germans would bomb French and Britisg cities. The French appear to have made some effort to evacuate children. A French observer tells us, "At the outbreak of the War in France a government agency, Defensive Passive, was responsible for the evacuation of civilians, food problems, and other home front issues." [Fohlen, E-mail] As soon the war began, many children were evacuated to the the country for their security, far from the more dangerous cities. The British and Germans (later in the War) had Government run programs to coordinate the evacuation. We have less information on this in France. They do not seem to have organized an effort like the British did to evacuate children to the country side like the British did when the War began. Quite a few children were evacuated by their parents, but not as part of any government program. Many children were sent by their parents to live in the country or rural villages with grandparents and aunts and uncles.
The Germans launched their long awaited Western Offensive first at the Low Lands (May 10). It was an enormous success and within days they were driving into the Ardennes and racing across northern France toward the Channel. Most of the fighting took place in Belgium and northern France. Refugees streamed south in long cloums. They were used by the Germans to impeed the movement of reinforcements to the front. There was intensive fighting in Belgium and northern France creating even more refugees. As most of the fighting occurred in the north, the refugee problem was generally limited to the north. As the Germans moved South after Dunkirk, the French Army put up only dislutory resistance. As a result the fighting and refugee problem was more limited. There appears to have been some effort to evacuate children from Paris after the German Western Offensive began. We notice images of French children with identification tags. We have no details, however, at this time concerning the French evacuation effort. Les Petits Chanteurs de Paris was a famous boy's choir that played a major role of reviving the tradition of boys' choral singing in the Church. Father Maillet evacuated 40 of the choristers from Paris. He installed them in a small hotel in Rocamador. We have very limited information on the French refugees duting 1940 at this time. We do not know of a good source of information describing the refugee problem in detail.
The French signed an armistace ending the War (June 22, 1940). Much of the country was occupied and the rest administed by the collaborationist Vichy regime. There appear to have been some evacuations during the German occupation. We note evacuations from St Nazaire on the French Atklantic coast. The occupation of France provided the Kriegsmarine what it had lacked in World War II--invaluable Atlantic ports. The time the success of the German U-boat campaign in the North Atlantic was severly affecting the British war effort. Thus the U-boat pens at St Nazaire bevame a priority target. One French observer rites, "In 1940 My mother was 10 years old when St Nazaire was firstly bombed by the German air force. Then under the German boot Saint Nazaire became a privilege target for RAF and 8th Air Force. Germans had built a submarine base as you know. French Children were quickly evacuated from the city by French authorities. It was not a nice period of my mother's life because she suffered a lot to be far from her parents, to be under the rules of rude catholic nurses. Saint Nazaire in 1939 had 8000 houses in 1945 just 100 were still existing. Fortunately my grand parents survived the bombing. My grand father working in the harbor was a member of the underground and was used to help RAF and Yankee crews to escape. Several times also he sent to London infos about the departure of Nazi submarines which were sunk by the Royal Navy or the RAF. (He was one of those taken by the Nazi troops to clear up the harbor of parts of German human bodies after the explosion of HMS CAMPELTOWN, just after the storming of St Nazaire harbor by British commandos in March 1942." [Fohlen-IP] Our French observer continues, "Regarding the RAF and US bombing and for Saint Nazaire city, the first group of children were evacuated January 8, 1942. The increasing number of raids gave speed to this process. Of course its depends if you were living in a city with obvious military targets. The Mayor of the city, the French Vichy authorities, and sometimes the Germans gave the order to evacuate children and other civilians. Do not forget that those who had lost their houses had sometimes to leave the area to get a new roof. Some children were even taken in charge by Swiss or sent to Algeria!! In Saint Nazaire the Mayor and his council decided to create special boarding schools. All the schools still kept opened in the city were
finally closed (November 18, 1942_ After the deadly raid of February 28, 1943 all the city was evacuate or about 90 percent of the inhabitants." [Fohlen, E-mail]
The Germans began rouding up Jews (April 1942). The Vichy regime assisted the Germans in these roundups. That was why Jews were ordered to wear the Jewish Star of David badges, to make them easier to identify. Until then the focus was on stealing Jeisg property and isolating and concentrating them. Jews wee told that they were being relocated in the Eat. Sometimes the term evacuation was used. These were noth code words for extermination, by murder or if young and healthy by exhustion as part of slave labor. Tgese wee ter terms used at the Wansee Conferene (January 1941)This was the same time that the Death Camps in Poland became operational.
Barber, Noel. The Week France Fell (Stein and Day: New York, 1976), 321p.
Fohlen, Yves, internet posting. The web master, Peter Johnson, writes, "I have published his emails and writing so that we may understand a little more about how the people in occupied countries felt about Bomber Command."
Fohlen, Yves. E-mail message, August 13, 2004.
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