The Gestapo in the occupied zone began arresting members of the Communist Party and Socialist Party. The Gestapo also demanded that Vichy authorities make similar arrests as authorized by the Franco-German Armistice (June 1940). As a result, many Communists and Socialists went into hiding. The safest place was the rugged forests of the unoccupied zones. Some soldiers who refused to surrender to the Germans also hid in the forests. Numbers were at first limited, primarily composed of individuals hiding from the Germans. This began to change only when the Germans began to experience military reverses and also began conscripting workers for war work in the Reich. Operation Torch in which the Allies seized Vichy North Africa also had a major impact on France with the NAZIs occupying the unoccupied Vichy zone. The men and women hiding from the NAZIs amnd Milice in the country gradually formed into small units. Often the units were based on common political beliefs such as Communists or Free French. The groups also formed on geographic lines as the Germans made communications difficult. These groups, despite their political differences joined together to organize the Maquis. This was a French world for scrubby terraine where bandits or partisans once hid in Corsica. The men who worked in the cities for the Resistance were called " Résistants ". Those who were hiden in the country or mountain were called " Maquisards ". This in effect was the armed resistance, although actual atrmed assaults was at first very rare. France did not have huge areas in which substantial forces coul hise (as was the case of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia). The limited numbers and the brutal NAZI reprisals also limited attacks. This did not begin to change until the Allies landed in Normandy (June 1944). Many Maquis wore berets. They were common enough not to not arouse suspicion among the Germans, but sufficientklyn distinctive to effective identify each other.
The NAZIs had a list of vocal anti-NAZIs that they wanted to settle scores with. Prominant among these were Communists and Socialists. These were two of the largest political parties in France. The Gestapo in the occupied zone began arresting members of the Communist Party and Socialist Party. The Gestapo also demanded that Vichy authorities make similar arrests as authorized by the Franco-German Armistice (June 1940). As a result, many Communists and Socialists went into hiding.
The safest place to hide from the Germans was the rugged forests of the unoccupied zones. Some soldiers who refused to surrender to the Germans also hid in the forests. Carrying arms in cities and towns was impossible. The Maquis was especially active in the mountainous areas of Brittany and southern France.
Numbers were at first limited for the Marquis, primarily composed of individuals hiding from the Germans. Most French people were shocked by military defeat and occupation. Most thought there was no choice but to get along with the Germans. And the Germans made an attempt to act civilized. There was none of the barbarity that they employed in the East, unless individuals resisted the occupation. An exception was actions against Jews. Anti-semetic polices were implemented. The men and women hiding from the NAZIs amnd Milice in the country gradually formed into small units. From the begiining both men and women joined the Maquis, but the great majority were men.
Marquis was a French world for scrubby terraine where bandits or partisans once hid in Corsica. The men who worked in the cities for the Resistance were called " Résistants ". Those who were hiden in the country or mountain were called " Maquisards ".
The Maquis at first was more of a refuge for those sought by the Germans and Vichy Milice. They used guerrilla tactics to first hide from the Gerans and Milice. They condducted some actions to harass the Germans. This was not commonly attacks on German troops both because the Macques weakness and the the brutal german reprisals that would follow. Attacks on German communication and transport lines was more common. The Maquis also participated in the escape of downed Allied airmen, shotdown over France and the Lowcountries. The Macquis operated escape roots to neutral Spain. They also assisted Jews and others for various reasonsanyed by the NAZI occupation authorities. Local villagers were generally sumpathetic, but there was always the danger of collaborators. The Maqui was especially important because the Allied invasion of NAZI-occupied Europe woukd be conducted through France. Thus intelligence on German military preparations was vital as would be actions to disrupt transportation (especially rail lines) and communications when the invasion finally came.
French attitudes began to change only when the Germans began to experience military reverses and also began conscripting workers for war work in the Reich. Operation Torch in which the Allies seized Vichy North Africa also had a major impact on France with the NAZIs occupying the unoccupied Vichy zone. The key development, however, seems to have been the German Service du Travail Obligatoire (Obligatory Labor Conscription--STO) (early 1943). This conscrioted young French workers for war work in the Reich. Young men conscripted fled to hills by the thousands--swelling the ranks of the Maquis.
The turning point for the Resistance was the Service du Travail Obligatoire (STO). The German Labor Ministry demanded that Vichy supply French workers to replace German worketrs conscripted for military duty. German molitary reversals forced the NAZIs to draw upon the last reserves of man power, evem workers in critical induidtries. They were replaced by forced and slave labor from throughout NAZI occupied Europe. The STO broke whatever loyalty most French people msay have held toward Vichy. Vichy issued the first STO conscription decree for labor in the Reich (June 1942). This was expanded (February 1943). At this time Vichy also established the Service du Travail Obligatoire (STO). Hitler had attempted to convince Petain to join his war against Bolshevism in the East (1940) He thus had no compuncgtion about conscripting French workers to meet the increasing numbers of workes needed by German factories. The STO resulted in large numbers of young workers evading the call ups. Many fled into the couybntryside and joined Resistance groups.
There were also strikes and other actioins including crowds freeing conscripted workers in Vichy police custody. The influx of fresh recruits in large numbers was a key factor in the formation of armed Resistance groups in the countryside--the Maquis. The Resistance enoyraged men to avoid the STO. And they offered supplies and shelter. The evaders thus were chsneled into the Maquis. Estimates suggest that by the end of 1943 that 150,000 worklers had evaded the STO and were wanted by Frebch police. This almost forced these workers to join the Maquis, what ever their polituical orientation. By the time of the Allied invasion (June 1944), the number had reached 300,000 people. The Maquis found support in the countryside. There was not only the natural desire of the French to resist the Germans, but the rural population was also affected by the STO conscription and seizures of their harvests. The greatly expanded manpower substantually increased the capabilities of the Resistance.
Prime-minister Pierre Laval's response to the Maquis and the growing capabilities of the Resistance was the Milice. Laval obtained permission to create the Milice. The Milice francaise was created (January 30, 1943). The initial purpose was to a political movement overseen by Laval. While Laval was the nominal commander, Joseph Darnand was the General Secretary and actual commander. While the Milice was only organized in 1943, it orgins came soon after the German occupation. Vichy which under the terms of the Armisice was not allowed to have an army, created the Legion Francaise des Combattants (LFC--French Combatants Legion) (August 29, 1940). It was only allowed in the Vichy unoccupied zone. veterans supporting Marshal Petain's Vichy regime joined. The LFC had 1.5 millions members (1942). This included some members in North Africa and other colonies. As a veterans group, the LFC was not a vigorous group, includin many middle-aged men. Joseph Darnand who commnded a unit in the Alpes Maritimes wanted a more capable foirce. He created the Service d’ordre Legionnaire (SOL–-Legionnaire Security Section) (1941)> He sought to recruit younger members which were idelogically committed to Petain “National Revolution”, meaning a right-wing orientation. Darnand Milice evolved into a para-military French Fascist force. The Milice proved vital to the Wehrmacht in confronting the increasingly effective Resistance. The struggkle against the Maquis and Milice in some regards had an appearance of a civil war. Joseph Darnard, a French Fascist leader and fervant anti-Communist, was appointed in December, 1943 as chief of the Vichy secret police--the Milice. The 35,000 members Milice, mostly Fascists, played a prominent role in hunting down Resistance members. The Miliciens like the Gerkan Gestapo used the most brutal torture methods to extract information from the unformunate Resistance members they arrested.
Supplies were a major problem for the resistance. The French Maquis had an advantage in tht Britain was so close and by 1942 the British and Americans were beginning to establish air superiority over France. The British Special Operations Executive (SOE) dropped supplies and ferried agents back and forth. The American Office of Strategic Services (OSS) also supported the Maquis, The Free French were headquartered in London and also supported the Maquis through their Bureau Central de Renseignements et d'Action (Intelligence and operations central bureau--BCRA. These three groups cooperated in Operation Jedburgh which covered operations in both France as well as Belgium and the Netherlands. They parachuted supplies and agents to support sabotage attacks and and guerilla operations and to coordinate local resistance groups.
Often the units were based on common political beliefs such as Communists or Free French. The groups also formed on geographic lines as the Germans made communications difficult. These groups, despite their political differences joined together to organize the Maquis. The Maquis cells generally tookthe names of the areas where they were operating in. The size of the different cells varied wide. Sone cells, esopecially in 1940 and 41 might be only a in the 10s. Others might number in the thousands, especially by 1944.
The Maquis was in effect was the armed resistance, although actual atrmed assaults was at first very rare. France did not have huge areas in which substantial forces coul hise (as was the case of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia). The limited numbers and the brutal NAZI reprisals also limited ttacks. This did not begin to change until the Allies landed in Normandy (June 1944).
TheGermans decided to act against the growing resistance movement. It was clear that the Allied invasion would come sometime in Sprng pr earlt summer. The Germans decided to destroy the resistabce so that when the invasion came that their supply and commuication lines would be secure. The Wgermacht initiated operations in areas where the resistance was acytive, A key aspect of the German actions were reprisals against civilians.
Many Maquis wore berets. They were common enough not to not arouse suspicion among the Germans, but sufficiently distinctive to effective identify each other. After D-Day, FFI fighters began weaing arm bands as a kinf of uniform--important under the Geneva Convention.
Maquis is an imprecice term, but it is generally used fro armed resistance fighters before the Normandy D-Day landings (June 4, 1944). After the landings, the French attempted to reorganize the disperate Maqui groups and other resistance fighters as the Forces Françaises de l'Intérieur (French Forces of the Interior--FFI). They were the Resistance military forces united under the command of Général Koenig. The FFI was formed after the Allied landings in Normandy (June 6, 1944). With the German forced to focus on the Allied build up, the French partisans to began operating more openly and in larger units. The FFI made contact with the Allied military command in Normandy as well as the Free French (Gaullist) Provisional Government. The FFI operated, however, under a separate command structure, in part because the Communists constituted an impoprtant part of the FFI's effective strength. The FFI did not have uniforms, but they did wear arm bands or other insignia ifentifying themselves. The FFI claimed that because of their insignia as well as open military operations and command structure that they qualified as legal combatants based on the definitions included in the 1929 Geneva Convention. The Germans, however, refused to recognize the FFI as a legally constituted combatant force. The German position was that asca result of the 1940 armistice that France had laid down its arms and that French citizens attacking German forces were illegal combatants and criminals. The FFI contended that the 1940 Armistice was no longer valid. Here I am not sure if the legal argument was that the Germans had breeched the terms od the Armistace with actions such as the occupation of the unoccupied zone or if they did not see the Vichy Government as the legal French Govdernment. Probably both. The FFI maintained that their men captured by the Germans should be treated as POWS. The Germans often killed captured FFI members in summary executions. The FFI assisted the Allied forced in Normandy. I do not yet have details on the extent of the assistance provided. There most notab;le action was rising against the Germans in Paris (August 1944). I believe the FFI operated almost exclusively behind German lines. Once the Allied liberated an area, the Freen French forces which became the new French Army took over combatantant activities.
Free French leader General De Gaulle dismissed resistance organizations after the liberation of Paris (August 1944). Many Maquis fighters returned home. Others joined the new French army that was being rapidly reconstituted around the already esisting Free French units. The United states provided the supplies and equipment for the new French units which would help linerte north east France and participate in the onvasion of Germany.
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