World War II Campaigns: The Resistance--France


Figure 1.--These boys were photogrphed with a French partisan in June 1944 after the Allied invasion of Normandy. This photograph looks very French. The Partisan has a permanent cigarette in his mounth and wears a beret. This photograph was taken in the summer, almost certinly after the Allies had landed in Normandy and the liberation of France was underway. The garçonnets show the French clothing styles of this period. One boy wears a gilet, the other a light-colored shirt. They both wear in short pants. One had a hair style typical of the the 1940s, the other an old style with his hair combed istraight back. Also notice the one boy's cavas shoes tied ariund the ankles. .

France surrendered to the German Army on June 22, 1940. The terms of the armistace divided France into an occupied and unoccupied zone, with a rigid demarcation or boundary line between the two. Provisions of the armistice, the "surrender on demand clause", was an obligation to arrest and turn over anyone requested by the Germans. French soldiers escaped to England in the Dunkirk evacuation. Other French soldiers, including General Charles DeGaulle, also reached England. DeGualle when he arrived in England made an inspiring radio speech where he proclaimed that "whatever happens, the flame of French Resistance must not and will not be extinguished." This was in fact the beginning of the French Resistance. Most French people thought that the Germans had won the War and that resistance was futile. It looked at first like Britain, the only country still resisting the Germans, would also soon fall. The Germans banned political activity. They were most concerned about the Communists and Scocialists which had been the most critical of then. 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 a result, many Communists and Socialists went into hising. 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. The men and women involved 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. The success of the RAF in the Battle of Britain (July-October 1940) proved that the Geramns could be defeated. Then the German invasion of the Soviet Union (June 1941) meant that Britain no longer fought alone. The German losses before Moscow and the entry of the United States into the War (December 1941), changed the whole power ballance. The Germans no longer looked unbeatable and ressistance futile. Winston Churchill was a strong believer in unconventional forces. Thus when he became primeminister he orderede that resistance movements in occupied countries be supported. The Ressiatance movement grew in strength an began to organize small-scale attacks on German forces. These attacks were answered savedly with German reprisals on civilians. The Allies did not have the strength to engage the Germans militarily in 1941, but British Bomber Command carried out limited air attacks in 1941 which they escalted in 1942 when the Lancaster ling-range bomber became vavilable. The Resistance assisted Allied airman, still mostly British in 1942, shot down over France to get back to Britain. Usually they helped get the airmen to Spain whuch allowed them to return to England. General Dwight D. Eisenhower wrote: "Throughout France the Resistance had been of inestimable value in the campaign. Without their great assistance the liberation of France would have consumed a much longer time and meant greater losses to ourselves."

DeGualle Speech (June 1940)

Chrles DeGualle a liitle known issued a radio appeal from London (June 18). It would be the firt of many. At the time, few French people knew who he was. And by this time the Frebch peole hd concluded the War was lost and only wanted an end to it. It would be an inspiring voice that the French would eventull united behind. As France would surrender 4 days later, DeGualle an the BBC's Radion London would become the voice of France. DeGualle's speech was a call to arms in which he called France not not to quit the fight against Nazi Germany and in which he predicted boyh the the globalization of the war and the eventil Allied victory. His speech, very little understood at the time, was published in the French press still not controlled by the Germans as well as carried on foreign radio is regarded as the founding text of the French Resistance, which DeGualle remains the symbol. Few were interested in resistance at the time, most believing all was lost and that Britain wouls also fllnin a few weeks.

Fall of France (June 1940)

German launched its long-awaited Western Offensive io May 10. The French Air Force was virtually destroyed. Within days the Dutch and Belgians surrendered and the the British Expoditionary Force and major French units cutoff when German Panzers drove to the Channel. Although the BEF and some French units escaped at Dunkirk, the French Maginot Line had been outflanked and the stongest units in the French Army smashed. With German armies pouring into France, Marshal Henri-Philippe Petain, was appointed Primeminister. He had been the savior of France in World War I. The military situation he faced was hopeless. Petain immediately began armistace negotiations with the NAZIs. Petain's Government signed an armistice with Germany (June 22). The Germans conducted the signing in the same railway car that the Germans had signed the World War I armistace.

Vichy

The terms of the armistace divided France into an occupied and unoccupied zone, with a rigid demarcation or boundary line between the two. The Germans obrained direct control three-fifths of Francey, including northern and western France and the entire Atlantic coast which was critical to the Ferman war effort against Britain. The Atlantic coast region provided air bases for the Luftwaffe air campaign and the Kriegesmarine U-boat capaign. The rest of France was left to be administered by the Petain's Government at Vichy. Provisions of the armistice, the "surrender on demand clause", was an obligation to arrest and turn over anyone requested by the Germans. Thus the Germans to persue any one they wanted even in the unoccupied or Vichy zone. Initially this included Jews, Communists, Socialists, as well as political officials who had been outspokingly critical of the NAZIs. France was forced to disband its army, except for a minimal force of 100,000 men for maintaining domestic order. This was the same size force that Gerrmany had been allowed under the Versailles Peace Treaty. The 1.5 million French Prisioners of War (POWs) were to remain in Germanm prisoner of war camps. The French government agreed to stop military units from leaving France to fight with the British. France had to agree to pay for the cost the Germans incurred in occupying the country.

French Dispair

Most French peopke thought that the Germans had weon the War and that resistance was futile. It looked at first like Britain, the only country still resisting the Germans, would also soon fall. America was still officually neutral. The French felt humiliated by the rapid Germany victory. Most thought further resistance hopeless and in fact suisidal. There were a few largely inconsequantial acts of sabotage, but there was no organized resistance movement.

Early Efforts

The French Resistance did not begin as a group organized by the Allies or even French political pareties. The earliest resistance was invariably activities pursued by individuals and small groups of close friends. It was at first modstly grafiti. Early acts of resistance were extremely naive. The French at first had no idea of the violence that the Germans were willing to use against even non-violent acts of resistance. One of the first know acts of public resistance to German occupation was a small demonstration by secondary school children at the Arc de Triomphe on November 11, 1940. The date was of course the date the Germans has agreed to the Allied terms for an armistice ending World War I. Another ealy act was by a group of scientists and lawyers in Paris who called themselves the Musée de L'Homme group. They were led by Boris Vilde and began publishing a clandestine newspaper calling on the French people to resist the Germans. The Group was infiltrated by a Vichy agent and virtually all the members arrested. They were sentenced to death. Valentin Feldman, is reported to have yelled at the Vichy firing squad. "Imbeciles, it's for you, too that I die." Soon clandestine pamphlets and newspapers appeared. These small isolated groups only slowly evolved into larger groups capable of effective resistance. One important early action was taken by the Muse'ede l'Homme group. They issued five editions of Résistance which presented evidence that food shortages were not due to the British blockade, but German looting. [Humbert] The Gestapo broke up the group (April 1941).

Spanish Refugees

An estimate 0.5 million Spanisg rfugees poured across the Pyranees at the end of the Civil War (early 1939). The French set up concentration campsfor them in southern France. While large numbers of the refugees returned to Spain, many did not, fearing Franco's vengnce. Thus there were many season fighters skilled in guerilla tactics in southern France when France fell to the Germany (June 1940). The French Army was interned in the Reich. And the shocked French prepared to follow Marchall Petain and seek an accomodation with the Germans. This was not the case of the Spanish who were anti-Fascist to the core. Thus the Spanish refugees played an important role in the French Resistance. The major stronghold of the Resistance was southern France. There were several reasons for this, including geography and the fact that it was in the unoccupied zone. One of the reasons was the Spanish who both joined French Resistance groups and formed groups of their own.

The Holocaust

The first action taken against French Jews after the 1940 invasion was the expulsion from Alsace. To my knowlege, this was the only non-lethal expulsion conducted by the NAZIs. Presumably the master plan for killing the Jews had not yet been fully worked out. Another early action involving German Jews was deporting Jews in Western Landen (Baden, the Saar, and the Palatinate), including some of the oldest German Jewish families, in October 1940 to camps in the French Pyrenees (Gurs, Noé, Récébédou, and Rivesaltes). Gurs was the largest. The death rate was very high because there were not even the most basic facilities. The camps were run by Vichy authorities. The killing of Dutch, Belgian and French Jews began in July 1942 when the death camps in Poland became operational. Vivian Fry before American entered the War worked tirelessy in Vichy to build up a rescue network working with the Emergency Resue Committee, arivate relief organization. The NAZIs had inserted a "surrender on demand clause" in Article 5 of the Franco German Armistace of 1940. Fry succeeded in resucing more than 1,500 artists,musicians, politicams, scientists,and writers, many but not all Jewish.

Political Parties

The Germans after occupying France banned electoral political activity (June 1940). Some collaborationist parties were allowed to function, inclluding Marcel Deat's Rassemblement National Populaire (RNP - The People's National Rally) and Jacques Doriot's Parti Populaire Francais (PPF). Petain for his part saw himself above partt politics. The Germans were most concerned about the Communists and Scocialists which had been the most critical of them. And the Communists were most likely to form resistance groups. (Although at the time of occupation, the Soviet Union was still allied with the NAZIs.)

The Maquis

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 assaukts 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).

Changing Attitude (1942)

Pétain and Vichy are now considered traitors. This was not the situation in France during the early period of German occupation. Pétain and Vichy at first were very popular. Many French people at first saw Pétain as saving France. A popular song, "Maréchal, nous voilà!" expressed the sentiment of many French people. French attitudes changed only gradually. The Wehrmacht behaved relatively correctly, certainly in comparison to their conduct in Poland and Russia, the brutality of the Gestapo and Vichy police and the plundering of French resources, created resentment in France. The success of the RAF in the Battle of Britain (July-October 1940) was not fully appreciated. The Germans were stopped in front of Moscow (December 1941). The German losses were massive, but not understood in France at the time. The Germans could not hide the facr that the Soviets were not defeated ahd that American joined the War. And combined with Britain still in the war, this changed the whole power ballance. This became increasing preceived in France during 1942. The Germans no longer looked unbeatable and ressistance futile. By this time the NAZIs no longer looked invincible but most French people wanted no part of the War as long as they were not threatened.

The Free French

French soldiers escaped to England in the Dunkirk evacualtion, but few remained there. Other French soldiers, including General Charles DeGaulle, also reached England. DeGualle when he arrived in England made an inspiring radio speech where he proclaimed that 'whatever happens, the flame of French Resistance must not and will not be extinguished'. This was in fact the beginning of the French Resistance, although little could be done in 1940. DeGualle proceeded to found the Free French movement and added the Cross of Loraine to the French flag to destinguish it from the Petain's Vichy Government which was colaborating with the Germans. The French Resistance as French attitudes began to change gradually increased in strength. Charles De Gaulle worled out a plan to bring together the different groups under his leadership. There were eight major resistane groups. The Communisys were among the most effective. The Free French were crucial for the effectiveness pf the Resistance, especially because collaboration was so rufe and aided the Germans in limiting its effectiveness. DeGualle and the Free French played a critical role in inspiring patriots to join the Resistance. They helped unift a fractuous movement and provide badly needed material support. DeGualled changed the name of his movement to Forces Françaises Combattantes (Fighting French Forces). He sent Jean Moulin back to France to unite the separate Resistance groups often suspiois of each other into one more effective organisation. Moulin suceeded in organizing the Conseil National de la Résistance (National Council of the Resistance). He was betrayed an died under vicious Gestapo torture and interogation. Meanwhile the military forces controlled by the Fre eFench gradually grew aided by American Lend Lease euipment. By the time of the all important Dunkirk landings, some 0.5 million well equipped French soldiers were poised to participate in the liberation of France.

Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill was a strong believer in unconventional forces. He had been camptured by Bohr irregulars called Comandos in the Boer War. Thus when he became primeminister he ordered that soecial forces called Comandos be formed. He also ordered that resistance movements in occupied countries be supported. The goal as he descrobed it was to "set Europe aflame". This did not occur. In fact the Gestapo proved very successful in finding and destoying resistance groups. Only in the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia did armed resistance groups aubstantial threat to the Germans. Even so, the resistance played an important role in tieiing down German troops, complicating communications, and perhaps most importantly, providing valuable intelligence.

Activities

The Ressiatance movement grew in strength an began to organize small-scale attacks on German forces. These attacks were answered savedly with German reprisals on civilians. The Allies did not have the strength to engage the Germans militarily in 1941, but British Bomber Command carried out limited air attacks in 1941 which they escalted in 1942 when the Lancaster ling-range bomber became vavilable. The Resistance assisted Allied airman, still mostly British in 1942, shot down over France to get back to Britain. Usually they helped get the airmen to Spain whuch allowed them to return to England.

Separate Groups

As opposition to the German increased, several different ressiatance groups were organized. There were eight major Resistance groups.

Comité d'Action Socialiste (1941)

Pierre Brossolette and Daniel Mayer, radical members of the targeted Socialist Party, formed one of the first French resistance groups. They established the Comité d'Action Socialiste in January, 1941.

Front National

The Communist Party was a major force in the struggle against the Germans. This was in part because the organization of the Communist Party was best suited for clandestine activities. French Communists had been forced to make major shifts in position when the Soviets signed a Non-Agression Pact with the NAZIs. This made Stalin a virtual ally with Hitler and Stalin expected Communist parties in France and other countries to follow the Soviet line. This did not reduce the Gestapo pursuit of Communists after the German victory (June 1940). The Soviet line of course changed abruptly when the Germans invaded (June 1941). The Communists, unlike other political parties had been working in secret since 1939. As a result, they were better organized for clandestine activities. Pierre Villon's cladestine newspaper, L'Humanité called for the creation of a "National front for the independence of France." Thus Villon in May 1942 founded the Communist resistance group--Front National.

Combat Group (1941)

Some French politicans had joined Pétain in 1940 seeing no alternative and assuming that France would have to accept German dominace. Most thought at the time thar Nritain would also fall within a few months. (Churchill himself at one point thought this would happen, salthough he never said so pubically.) French attitudes began to change in 1941 as it became clear that the Germans had not won the War. Also NAZI ruthlessness and Petain's willingness to collaborate with the NAZIs became increasingly apparent. Thus supporters of Pétain began to back away from Vichy. Some even secretly joined the Resistance. Henry Frenay, a Vichy official, joined the Resistance in February 1941. Frenay published various underground newspapers such as Les Petities Ailes and Vérités. He formed the Resiartance group Combat in November, 1941.

Other groups

Other patriots formed a number of smaller groups in 1941. Three vety important resistance leaders emeged at this time: Jean Moulin, Jean-Pierre Lévy and Emmanuel d'Astier. Initially, Levy and d'Astier focused on underground newspapers. They eventually also estanlished actual resistance groups: Francs-Tireur, Liberation-sud, the “Organisation de résistance de l'armée” (ORA), or the “Francs-tireurs et partisans” (FTP), and many smaller groups.

Conseil National de la Resistance (CNR) (1943)

The Germans by 1943 had experienced major military reversals in Russian and North Africa. The Free French had replaced Vichy in North Africa and several other French colonies. (This was a major bone of contention with the British who were less willing to alientate Vichy in 1940-41.) The Allies were now building up the forces in England for the cross-Channel invasion of France. DeGualle wanted a unified French Resistance. The different groups were in some instances working at cross purposes. DeGaulle sent Jean Moulin, who had gone to England, back to France to unite the different Resistanence grouos into one overall organization. He met with Henry Frenay (Combat), Emmanuel d'Astier (Liberation-sud), Jean-Pierre Lévy (Francs-Tireur), Pierre Villon (Front National), Daniel Mayer and Pierre Brossolette (Comité d'Action Socialiste), Charles Tillon and Pierre Fabien (Frances-Tireurs Partisans), and others. After considerable discussion Moulin convinced the eight major French resistance groups to form the Conseil National de la Resistance (CNR). The first joint meeting under Moulin's chairmanship was held clandestinely in Paris on May 27, 1943.

General DeGaulle

General DeGaulle as late as 1942 was not the principal fgure in the Resistance. He had been recognized by Prime-minister Churchill, but President Roosevelt had severe reservations. Nor was he seen as the leading figure within France. DeGualle by 1943 was increasingly anxious to unite the different and growing resistance groups under his Free French movement. The various resistance groups had by the end of 1942 begun to coordinate theur operations. The first movement to operate on a national basis (both the occupied and unoccupied zones) was the Communist dominated Front National (FN) (May 1941). The FN's armed wing was the Francs-Tireurs et Partisans Francais (FTRF). Other Resistance groups united to form the Mouvements Unis de Las Resistance (MUR). Its armed wing was the Armee Secrete. It was the MUR which recognised de Gaulle as its leader. The Communists saw DeGualle as a right-wing figure and insisted on retained their independence. Both groups under Moulin's persuasion united in the CNR. And it was through the CNR and his supporters in the MUR that General de Gaulle was able to build his leading position within France. One important factoir here was that supplies and equipment from Britain and Algeria were dropped to the groups which recognised DeGualle and were preoared to accept at leadt some tactical control from the British SOE. And the primary SOE objective was the cross-Channel invasion. The FTPF refused to recognize DeGualle or accept tactical directioin from the SOE. They were thus less well supplied than the Armee Secrete. The two groups of course had fundamnental political differences, but they also differed oin tactuics. The Armee Secrete accepted DeGaualle's belief that the Resistance concentrate on preparing for the Allied landing and supporting them when they occurred. The FTPF was not prepared to wait for the Allies. They wanted to conduct harass the German troops before the Allies arrived, including attacks on individual German officers, an action de Gaulle opposed. It is not clear why the FTRF was so intent on atacking the Germans. It was a tactic doomed to failure. Without Allied aemies on France, the Resistance did not have the military capability to oppose the German occupation forces. And attacks in Germans brought vicious German reprisals. We are not sure if the FTRF independntly deve\loped these tactics or was opersating omn orders from the Soviets.

Regions

The effectiveness of the French Resistance varied regionally. The Germans were very effective at supressing the Resistance in northern France. The Germans had a much more difficult time in the south. There were several reasons for this. There were geographical factors. Also many areas in the south were under Vicht control which did not as aggressuiveky pursue the Resistance as the Germans. The Germans did not occupy the Vichy area until the Allied Totch landings in North Africa (November 1942). This gave the Resistnce there a chance to become better established. Another factor was the Spanish refugees from thre Spanish Civil War in souther France. While there was a period after the fall of France that most French people attempted accomodation, the Spanish refugees were ardent anti-Fascists even before the Germans invaded France .

Escape Route to Spain

The NAZIs effectively bottled up Europe after the fall of France (June 1940). There were few ways for Jews or others targeted by the NAZIs to escape. One of the rare escape routes was over the Pyranees to Spain. Here the Resistance provide guides through the mountains--Le Chemin de la Liberti. The generally acceopted figure is about 30,000 Jews made it safely to France. There is, however, some difference of opinion here. Most of these Jews were those who managed to get to France before the outbreak of the War. Many of the Jews managed to escape (1939-41). The Germans presured the Spanish to stop the border crossings. After the Americans entered thre stratehic bombing campaign against German in force (1943), the Resistance set up a pipe line to get downed airmen shot down over the Netherlands, Belgium, and France to Spain where they could be repatriated. The Allied air raids in Germany pssed ocer the Low Countries and northern France. Large numbers of RAF Bomber Command and American 8th Air Force were shot down there. And the only way of getting back to Englsnd was through neutral Spain and Portugal which meant crossing France and then okver the Pyranees. The Allies requested the Resistance to aid the airmen and a network was set up to get them to Spain. Spain began the war oriented toward NAZI Germany, but refused to actually enter the War or turn Jews over to the NAZIs. As the War turned againsyt Germany, Spain adopted a more fully neutral stance. The Resistance pipeline became a major target of the German efforts against the Resistance. Training air crews were an involved undertaking and the Germans wanted to stop downed airmen from returing to their bases and the the War.

Le Chambon-sur-Lignon

Paris of course dominates any discussion of France during the occupation. Thereare other polaces that need to be mentioned. One of the most notable was le Chambon-sur-Lignon, a small mountainvillage . Despite a country full of collaborationists, the villagers saved saved thousands of individual at the top of the list of Gestapo targets. The villagers saved resisters, freemasons, communists, Allied airmen, OSS and SOE agents, and of course Jews uncluding many children.The children included many orphaned children whose parents had been deported to the death camps. It proved to be a village without a single collaborator. [Moorehead]

German Efforts

While a unified organization was a potentially more serious threat to the Germans, it was also a more vulnerable target than smaller independent groups. René Hardy, an important Resistance leader, on June 7, 1943, was arrested and brutally tortured by Klaus Barbie and the Gestapo. They obtained enough information to arrest Jean Moulin, Pierre Brossolette, and Charles Delestraint. Moulin and Brossolette both died under torture. Delestraint was sent to Dachau where the Germans killed him at the end of the 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.

Jean Moulin

Jean Moulin olayed a critical role in gathering the different resistance groups around General de Gaulle and the Free French. Moulin contact the heads of the first resistance movements, before leaving for London to coordinte with the Allies. Such contacts were very dangerpus given German and Vichy intelligence ooerations. One of his most impoetant contacts was Henri Frenay, the leader of the "Combat" group, whom he met in Marseilles at the home of Dr. Recordier.

Shift in French Attitudes

The major shit in French attitudes came in 1942. Operation Totch and the Allied invasion of North Africa combined with the conccription of workers fundamentally changed French attitudes toward Vichy.The French people begin to lose faith in Pétain and Vichy and begin to to toward DeGualle ad the Freen French. It isat this point that the French resistace began to take on real importance.

Service du Travail Obligatoire" (STO)

Pierre Laval was a French politican during the inter-War era. He began his political career as a socialist, but gradually became increasingly right-wing. After the fall of France to the Germans, he became an importat associate of Ge, Pétain in the Vichy regime. He served as the vice-president of Vichy's Council of Ministers (July - December 1940). He returned as head of government (April 1942 - August 1944). During this period, Vichy cooperated with not only the persecution of the Jews, but their arrest and deportation. The NAZI action that changed this attitide was demands that Vichy draft French workers for labor in the Reich. By this time Vichy had proved itself incapable of getting the POWs released and now the NAZIs were demanding French civilians. This more than anything changed French attitudes toward the NAZIs and Vichy. He oversaw the 'Relève' scheme and the creation of a forced labour department--the "Service du Travail Obligatoire" (STO). This more than anything undermine public public suppoert fo Vihy and a rexruitment avtion for the resistance. The STO was a major catalyst for the 'maquis'. Thise avoilding the STO had little choice, but to join the maquis.

Food

Food shortages were another factor that over time began to change attitudes toward both Vichy and the Germans. Hitler vision when he and Stalin launched the War by invading Poland was that he would feed Germany from his conquests in the East. Rusia had tradituinally been areat bread basket for Europe. He saw the East as providibg the food resources to avoid the crippling British blockade that so crippled the Wotld War I war effort. Food obtained in the East would feed Germnany. The Hunger Plan denying food to Jews and other trgetted people would also provide the food needed to feed the German people. He was determined that during his war the German people would not go hungry. The Wehrmacht conquered much of the western Soviet Union, including the Ukraine, which was most of the highly productive blackb soil region of the Soviet Union. Even so, Hitler's vision proved illusionary. The food obtined in the East was primarily used to feed the Wehrmacht units fighting there. This was because the German forces including their llies were so large. At the same time the Soviet Scorched Earth policy, German rapaciouness, war damage, and Resistance operations substantially reduced agricultural output. Rather thsn the East, Hitler fed Germany by shipping large quantities of food from the countries occupied in the West--most importantly France. This caysed food shortnges in France and rationing which became more amore severe as the War continued.

Operation Torch (November 1942)

The Germans looked for time as if they had won the War, but in 1941 the the Red Army stopped them before Moscow. And the Americans joined the British accros the Channel, but then the Allies brought the War closer to France. Day after the British snaxshed the Afrika Korps at el Alemein, the Allies invaded and liberated North Africa (November 1941). This was French territory and just across the Mediterrnean. And after the Vichy forces joined the allies, it mean that a Ftench army was again in the fiekd against the Germans. The Torch invasion although in brought NAZI occupation of the unoccupied zone, meant that Allied armies were moving toward France. Only 2 months later an entire NAZI army surendered in Stalingrad. This was a dosaster that the NAZIs could not hide. The Germans as part of seizing controlof the unoccupied zone, also dissolved the Vichy armistice forces. Thius had the impact of generating more recruits fir the Resistance and men with military skills. The Army Resistance Organisation or "Organisation de Résistance de l'Armée" (ORA) believed that Pétain was playing a double game.

Role in Supporting the Invasion

The Chief of Staff to the Supreme Allied Commander (COSSAC) assumed opeational direction of French partisan and underground movements capable of supporting the D-Day invasion (fall 1943). Both SOE and OSS operations thus were subordinated to COSSAC. When General Eisenhower was appointed Supreme Commander, the resistance coordination passed to the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) which absorbed COSSAC. SHAEF wanted use the French Resistance, but here there were dangers. The Resistance had to operate in great secrecy. Thus there were diffivulties communicating a coordinating operations. The strength and deployment was difficult to assess as was exerting control and command. And it all could change very quickly. The NAZIs were make an intense effort to root out and destroy the resistance. German arrests could very quickly uncover Resistance cells. In addition, direct attacks on Geran soldiers would result in horific retributions on civilians. SHAEF thus decided to use the Resistance as a adjunct to Allied military actions rather than a key component. As a result the Resistance was used primarily to collect and transmit intelligence, sabotage (war industries, transportation lines, and communication links (telephone and telegraph lines). Of special importasnce to the Wheremacht was the French rail system. SHAEF in 1944 instructed the Resistance to accelerate its sabatoge of the rail system. The Resistabce focused on German troops and supply trains. Operatives cut tracks, destroyed bridges, and damaged locomotives. These efforts were conducted at the same time that the Allies unleased their growing air strength on the rail system.

CNR Liberation Charter

The Allied invasion of France was imminent in the Spring of 1944. The German swere bracing forvtuhe attack, although they were not sire precisely when and where it was coming. The CNR in preparing for the invasion on March 15 issued a charter that demanded a series of social and economic reforms for a liberated France. The importance of the Communists and Socialists in the CNR was evident by the provisions of the cahter. The reforms included universal suffrage and equality for all citizens. The CNR felt that to ensure true equality it was necessary to nationalize major industrial and financial companies. Other provisions included a minimum wage, independent trade unions, comprehensive social security, worker participation in management, educational equality, and the extension of political, social and economic rights to the people of France's colonies.

D-Day (June 1944)

The Allies knew a great deal about the German preparations and troop deployment. Part of the reason for this was the French French resistance. The Resissantce provided detailed information pn the position of batteries, amunition and fuel dumps, troop deployment, and other information. This was obtained through observation, such as reports from French fishermen. There were many other ways as well. The German employed French clerical staff. In this way the French were able to obtain information on a variety of mundane beaureacratic information, such as the delivery of rations. This information, however, could be used to discern the size of many German garrisons. Virtunally non of this kind of information was available to the Germans about Allied preparations. The Ressistance wanted to play a more active role, but the German resopnse to acts of sabatoge was so vicious, focused primarily on civilians, that the Resistance was ordered to concentrate on intelligance work. Once the landings had begun, the Maquis staged attacks on the German garrisons in the towns of Tulle and Gueret. The Germans in response hanged 120 men in Tulle on June 9. The Germans later the same day hanged 67 more men at Argenton. The Resistance helped to slow down the 2nd SS Panzer Division to attack the Normandy bridgehead. The Germans decided to carry out a much larger retaliation. Major Otto Dickmann commanded a SS unit that on June 10 entered Oradour-sur-Glane, a village in the Haute-Vienne region of France. The Germans masacered more than 600 men, women, and children and then torched the village. The French Resistance despite these attricities continued to attack the Wehrmacht. The Resistance played a key role in the uccess of the D-Day invasion. General Dwight D. Eisenhower wrote: "Throughout France the Resistance had been of inestimable value in the campaign. Without their great assistance the liberation of France would have consumed a much longer time and meant greater losses to ourselves."

French Forces of the Interior--FFI

Forces Françaises de l'Intérieur (French Forces of the Interior--FFI) 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 FFI assisted the Allied forced in Normandy. There most notab;le action was rising against the Germans in Paris.

World War II Servive

Serving in the Resistance because of the German Security operations and the collboration of Vichy was far more dangerous than serving in the military. Officially, the French Ministary for War Veterans and Victims of War takes into account service in the Resitance in the calculation of the pension rights. Services performed in the Resistance after the age of 16 years counts. Services rendered in the Resistance must have lasted at least 3 months before the June 6, 1944 and have been cofirmed or proven by detailed pieces of evidence proving the importnce and reality as well as the duration of Resistance. This requires the testimony individuals well-known in the Resistance. According to discussions in the French Senate a little more than 260,000 cards have been issued through 1996 confirming combatant volunteer Resistance activity. When the liberation of France was completed with the reduction of the last pockets held by the Germans (Spring 1945), some 20,000 FFI or FTP were killed in actios and 30,000 shot by the Gernans. More than 60,000 resistance fighters were tken prisoners, nearly half died in the German concentration camps. Researchers believe that from 300,000 to 500,000 Fench people wre involve in the Resistance during 1944.

Sources

Humbert, Agnés. A Woman's Journal of Struggle and Defiance in Occupied France.

Moorehead, Caroline. Villafe of Secrets: Defying the Nazis in Vichy France, 384p.






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Created: March 4, 2003
Last updated: 8:13 AM 3/7/2016