WWII: Collaboration & Resistance

The Parisian people have always been a proud society and remained just that after the Germans’ occupation. They weren’t willing to cower in fear. Instead, the Parisians displayed a tolerate attitude toward the Germans (Kedward 3). In fact, even though the Germans entered the city by force, they often treated the Parisians with respect. The first German troops to arrive in the city were well-behaved and Parisians were impressed. The Parisians thought the German troops were “handsome” and “polite” (Lutton).

Until November 1942, southern and eastern France remained unoccupied. A French collaborationist government, headquartered in the city of Vichy, in the Auvergne, governed unoccupied France. In July 1940, the French National Assembly placed the new “Vichy regime” under the leadership of a French hero of the Battle of Verdum in WWI, Marshal Henri Philippe Petain. Pierre Laval, a former Socialist politician who had good relations with the German Foreign Office representative in Paris, Otto Abetz, functioned as the chief of government for most the German occupation period. Under Petain and Laval, the Vichy government followed a nationalist and “pre-French Revolutionary” agenda. The ideals of “liberty, equality, and fraternity” were replaced with “work, family, and country” (United States Memorial Museum). They enacted the Statut des Juifs (Jewish Law), which defined Jews by race and restricted their rights (Holocaust Encyclopedia). Jews were forbidden to stand in food queues, use public telephones, and their property and business premises were requisitioned. Jewish writers were also prevented from publishing and artists from exhibiting (Horne 365).

Image from http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/media_ph.php?ModuleId=10005429&MediaId=1651
Image from http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/media_ph.php?ModuleId=10005429&MediaId=1651

In September of 1941, a massive exhibit called “Le Juif et la France” was designed to whip up anti-Semitism among Parisians (Horne 365). At this time, Jews were forced to wear the, now familiar, yellow star. In southern France, authorities established internment camps, arresting Jews and aiding deportation to killing centers in Poland (Collaboration).  The first deportations to Auschwitz took place on March 27, 1942. Out of 1,148 deportees, only 19 survived (Horne 365). The Vichy government also turned over Spanish and international fighters who were fighting in defense of the Spanish Republic against Franco rebels (Collaboration). Likewise, they turned over thousands of refugees and the Germans incarcerated them in concentration camps (Collaboration).

Image from http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/media_ph.php?ModuleId=10005429&MediaId=1648
Image from http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/media_ph.php?ModuleId=10005429&MediaId=1648

While resistance began in France not long after Germany occupied the country, it wasn’t until 1942 when resistance groups began to collectively emerge. The resistance groups moved from place to place and executed various missions, such as sabotaging factories and railways, accessing vital government information, using materials in town halls for false identification cards, and smuggling explosives from mines and quarry works (Kedward 3-4). Citizens who resented German occupation and the Vichy government formed cells that were part of the French resistance. The maquis were groups of resistance fighters that were more violent, aiming to hurt or kill the Germans, while other groups used non-violent methods, such as publishing underground newspapers and broadcasting anti-German and ant-Vichy radio programs. The British Special Operation Executive (SOE) began infiltrating France to aid these groups in 1941 and many resistance fighters used British-supplied weapons (Chen).

In 1943, the United States began aiding French resistors as well, with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) sending agents into France to rally French support against German occupation. On August 19, 1944, resistance groups in Paris, supported by Paris policemen, made their fiercest resistance; they attacked German forces with rifles while rounding up collaborators for execution.Then, on August 22, 1944, 1,500 resistance fighters and civilians lost their lives before Paris was liberated on August 25th (Chen).

The German occupation, led to the establishment of the Vichy Government in the unoccupied parts of France. Though not occupied by the Germans, the Vichy Government leaders collaborated with the Germans by enacting Jewish laws, creating an anti-Semitic exhibit, and turning over Jewish people to the Germans for them to be put into internment and concentration camps. It took three years for large numbers of resistance groups to establish themselves fully. Some groups sabotaged factories and wrote underground newspapers while others were more violent and aimed to harm or kill the Germans. Regardless the case, the Parisian people were sick of the Germans and wanted them out. With the help from Britain and the United States, France was eventually released from German power.

-Marissa Naugle


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