France during the Second World War: Some random images

The British and French just made defence plans before the Blitzkrieg came. They came to naught. The German strategists were much shrewder and more aggressive.

Two pals having a good time. Hitler and Franco at a station in occupied France

A personal account of France then
A reporter for the London Times published his observations on defeated France shortly after its collapse:

"A problem for all who think about it is how to explain the amazing mental attitude which seems to prevail today in France. Most Frenchmen seem to regard the total collapse of their country with a resignation that has the appearance of indifference. They are, indeed, dazed by the rapidity of the collapse, but register no violent reaction to so great and unexpected a shock. Soldiers in considerable numbers are being demobilized and returning home, and so, it is felt, the catastrophe cannot be too appalling. The German propaganda machine is working on this state of mind. The R.A.F. attacks upon the aerodromes in the occupied region are used as evidence that the British, who have already deserted their Ally, are now making direct onslaughts on the Frenchman's home.

There is little interest among the ordinary people in the maneuvers of the Petain Government. The Marshal himself is not looked upon with any enthusiasm. His achievements as a soldier in the last War are generally recognized, but his last minute entry into politics makes little stir in the Frenchman's heart. On the other hand Laval [a lieutenant of Petain's and the real head of the government], who has never been popular, excites almost general distaste..."

Conditions in Vichy France

"Vichy, for a nation which has reached the nadir in its history, gives an excellent picture of a certain French state of mind. Naturally the place is crowded beyond capacity. It is full of well-to-do refugees from occupied France, as well as French officers, immaculately accoutered, and political aspirants. They crowd the cafes, hotels and boulevards. The refugees and officers are enjoying the calm and the mild pleasures to be had there.

The aspirants are busily fishing in the stirring political pool in the hope of finding an agreeable job. There is adequate food for those who can afford to buy it, always provided that you are not a butter lover or do not expect to find a wide selection of luxuries in the shops. Here is little evidence that France has suffered one of the greatest defeats in her history. Outside the boundaries of this temporary capital, food is not so plentiful, yet in a minor degree the same spirit of indifference exists. The men are returning fairly quickly to their homes and to the harvests which have been in many cases ruined by inattention. But it is hard to discover any serious attempt to meet the formidable problems which are threatening the Vichy Government."

Conditions in Occupied France

"The opinion is often expressed that occupied France is in a much better shape, in spite of all the devastation, than the unoccupied territory. The Germans for many reasons are trying to whip into shape that part of the country which has fallen into their sphere of influence. Their problem is especially serious.

North of Paris there exists a desert. Towns like Abbeville, Amiens, Cambrai, Arras, and scores of others are very largely destroyed, though in most places the churches and the cathedrals seem to be intact. The villages are deserted, the farmsteads empty.

Crops are rotting on the ground. The first wave of the German Army consumed everything. It was, in fact, until a week or two ago a land of the dead, metaphorically and literally, since the corpses of men and animals still littered the ground. Now the people are slowly creeping back, only to find that there is little to eat and less to do. Everywhere the first pick of what is going falls to the army of occupation, the second to those who work for their German masters, the scanty crumbs that remain are left for those who fulfill neither of these conditions."

Treatment of British Prisoners

"One case of refined cruelty was witnessed at Malines, where a body of British prisoners were being marched east. They were in full uniform except for their tin hats. These had been replaced by a variegated assortment of every kind of headgear, male or female: bowler hats, toppers, caps, homburgs, women's bonnets, berets, plumed Ascot models. A pathetically ridiculous spectacle. Its only purpose could have been to make the weary men look clownish or to suggest to the French inhabitants that British troops had been looting the shops. Other tales of discrimination between British and French prisoners of war are common. Nevertheless, on the whole, the treatment of prisoners whose care is left to the second-line troops is not too bad."

This article was originally published in The Times of London on August 17, 1940, republished in The Times of London, Europe Under the Nazi Scourge (1941); Shirer, William L., The Collapse of the Third Republic: an inquiry into the fall of France in 1940 (1969).

Source: "France in Defeat, 1940," EyeWitness to History, (2006).

The triumphant Germans march into Paris. May 1940

The Germans race through the French countryside in 1940

The Germans examine a French tank.

A broken down French tank in 1940 in a french town. Symbolises the state of the French and British then against German onslaught

France, A town near the river Allier, June 1940. A French girls approaches a German NCO

French soldiers valiantly fire at Germans at Dunkirk, 1940. Pitiful.

After the liberation of France the gallant Frenchmen shaved off hair off a French woman who had relations with German soldiers during the occupation

Collaborators were shot.

A dead American soldier on a French beach after D-Day

Captured British POW. The Germans loiter on a light tank in France. 1940

A British vehicle abandoned during the failed raid on Dieppe. 1943

US soldiers with a Nazi flag in France

American officers interrogate a German officer. France 1944

 At last Paris is free! De Gaulle marches in triumph



10 May : The Germany divisions drive through Holland and Belgium, passing past the French defences via the North. the French try to hold back at Sedan, but the lines are broken on the 12th of May

27 May to 4 June : Operation Dynamo, the evacuation from Dunkirk, more than 300,000 French and British soilders where evacuated by boats of all types from the beach.

16 to 24 June : Operation Ariel and Operation Cycle, more than 150,000 Allied soldiers evacuated from the ports Cherbourg, St. Malo, Brest, St. Nazaire, La Pallice, Nantes and Le Havre.

14 June : Paris occupied by the Axis forces

16 June : Petain becomes leader of France

18 June : General de Gaulle called for resistance to the Germans in a broadcast made from London on

24 June : France officially surrenders to Germany

25 June : The Germany advance is halted and France is divided into two regions, The "Zone libre" is placed under the command of the French General Pétain, who was nothing more than a puppet, actin on behalf of the Nazis.

10 July : what is left of the French government hand over all powers to General Pétain, this is the end of the Third Republic in France, which was now a "State".

3 October : Publication "Statut des Juifs", which authorizes the internement of Jews.

Events during 1941

Autumn 1941, 10000 French join the "Forces Françaises Libres". This fighting force was not only built of French men, but aslo, men from Senegal, Chad, Cameroon, Algeria, Marocoo and Tunisia.

The "FFL", where placed under the orders of General Leclerc and his 2nd Armed Division 2eme Division Blindées.
Events during 1942

16 July : 12,884 non French Jews in Paris are taken to the Vélodrome d'Hiver and then sent to the concentration camps.

November : The "Zone Libre" is occupied by the Axis.

13 April : Jean Moulin, the most important figure of the French Resistance is parachuted into France. He dies after months of touture in 1943.

Events during 1944

2 April : ASCQ Near Lille 70 killed

6 April : Outrage AT IZIEU Central France capture of young jewish killed all deported

21 May : The massacre of Frayssinet near Tulle, Central France, 15 people killed

5 June : Paratroopers of the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions lauch attack on Sainte-Mère-Eglise

6 June : D-Day landings, Operation Overlord begins with landings on the beaches Silver Utah Gold

9 June : The Tulle Murders near Limoges, Central France, the SS murdered 99

10 June : Oradour-sur-Glane 2nd Waffen SS Panzer Division Das Reich, drove into Oradour and killed everyone that they could find, a total of 642 men, women and children, with only 6 people escaping.

26 June : Cherbourg liberated by American troops.

9 July : Caen is liberated by the Allies.

15 August : Landing in Provence

18 August : Liberation of Paris begins and ends 25 August 1944

12 September : Liberation of Dijon

19 September : Nancy liberated by US First Army.

30 September : German garrison in Calais surrenders to Canadian troops.

24 November : Strasbourg liberated by French troops.

16 December 1944: Battle of the Bulge

The end of the war in Europe


Capitulation of Germany and the signature of the Armistice in Reims, which marks the end of the Second World War in Europe.

France surrenders: June 1940: WW2
Victorious Germans march through Paris: June 1940

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Quotes about war....

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"We have failed to grasp the fact that mankind is becoming a single unit, and that for a unit to fight against itself is suicide."
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'Politics is war without bloodshed while war is politics with bloodshed."
--Mao Tse-Tung (1893 - 1976)

"I'm fed up to the ears with old men dreaming up wars for young men to die in."
--George McGovern

"The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic."
--Joseph Stalin

It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.
--Voltaire, War

In war, truth is the first casualty.
-- Aeschylus

"The ability and inclination to use physical strength is no indication of bravery or tenacity to life. The greatest cowards are often the greatest bullies. Nothing is cheaper and more common than physical bravery."
--Clarence Darrow, Resist Not Evil

"The victor will never be asked if he told the truth."
--Adolf Hitler

"To walk through the ruined cities of Germany is to feel an actual doubt about the continuity of civilization."
--George Orwell

"Patriots always talk of dying for their country and never of killing for their country."
--Bertrand Russell

Men are at war with each other because each man is at war with himself.
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Snippets From History

German Soldiers in Russia: Part 1

Hubert Menzel was a major in the General Operations Department of the OKH (the Oberkommando des Heers, the German Army headquarters), and for him the idea of invading the Soviet Union in 1941 had the smack of cold, clear logic to it: 'We knew that in two years' time, that is by the end of 1942, beginning of 1943, the English would be ready, the Americans would be ready, the Russians would be ready too, and then we would have to deal with all three of them at the same time.... We had to try to remove the greatest threat from the East.... At the time it seemed possible.'

Battle for Berlin, 1945

'We started to fire at the masses,' says one former German machine gunner. 'They weren't human beings for us. It was a wall of attacking beasts who were trying to kill us. You yourself were no longer human.'


Berlin after it fell to the Russians, 1945

"Vladlen Anchishkin, a Soviet battery commander on the 1st Ukrainian Front, sums up the horror of the whole event, when he tells how he took personal revenge on German soldiers: 'I can admit it now, I was in such a state, I was in such a frenzy. I said, 'Bring them here for an interrogation' and I had a knife, and I cut him. I cut a lot of them. I thought, 'You wanted to kill me, now it's your turn.'
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Dramatic Pictures: Battle For Stalingrad
"...Effective command no longer possible... further defense senseless. Collapse inevitable. Army requests immediate permission to surrender in order to save lives of remaining troops."
General Paulus' radio message to Hitler on January 24, 1943

"...Capitulation is impossible. The 6th Army will do its historic duty at Stalingrad until the last man, the last bullet..."

Hitler's response to General Friedrich Paulus' request to withdraw from the city


Points To Ponder....

The fall of France was shocking. It reduced France to virtually a non-player in the Second World War. The efforts of Charles de Gualle were more symbolic than material. But the martial instincts of the French must never be doubted. Under Napoleon they were a formidable military power. The French definitely have more iron in their blood then say, the Italians [I do not mean it in a derogatory sense. War never makes sense]


Bias Of Western Historians

Soviet resistance made possible a successful Allied invasion of France, and ensured the final Allied victory over Germany.

It can hardly be called mere 'resistance'! If it hadn't been for the Russians, Hitler would have made mincemeat of British forces in Africa and landed on British shores in no time. Hitler attacked Russia first because it had more land and resources than Britain. It is as simple as that.

Eastern Front: Bias Of Western Historians