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, www.eyewitnesstohistory.com (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
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
FRANCE DURING WW2. A BRIEF OUTLINE
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