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  • Writer's pictureWilliam Tyler

Occupied France: The Dark Years 1940-44

Following the period of 'The Phoney War' from September 1939 until May 1940, it took little more than a month for what Churchill called 'The Battle of France' to be lost, some British and French troops to be evacuated from the beaches of Dunkirk, the fall of the Daladier Government, and for the Germans to enter an undefended Paris.

The new French Government of Reynaud withdrew to Bordeaux, but France was lost and in effect divided into three parts, viz

1. German Occupied France

2. Vichy Puppet France

3. Free France based in London under De Gaulle

The Vichy Puppet Government led by Marshal Petain, with Paul Laval pulling the strings, survived only until 1942, when Germany took control. It proved to be one of the worst Nazi puppet administrations in Occupied Europe, playing a major role in sending Jewish citizens northwards to German extermination camps.

Following the D Day Landings in 1944, De Gaulle acting independently ordered French troops to advance on Paris, contrary to the plans of the CinC, General Eisenhower. De Gaulle was worried that if the Allies, but principally The Free French, did not hurry in the wake of the German retreat then there was a good chance that a version of The Paris Commune of 1871 would re-appear. Stalin thought the same. Yet Eisenhower proved even more of a political operator then De Gaulle, ignoring FDR for what he considered the correct political action, ie De Gaulle's.

Some Further Reading

La Vie en Bleu - France from 1900 (A French title, but written in English) Rod Kedward

The Week France Fell Noel Barber

De Gaulle Aidan Crawley

France - The Dark Years Julian Jackson

England's Last War against France Colin Smith

Silent Village Robert Pike

Liberation of Paris Jean Edward Smith

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