The Spanish role in the French Resistance
The story that France constructed for itself after World War II goes like this: the country was liberated by the Resistance with some help from the Allies, and save for `a handful of wretches,` to use the words of General Charles de Gaulle, the rest of France`s citizens behaved like true patriots. But nothing could be further from the truth. In his new book, Fighters in the Shadows: A New History of the French Resistance, British history professor Robert Gildea deconstructs this rhetoric, drawing up a detailed portrait of the occupation years with a critical eye.
Women of the French Resistance are finally being recognised
Women`s low visibility in French society paradoxically played to their advantage under Nazi-occupation; it meant they could act as ideal couriers, with no-one, least of all the Germans, suspecting them of carrying important messages, concealing arms and papers in children`s prams, or conveying vital supplies to Resistance members in hiding. But that same inconspicuousness meant the women of the Resistance were overlooked after the war.
1000 letters sent from Nazi-occupied France discovered in the archives of the BBC
The remarkable discovery of a box of letters in the archives of the BBC is shedding new light on conditions and attitudes in France during WWII. The letters were sent to London from just after the French surrender to Germany in June 1940, through to the end of 1943. They were addressed to the French service of the BBC, otherwise known as Radio Londres, which during the German occupation was a vital source of information for millions of French men and women. Extracts from the letters were read out on a programme called The French Speak to the French. After the war, the letters were put in storage and forgotten. That was until historian Aurelie Luneau stumbled upon them while researching her thesis on Radio Londres.
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Robert de La Rochefoucauld fought for the honor of France in WWII as a secret agent with the British
Robert de La Rochefoucauld belonged to one of the oldest families of the French nobility. He was a descendant of François de La Rochefoucauld, the author of a classic 17th-century book of maxims. For 30 years he was the mayor of Ouzouer-sur-Trézée, an idyllic canal town in the Loire Valley, and he used the title of count. But he is best remembered as a courageous saboteur who fought for the honor of France. His exploits were legend, involving a resourceful collection of tools in the service of sabotage, including loaves of bread, a stolen limousine, the leg of a table, a bicycle and a nun`s habit, not to mention the more established methods of espionage like parachutes, explosives and a submarine.
French World War II resistance hero Raymond Aubrac dies aged 97
One of the leading figures of the French resistance against the Nazis, Raymond Aubrac, has passed away at 97. Raymond Aubrac and his late wife Lucie became important members of Jean Moulin`s underground Resistance movement in 1942. Aubrac was arrested in June 1943 with Moulin, who had been sent by Gen Charles de Gaulle to organise the underground resistance to Nazi occupation. Moulin was tortured, taken to Paris and later died on a train to Berlin. But Raymond Aubrac escaped when a group of fighters including his wife attacked a lorry moving him and other members of the Resistance from jail in Lyon.
WWII film Les Hommes Libres (Free Man) reveals how a Muslim saved Jews during the Nazi occupation of France
A new French film focuses on an unlikely savior of Jews during the Nazi occupation of France: the rector of a Paris mosque. Muslims, it seems, rescued Jews from the Nazis. "Les Hommes Libres" ("Free Men") is a tale of courage not found in French textbooks. According to the story, Si Kaddour Benghabrit, the founder and rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris, provided refuge and certificates of Muslim identity to Jews to allow them to evade arrest and deportation.
313 letters written by General Charles de Gaulle reveal he was "embattled, lonely and often angry"
A treasure trove of letters penned by French wartime leader Charles de Gaulle has been released to the public after 70 years in the dark. The 313 handwritten documents were found in a cupboard by typist Marie-Thérèse Desseignet in Algiers in 1944, after de Gaulle and his entourage had decamped to newly liberated France. The letters cover 2 years of the first half of the war, from December 11, 1940, to December 11, 1942. Gerard Lheritier, owner of the private "Musee des Lettres et des Manuscrits" in Paris, which bought the documents, said that the collection offers a unique look into the mind of an "embattled, lonely and often angry mind."
France is only belatedly accepting the fact that Britain masterminded French resistance
Captain Robert Maloubier was an agent of the French section of the Special Operations Executive (SOE), created to "set Europe ablaze" by carrying out espionage and sabotage behind enemy lines. Maloubier took part in a string of daring missions in Nazi-occupied France as a weapons trainer and demolitions expert, helping blow up a power station, a steel plant, and a submarine tender as well as preparing the ground for D-Day. "The French ... think they freed themselves all alone. One always hears about the French resistance. The influence of the SOE, experts who came over to train the French, has had very little coverage in France." For decades the number of French who joined the resistance has been exaggerated in France.
Full-scale replica model of Spitfire heading to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina
A company in North Cornwall is building a scale replica model of a WWII spitfire. The model has been commissioned by the U.S. Navy as a memorial to fighter pilot Bill Dunn - marking the date when he shot down two Luftwaffe aircraft in one day. The model will be on display at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina.
The model of the Spitfire 2 a is being made by Gateguards, a UK company which manufactures full-size static models of aircraft such as Spitfire, Hurricane, P51 Mustang, Curtis Warhawk, and BF109 Messerschmitt from original blue print drawings.
WW2 film "Army of Crime" - about French resistance fighters - is based on true events
At the beginning of the World War II film "The Army of Crime," a roll call of resistance fighters who died for France does not include many French names. That`s because much of the guerrilla warfare was carried out by foreigners, like Jews from Eastern Europe and communists from southern Europe who had fought the fascists in the Spanish civil war. This true story - exploring the events surrounding the Affiche Rouge ("red poster") affair - does a great service by honoring the memory of 22 fearless men and women and by dramatizing the internal conflicts within the French population.
Only known photos of French Resistance fighters facing Nazi firing squad go on public display for first time
The only photographs of French Resistance agents facing the Nazi firing squad at the largest execution site in France are on public display for the first time in Mont Valérien - a 19th century fort outside Paris - where the Nazis executed over 1,000 resistance fighters and hostages. In spite of the huge numbers shot, no images existed of these executions until one German broke the rules. Clemens Rüter, providing a motorcycle escort to the victims, hid in the bushes on Feb 21, 1941 and took 3 snaps with his Minox camera. He never spoke of them, and left the film in the camera for 40 years
The best and most battle-proven paratrooper in the world: Marcel Bigeard
General Marcel Bigeard, one of France`s most decorated war veterans, who led troops in the French Resistance in WW2 and in wars in Algeria and Indochina, has passed away at 94. Bigeard, who was wounded in battle 5 times and escaped from POW camps 3 times, had legendary status in France. Nicknamed "the Heroic Bigeard" by Charles de Gaulle, he saw combat against the Nazis and rebels in the French colonies of Indochina and Algeria. "He has been called the best paratrooper in the world, and whatever the truth of that, he most certainly has a claim as the most battle-proven," said military historian Martin Windrow.
Agent Rose, French resistance heroine Andree Peel, survived a Nazi death squad
A French resistance heroine who saved over 100 lives and survived a Nazi death squad has passed away at 105. Known as Agent Rose, Andree Peel helped British and American pilots escape from Nazi-occupied areas. She was granted a second Legion d`Honneur in 2009 to mark her bravery - in addition to her Croix de Guerre and American Medal of Freedom. After the war she got a personal congratulatory letter from Winston Churchill. Peel was being lined up to be shot by a firing squad at the Buchenwald when the U.S. Army arrived. She told her wartime adventures in autobiography "Miracles Do Happen".
British war hero, who helped liberate France, was told to `go home` by French General Charles de Gaulle
Parachuted behind Nazi lines on a mission to train French resistance fighters, he was a World War II hero. Captain Peter Lake trained members of the Maquis - rural resistance fighters - in sabotage and guerilla warfare and was decorated by the French and the British. So when Lake faced General Charles de Gaulle - the leader of the Free French Forces - he expected a warm welcome. De Gaulle - whose country had been liberated only 3 weeks earlier with help from the likes of Lake - questioned what the British officer was doing in France and told him: "We don`t need you here. It only remains for you to leave... You too must go home. Return, return quickly. Au revoir."
Jaqueline Mooney fought the Nazis with French Underground
Jaqueline grew up in a privileged family in the 1930s. Her mother was descendent of the French "Sun King" Louis XIV, and father was a famous singer. Jaqueline`s life changed when the Nazis marched into France in 1940: "Some French were for them, and some were against. Not all Germans were bad." Later she joined the French Resistance: "I would look through binoculars and see parachutes as the Americans bailed out of their B-17s. I would report this to my supervisor." After D-Day she travelled to Paris, throwing Molotov cocktails at the retreating German troops. "I hit a truck full of young soldiers... they did not ask to go to war." The truck went up in flames.
Essential books about France under Nazi Occupation
Occupation by Ian Ousby. Nothing can be more degrading for a nation than to be occupied. And the Nazis even used the ancient practice of hauling people off to be slaves, in this case as forced laborers in German factories. --- Vichy France by Robert O. Paxton triggered what came to be regarded the revolution in studies of French collaboration by showing that the collaborationist policy of the French government was voluntary and went further than the Germans had asked. --- France: The Dark Years, 1940-1944 by Julian Jackson - This is the fullest 1-volume account of both the high politics of Vichy and the daily life of the population.
Sorrow, Pity, Celebration: France Under the Nazis - exhibition at the New York Public Library
One of the amazing things about the exhibition "Between Collaboration and Resistance: French Literary Life Under Nazi Occupation," at the New York Public Library, is that it feels as if we were looking at dozens of relics each going in a different direction, each revealing different hopes and expectations. The Prix Goncourt winner Henri Béraud cheered the new regime in editorials for the right-wing weekly Gringoire. There is a 1940 letter from the philosopher Henri Bergson: "I have seen this coming for several years now. We have touched the bottom of the abyss. At least we will now know where the evil comes from."
Americans in Paris: Life and Death Under Nazi Occupation 1940-44 by Charles Glass
Before World War II Paris had the largest number of expatriate Americans in Europe - 30,000. With the Nazi invasion, most chose to leave, but 3,000 chose, or were had, to stay on and stick it out. All went well until Dec. 1941, but when Adolf Hitler declared war on U.S. 4 days after Pearl Harbor, the Americans went from being neutrals to enemy aliens. The most baffling figure in Glass`s researches is American multimillionaire Charles Bedaux. Using his business links, he was able to consort both with the Vichy regime and Nazi officials. His car had a WH numberplate, letters used by the occupying Nazi forces.
Joseph Brocard was the last member of resistance network Agir, which mapped V1 sites
Joseph Brocard, the last member of the French Agir resistance network passed away at 88. He was involved in a resistance movement that located launching sites of the German V-1 cruise missile so that allied bombers could take them out. The Agir group, set up by French Colonel Michel Hollard at the start of the war, was a self-contained intelligence network with 100 agents. Brocard helped map over 100 V-1 launching sites, constructed around the Pas de Calais area. The V1 flying bomb (the Buzz bomb) was an early cruise missile fired from special "ski" platforms. Brocard was granted Légion d`honneur and Croix de guerre and the British King`s Medal for Courage.
WW2 resistance fighter Andrée Peel breaks silence on wartime heroics on her 104th birthday
At the age of 104, Andrée Peel has plenty of memories. And as a WW2 French Resistance fighter who saved over 100 servicemen, there will be plenty who have cherished her. Peel even got a letter from Winston Churchill, but for security reasons the letter had to be destroyed. She is among the most decorated women who made it through the war, she was awarded France`s highest award for Bravery, the Legion d`Honneur (by her own brother, 4-star General Maurice Virot), the War Cross with palm, the War Cross with purple star, American Medal of Freedom (from Dwight Eisenhower), the medal of the Resistance, the Liberation cross and the King`s Commendation for Brave Conduct.
Resistance: Memoirs of Occupied France by Agnes Humbert
Notre Guerre, Souvenirs de Résistance, Agnès Humbert, 1946. The listing on eBay didn`t give much hint as to the gem that lay in store. Neither title nor author meant anything to me. But a memoir of the French Resistance released so soon after WW2 and written by a woman, might be worth a couple of euros. When it arrived, Notre Guerre emitted the atmosphere of wartime Paris with its cover darkened with age, its blotting-paper pages roughly cut. There was no preface, no introduction. As I began to read, I was plunged into the Parisians` agonised anticipation of the arrival of the Wehrmacht in their dear city in June 1940...
Germaine Tillion: French resistance fighter, concentration camp survivor
Anthropologist, resistance fighter, Algeria peacemaker and writer Germaine Tillion passed away aged 100. 1934-1940 she made 4 trips to Algeria, travelling on horseback and camping with Berber nomads as she collected firsthand observations. But it was her wartime experiences that brought her to major public attention as a founding member of the "Museum of Mankind" intellectual resistance network. In 1942 she was betrayed by a priest working for the Gestapo. Tillion survived by treating the Ravensbruck camp as a case-study for observation - and later writing 2 books on Ravensbruck.
Sophie Marceau`s film sparks resistance by the French resistance
Heroines of the French resistance have taken issue with a film that was supposed to honour their fight against the Nazis. Les Femmes de l’Ombre (women of the shadows), starring Sophie Marceau, had got praise from film critics for at last recognising the mostly ignored role of women resistance fighters. French recruits of the Special Operations Executive, set up in 1940 by Winston Churchill, say the film dishonours their fallen comrades by hinting that women were coerced into the resistance. "This film is worse than if they had done nothing," says resistance member Denise Vernay.
Ladies of the French Resistance
Tereska Torres worked with General de Gaulle`s Free French forces in London during World War II. I have joined her on a nostalgic journey to the settings of her 1951 novel, Women`s Barracks, which broke taboos by telling of unmarried mothers and lesbian affairs. We drive on in silence until she yells: "Here! Turn here for Hill Street!" I knew she would remember. As I had listened to her telling stories back in her Paris atelier, the photos of uniformed girls in her scrapbooks had ceased to be still pictures and had seemed to dance with the sounds and smells of life in the Gallic Women`s Barracks.
Resistance fighter who helped Cockleshell Heroes escape Gestapo
The French Resistance fighter Jean Mariuad, who guided the two Cockleshell Heroes to safety after one of the most daring commando raids of WWII, has spoken about the operation for the first time. In Dec 1942 10 Royal Marines paddled up the Gironde River on Cockle Mark II canoes to plant limpet mines on German merchant ships preparing to carry war materials from Bordeaux to Japan. They sunk one ship, severely damaged 4 and did enough damage to disrupt the harbour for months. But 2 men drowned and 6 were captured. The only two who survived - Major "Blondie" Hasler (founder of the Special Boat Service) and Royal Marine Bill Sparks - owed their lives to Mariuad.
Picasso was no collaborator, supported the French Resistance
He stayed in Paris when the Nazis invaded, keeping his head down and prompting claims that he must have collaborated with Adolf Hitler`s Nazi regime. But covertly Picasso - denounced as a "degenerate" artist by Hitler - played a role in supporting the French Resistance, according to previously unpublished letters. Professor Peter Read has gained access to a collection of letters proving that Picasso actively supported the Resistance activist Robert Desnos, who was arrested by the Gestapo on 22 Feb 1944. "He was never involved in overt Resistance activity, but his friends were anti-fascists and he used to help them by giving them art they could sell..."
General Alain Le Ray: French Resistance figure, first to escape Colditz
General Alain Le Ray, a World War II Resistance leader whose escape from a Nazi Colditz prison forged his image and career, has died at 96. Le Ray fought in colonial wars in Indochina and Algeria. Michele Alliot-Marie called Le Ray a "man of conviction and commitment" who "devoted his life to the fight for freedom and embodied the spirit of Resistance." The career officer was captured in June 1940 and become the first to escape from the Colditz prison in Third Reich less than a year later. The Nazis had touted the prison as escape-proof, and his exploits were recounted in a 1976 book "Premiere a Colditz" ("First in Colditz").
The First Steps of the French Resistance (Article no longer available from the original source)
In the autumn of 1940 the nucleus of a resistance network was being formed as the French Communist Party (PCF) was developing a Popular Front strategy for confronting the enemy. For Vichy the tracking down of communist militants was a major objective: 5,000 communists in France were interned up to June 1941. The legal government of France was that of Marshall Pétain: on 10 July 1940, Vichy parliament gave him full powers by 570 votes to 80. Demoralized, public opinion sided with Pétain, who enjoyed the prestige of "the Conqueror of Verdun". A few pioneers, from various political backgrounds, laid the foundations of what were to become the organs of the Resistance.
Online Video Portal to Archive WWII Resistance Fighters
The EU has launched the first online history project that collects videotaped stories of resistance fighters, who stood up against Nazism and Fascism. There have been numerous efforts to document the histories of Nazi camp survivors, trying to make sure their collective history is not lost. Similarly, concerned that the last living resistance fighters were dying out, the EU launched a pilot project in 2006 to preserve their stories and make them available to the public. On May 7, 9 months after it began, The European Resistance Archive (ERA) video portal went online, also offering maps, images, texts and transcriptions of all the interviews.
The French Resistance hero Lucie Aubrac - Outwitting the Gestapo
The wartime French Resistance hero, Lucie Aubrac, has died at the age of 94. She became known for her role in helping her husband, Raymond, a leader of the anti-Nazi resistance, escape from German detention in June 1943. Because their cover had been blown, Aubrac fled to London to join President Charles de Gaulle`s exiled administration. Two films were made about Lucie Aubrac and her wartime heroism. After the Nazis occupied France, she helped set up one of the first underground networks in southern France, Liberation-sud, formed by her husband. In 1984, Lucie Aubrac published her memoirs Outwitting the Gestapo.
A haven from Hitler - The only Righteous place in France
The French village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon played a courageous role in the second world war, providing sanctuary for thousands. Yad Vashem hailed the wartime population of Le Chambon as among the "Righteous". It is the only place in France to have such an honour. Historians generally agree that fewer than 5% of French people took part in even the most mild form of resistance. "Quite the contrary: it was the exception in a country that overwhelmingly submitted to the Nazi regime," says Sauvage.
French resistance fighter Triboulet dies - was in Normandy
Triboulet was appointed by wartime hero Gen. Charles de Gaulle as sub-prefect in France, the first to get that title in the newly liberated country just days after allied troops landed on the Normandy coast. Liberated France at that time was a tiny sliver of Normandy carved out by invading troops and Triboulet was based in the bomb-flattened city of Bayeux. Triboulet joined the Those Who Resist branch of the anti-German resistance movement and took part in helping U.S., Canadian, British and other troops to invade France.
In Occupied France, Heroic Silence Amid the Fog of War
For six decades now, the French have cherished the myth of the Resistance, the insurgency that undermined, a little, the repressive authority of their Nazi occupiers and preserved — at least in memory — the honor of their otherwise humiliated nation. The apparatus of clandestine operations is imperishably cool: the false names, the passwords, the dead-of-night rendezvous. But, perhaps because in their national imagination the ethos of the Resistance slides so easily into the comfort zone of Musketeer-like fraternal gallantry.
WW2 POW reveals nasty side of the French Resistance (Article no longer available from the original source)
Jack Fairweather temporary worked with the French Resistance, earning one of France`s highest honors. He was part of the June 6 D-day landing in Normandy. On the second day he was taken as a POW, but his POW train was bombed by the Allies, and he escaped. He was soon picked up by French resistance fighters. "The leader of the group was an outlaw of sorts named Lecoz. The guy was pretty much out for himself. Anyone that got in his way he`d have them either executed or beaten to death." After liberating the small French town of Loshes Lecoz rounded up many of the residents and executed them for no reason other than he found them undesirables.