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This page presents some information on the Liberation. It is currently divided into the following sections, (although there are plans to develop it further over time):



What role did Resistance play in the Liberation?






Any suggestions on improvements or supplements to this page will be gratefully received at





What role did Resistance play in the Liberation?

 The Allied supreme commander claimed General Eisenhower claimed that the Resistance contribution to the Liberation battles was the equivalent of 15 regular army divisions (*1). But how far does this statement reflect the reality of the situation? 

By the time of the Liberation, which for most parts of the country took place in the summer of 1944, the Resistance had grown considerably. Armed groups still represented a small minority of the population. Nevertheless it has been estimated that the Forces Françaises de l’Intérieure, the armed wing of the Resistance, had 500,000 fighting men and women by that stage (*2). The problem was that although these Resisters may have been enthusiastic they usually did not have sufficient weaponry to be able to defeat the occupier. In Paris for instance they got the Germans to the point of accepting a temporary truce in August 1944 but had to plea with the Allies to send in the heavy artillery to finally oust their occupier. Whenever the Resistance engaged in pitched battles with the Germans these usually ended in disaster for the Resistance.

An example of this is provided by the Maquis(*3) in the Vercors region of South East France. Between 21 and 23 July 1944 a gathering of Maquis in the mountains there suffered a series of German onslaughts resulting in the deaths of more than 600 Maquisards. 

Resistance was still far better suited to tactics of guerrilla warfare. This involved rapid attacks by small mobile units followed by equally swift withdrawals. The effect of this was to keep the Germans on the guard which had a psychological effect on the occupation troops. After D-Day rural Resistance groups, known as Maquisards, harassed German reinforcements on their way to the battle zone. This arguably slowed German movements down but was usually not decisive in the battle for liberation of a particular area. 

Conditions of Liberation varied greatly from one locality to another. Some local Liberations did take place without direct Allied intervention. Indeed much of the South West was freed before the Allies arrived. But this was often because the Germans had withdrawn. It should be underlined that the Resistance could not have liberated France without Allied help. The historian Philippe Buton has estimated that 85% of towns were liberated directly by the Allies (*4)

Sabotage was another way in which the Resistance contributed to Liberation. Coded messages were sent out on the airwaves of the BBC in the run-up to D-Day. These provided a trigger for Resisters to engage in sabotage activities throughout France. Sabotage acts were thus launched slightly before the actual Allied landings and continued throughout the summer until Liberation was achieved. The Allies were hoping not only that these acts would not only disrupt German lines of communications but would also cause confusion amongst the Germans as to where the Allied landing would take place. A widespread campaign of sabotage ensued. For example, from June every Lyons-bound train leaving Marseilles was derailed. 1055 attacks on railway lines had been planned, of these 960 took place(*5). But lack of equipment also limited the sabotage efforts of the Resistance. They did manage to blow up some German military installations and equipment and they certainly did slow down German convoys when they headed for the war zone after D-Day. But the feeling remains that if they had had more arms and explosives they could have done this job even more effectively. 

However, the military contribution of the resistance should not be restricted to just their role in fighting or sabotage. Probably their most important military role was in the form of espionage. Military and political intelligence is vital to any would be invader keen to limit their own losses. Knowing where the enemy is and how well armed they are is of crucial importance and this sort of information is best collected from behind enemy lines. Volunteers had begun plying the Allies with political and military intelligence from 1940 and this was slowly integrated into Allied planning of future operations. Much of the information used to plan the D-Day landings was based on information provided by the French Resistance. Once invasion took place, ordinary civilians made advancing troops aware of German positions in the vicinity. Such up-to-date local knowledge could be vital in enabling Allied troops to avoid ambushes.

Ordinary citizens also raised the morale of Allied troops by offering them drinks and a warm welcome. Injured soldiers could benefit from medical aid from local doctors.  

Undoubtedly, the most important role Resistance played at the time of the Liberation was actually political rather than military. The Resistance assured that there was no power vacuum in France. Lists had been drawn up of Vichy administrators who were to be removed from their posts when Liberation took place. The names of their replacements had already been determined. The Resistance was thus able to assure a relatively smooth transition between regimes. There was some popular violence aimed at collaborators but this was reduced by the rapidity with which the Resistance set up courts of justice to bring offenders to proper trials.

The fact that the Resistance had existed was also key to restoring French pride. It allowed France to be reaccepted into the international community as one of the victorious powers. If the only image that France had been able to project had been that of Vichy submission they would have found it impossible to be accepted in this way. De Gaulle managed to get France invited to the post-war peace conferences and to be granted one of the four zones of occupation in defeated Germany.

(*1) Olivier Wieviorka, ‘La fin des héros’, L’Histoire, no 233, June 1999, p 43.

(*2) Philippe Buton, ‘La France atomisée’, in Jean-Pierre Azéma, & François Bédarida (eds), La France des Années Noires, Paris, Seuil, 1993, vol 2, pp 419-452.

(*3) 'Maquis' was the name given to rural Resistance groups. It derived from the Corsican word for ‘shrub’

(*4) Philippe Buton, Les lendemains qui déchantent, Paris, FNSP, 1993, pp 104-106.

(*5) Julian Jackson, France: the dark years, Oxford, OUP, 2001, p 545






Henry Rousso on the legacy of Vichy's Révolution Nationale

Extract from Henry Rousso, 'Qu'est ce que la 'Révolution Nationale'', L'Histoire, no 129, January 1990, pp 101-102


Au total la Révolution Nationale est restée une oeuvre inachevée, fragile et.... détestée. L'évolution du conflit la range après 1942 au second plan des priorités. L'effondrement du régime l'envoie définitivement dans l'enfer des idéologies du désastre. Pourtant, nombre de transformations ont été reprises à la Libération et sont entrées dans les moeurs, quitte à subir un ravalement. 

Là où Vichy a poursuivi, en l'intensifiant, l'oeuvre de ses prédecesseurs, Front Populaire y compris, il a laissé une trace plus ou moins durable. C'est du moins vérifiable dans le domaine de la politique économique, de la politique d'éducation après 1941, de la politique familiale ou encore de la politique sportive. C'est vrai également de la création de 'régions' et de la prise en compte du concept de décentralisation comme des réformes de l'appareil d'Etat. En revanche, là où la Révolution nationale a cherché ouvertement et brutalement la rupture avec l'ordre ancien, elle a connu des échecs relativement cuisants. La politique d'exclusion, notamment à l'égard des Juifs, qui se transformera en répression en 1941-42, marque une étape décisive dans l'évolution défavorable de l'opinion. 


Hilary Footitt and John Simmonds 

on French-Allied relations at the Liberation

Extract from Hilary Footitt and John Simmonds, France, 1943-1945, Leicester University Press, 1988, pp 174-176

Although there was considerable confusion in many areas, it was evident that French indigenous authorities, albeit different ones in different places, had obtained control of civil affairs with remarkably little difficulty. By mid-September 1944 the US Office of War Information noted the fact that AMGOT had been definitely jettisoned: ‘Under the policy laid down by SHAEF, military government has not been set up in liberated France, control of civil administration remaining with the local authorities’. The job of Allied Civil Affairs now became one of ‘assisting local authorities to maintain law and order and re-establish community services’. The change of tone since the AMGOT days of 1943 was visible in 7th US Army reports from southern France at the beginning of September:


There is some confusion over the role of the American army in connection with the French government here, with some people wondering whether we eventually intend to establish an AMGOT. Plans to counteract any such impression by publicizing Army Civil Affairs policies are under way.


By the end of September SHAEF G5 felt that the French were operating so well that it would be possible to withdraw the majority of civil affairs detachments, retaining them only at regional level.


If, however, the Allied military were willing to respect the efficiency of French local administration, this did not necessarily imply that all of them regarded the Gaullist regime as the natural national government of France. The Commissaire de la République at Nancy was told by the first American General whom he saw: ‘You are by no means obliged to follow General de Gaulle. If you think that another Government would be better, we’re all ready to consider the matter’. For this reason, French central government officials begged regional representatives to approach the question of dealing with Allied authorities with some care. Thus Laroque in the north warned the Commissaire de la République of Rennes that direct dealings with allied soldiers at a local level might result in junior officials giving in to the Allies and ceding far too much ‘as a result of habits acquired during the German occupation’. Cochet in the south was equally concerned at civil affairs officers visiting Prefects without prior clearance or unaccompanied by a French administrative liaison officer, although it should be noted that the civilian French authority in the south, Aubrac, was himself complaining to Cochet at this time about the activities of French Liaison Officers, who were overstepping their purely military responsibilities.

Reports of unacceptable Allied activity continued to reach French Central authorities. In Caen for example it was claimed that the British had searched the PCF headquarters. Teams of British and American personnel were said to have conducted detailed inquiries on every aspect of French economic and industrial life. On occasions, the French and the Allies could be equally embarrassed by incidents. The presence of Allied officers who had led local Resistance groups during the pre-Liberation days, and then stayed on in the areas, operating like ‘feudal lords’, was something neither side greatly appreciated.


On a local level, the wild enthusiasm which had generally greeted the arrival of Allied troops was inevitably replaced by a more wary coexistence as the problems of living together became evident. The First Canadian Army reports noted that there was a tendency on the part of the French population in September 1944 to feel that the war was now over as far as they were concerned. Disillusionment set in when it was realised that Liberation meant neither the end of the war, nor the beginning of markedly improved economic conditions, and some of the disappointment was laid at the door of the Allies, to feed the complaints which were bound to arrive as a large foreign army wintered in a country: excessively generous treatment by the American army of German prisoners, requisitioning, an apparent tendency to behave in Lorraine as if already in German territory, and so on. Some of the problems were cultural. Foulon, for example, describes the case of an American general congratulating the French on the good advertising skill shown in naming villages in the Rhone valley after well-known wines! Others sprang from the tensions produced by having large numbers of armed troops, Allied and French, in the same areas. 






Liberation & Reconstruction Chronology

The chronology below is an original compilation drawn from the following sources:
AZEMA (J-P) & BEDARIDA (F), (eds) 1938-1948, Les années de tourmente, dictionnaire critique, Flammarion, Paris, 1995
AZEMA (Jean-Pierre), De Munich à la Libération, 1938-1944, Le Seuil, Paris, 1979.
CREMIEUX-BRILHAC, (Jean-Louis), La France Libre, Gallimard, Paris, 1996
KEDWARD (H R) & AUSTIN (R), Vichy France & the Resistance: Culture & Ideology, Croom Helm, 1995
PITEAU (Michel) (Ed.), La Provence et la France de Munich à la Libération (1938-1945),  Edisud, Aix-en-Provence, 1994.


1942    1943    1944    1945    1946    1947    1948
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06 11 1942 occupation totale de Madagascar par les Britanniques

08 11 1942 début de l'opération 'Torch': les forces anglo-saxonnes débarquent en Afrique du Nord mais de Gaulle est écarté de l'entreprise

09 11 1942 arrivée du général Giraud à Alger

10 11 1942 Darlan ordonne le cessez-le-feu général en Afrique du Nord

13 11 1942 Darlan prend le pouvoir à Alger au nom de Pétain et fait rentrer l'Afrique du Nord dans la guerre du côté des Alliés

22 11 1942 accords Clark-Darlan à Alger

23 11 1942 ralliement de l'Afrique Occidentale française à Darlan

30 11 1942 ralliement d'île de la Réunion à la France Combattante

14 12 1942 les Britanniques transfèrent au Comité national français l'administration de Madagascar

24 12 1942 Darlan assassiné à Alger

26 12 1942 le général Giraud succède à Darlan

26 12 1942 de Gaulle propose un pouvoir commun au général Giraud. Celui-ci refuse



1942    1943    1944    1945    1946    1947    1948
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07 05 1943 les forces alliées entrent à Bizerte et Tunis

13 05 1943 Reddition des forces de l'Axe en Tunisie

17 05 1943 Giraud invite de Gaulle à venir à Alger

30 05 1943 de Gaulle arrive à Alger

03 06 1943 création du CFLN sous  la co-présidence de Giraud et de de Gaulle. Giraud sera écarté dans les six mois

26 08 1943 le CFLN est reconnu comme représentant les 'intérêts français' par Londres, Washington et Moscou

08 09  1943 soulèvement des résistants corses

15 09 1943 Emile Bollaert est nommé délégué du CFLN en France

17 09 1943 réunion à Alger de la première 'Assemblée Consultative' qui réunit élus de la IIIe République et représentants de la Résistance

02 10 1943 de Gaulle seul maître à Alger

04 10 1943 les troupes françaises débarquées achèvent de libérer la Corse

03 11 1943 séance inaugurale à Alger de l'Assemblée consultative provisoire


1942    1943    1944    1945    1946    1947    1948
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10 01 1944 A Alger, ordonnance  créant des commissaires de la République

27 01 1944 accord Churchill-d'Astier pour l'armement de la Résistance

01 02 1944 ordonnance créant les Forces Françaises de l'Intérieur

10 03 1944 Alexandre Parodi est nommé délégué général du CFLN en France

15 03 1944 publication d'une directive du CNR connue sous le nom de 'programme du CNR', prévoyant les modalités de la libération et les mesures de l'après-libération

20 03 1944 exécution de Pucheu à Alger

19 04 1944 à l'approche du débarquement en Normandie, Roosevelt, poursuivant sa tentative d'exclusion des gaullistes, impose à Churchill l'interruption des communications entre Alger et Londres

21 04 1944 ordonnance du CFLN sur l'organisation des pouvoirs publics en France libérée

30 05 1944 S.H.A.E.F reconnaît Koenig comme commandant en chef des FFI

02 06 1944 le CFLN prend le nom de gouvernement provisoire de la République française

06 06 1944 début de l'opération 'Overlord': débarquement allié en Normandie

06 06 1944 Pétain demande aux Français de s'abstenir dans la lutte

06 06 1944 Koenig prend officiellement le commandement en chef des FFI

14 06 1944 pour couper court à la prise en main des territoires libérés par une administration alliée, de Gaulle débarque à Courseulles. Il installe le premier 'commissaire de la République' à Bayeux

06 -10 07 1944 de Gaulle entame une visite aux Etats-Unis où il est reçu par Roosevelt

09 07 1944 libération de Caen

17 -23 07 1944 bataille du Vercors

31 07 1944 percée américaine à Avranches- décisive pour la  bataille de Normandie

09 08 1944 ordonnance du GPRF relative au rétablissement de la légalité républicaine

10 08 1944 à Paris début de la grève des cheminots encouragée par le PCF

13 08 1944 retraite allemande en Normandie

15 08 1944 débarquement franco-américain sur les côtes de Provence

15 08 1944 dernier  train de déportés

15 08 1944 grève de la police parisienne

17 08 1944 Laval tient son dernier Conseil des ministres

19 08 1944 insurrection de Paris et occupation de la Préfecture de police

19 08 1944 Laval, emmené à Belfort par les SS, déclare cesser d'exercer ses fonctions

20 08 1944 le maréchal Pétain est obligé de quitter Vichy pour Belfort

24 08 1944 intervention de la 2ème D.B. dans les combats de la libération de Paris

25 08 1944 Libération de Paris

26 08 1944 De Gaulle est acclamé sur les Champs Elysées

07 09 1944 arrivée de Pétain et Laval à Sigmaringen

08 -09 09 1944 formation d'un ministère 'd'unanimité nationale' sous la direction de de Gaulle

13 09 1944 jonction, dans les Vosges, des armées du Midi avec celles qui viennent de Normandie

15 09 1944 création des 'cours spéciales de justice' qui jugeront 124500 individus entre 1944 et 1951: 1500 condamnations à mort exécutées, 50000 'dégradations nationales', 30000 acquittements, 43000 condamnations par contumace ou peines de prison

23 09 1944 dissolution des FFI par intégration dans l'armée régulière

05 10 1944 ordonnance sur le droit de vote des femmes

23 10 1944 les alliés reconnaissent officiellement le GPRF présidé par Charles de Gaulle

28 10 1944 désarmement des milices patriotiques regroupant les anciens FTP

12 11 1944 en Allemagne, 7500 Français, survivants de la LVF et Francs-Gardes de la Milice, prêtent serment à Hitler avant d'intégrer la 'division Charlemagne'

18 11 1944 ordonnance instituant une Haute Cour de Justice pour juger les responsables politiques et hauts fonctionnaires en poste du 16 juin 1940 au 25 août 1944

23 11 1944 libération de Strasbourg par les troupes de Leclerc

25 11 1944 retour d'URSS, après amnistie, de Maurice Thorez, Secrétaire Général du P.C.F.

10 12 1944 signature à Moscou d'un traité d'alliance et d'assistance mutuelle franco-soviétique

18 12 1944 premier numéro du journal 'le Monde'

26 12 1944 ordonnance sur "l'indignité nationale"


1942    1943    1944    1945    1946    1947    1948
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01 -05 01 1945 la Wehrmacht menace Strasbourg

03 01 1945 rétablissement de la gratuité dans l'enseignement secondaire

06 01 1945 Jacques Doriot proclame à Constance un gouvernement en exil, dit 'Comité français de libération'

25 01 1945 début de Yalta sans la France

27 01 1945 Charles Maurras est condamné à la réclusion criminelle à perpétuité

27 01 1945 l'Armée Rouge libère Auschwitz

06 02 1945 exécution de Robert Brasillach

21 02 1945 de Gaulle refuse de rencontrer Roosevelt

22 02 1945 Premiers navires américains apportant du ravitaillement à usage civil

22 02 1945 mort de Doriot lors d'un bombardement aérien

02 03 1945 discours de de Gaulle sur la reconstruction

13 -18 03 1945 1er procès devant la Haute Cour de Justice. Il y aura au total 108 prévenus, 3 condamnations à mort seront exécutées

15 03 1945 suicide de Drieu la Rochelle

05 04 1945 en désaccord avec la politique économique, Pierre Mendès-France démissionne du gouvernement

22 04 1945 des éléments avancés de la Première Armée française arrivent à Sigmaringen et à Constance

25 04 1945 jonction sur l'Elbe des troupes américaines soviétiques

26 04 1945 venant de Suisse, Philippe Pétain se livre aux autorités françaises

29 04 1945 élections municipales: les femmes votent pour la première fois

30 04 1945 Hitler se suicide

07 -08 05 1945 la capitulation allemande est signée à Reims puis Berlin

22 05 1945 manifestations anti-françaises à Beyrouth et à Damas

10 -30 05 1945 1ers retours: 3,3 % des 76,000 'déportés raciaux', 59% des 63000 'politiques', 950,000 prisonniers et 750,000 S.T.O

30 05 1945 création en France, du Comité national d'épuration des gens de lettres, auteurs et compositeurs

22 06 1945 création de l'Ecole Nationale d'Administration

01 08 1945 livré à la France, après un périple vers l'Espagne, Laval arrive au Bourget

06 -09 08 1945 bombes atomiques américaines sur Hiroshima et Nagasaki

15 08 1945 Pétain est condamné à mort; sa peine est commuée en détention à perpétuité

04 -19 10 1945 ordonnances sur la Sécurité Sociale

10 10 1945 condamné à mort, Joseph Darnand, chef de la Milice Française, est fusillé

15 10 1945 exécution de Pierre Laval

02 12 1945 nationalisation de la Banque de France et de quatre grandes banques de dépôt


1942    1943    1944    1945    1946    1947    1948
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20 01 1946 démission de Charles de Gaulle

08 03 1946 sortie du film de René Clément, 'la Bataille du Rail', qui célèbre la résistance des cheminots

18 03 1946 les forces françaises pénètrent dans Hanoi

25 03 1946 René Char publie 'feuillets d'Hypnos'

25 03 1946 à Paris, ouverture de la conférence des ministres des Affaires Etrangères des Quatre

16 06 1946 dans son discours de Bayeux, de Gaulle en appelle à un exécutif fort

23 11 1946 bombardement de Haiphong par la flotte française

03 12 1946 sortie des 'Portes de la Nuit', film de Marcel Carné sur un scénario de Jacques Prévert


1942    1943    1944    1945    1946    1947    1948
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10 02 1947 traité de paix entre la France et l'Italie

14 04 1947 de Gaulle créé le RPF

04 05 1947 le socialiste Paul Ramadier, président du Conseil, révoque les ministres communistes

12 07 1947 ouverture à Paris de la conférence chargée d'élaborer les modalités pratiques de l'aide du plan Marshall

28 11 1947 création en France d'un comité central de grève

28 11 1947 mort accidentelle du Général Leclerc


1942    1943    1944    1945    1946    1947    1948
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17 03 1948 la France, le Benelux et la Grande-Bretagne signent le traité de Bruxelles prévoyant une politique de coopération mutuelle

18 10 1948 en France, violents affrontements sur le carreau des mines


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Below you will find a broad bibliography of questions related to this topic, drawn from texts regularly cited with regard to this subject. It is by no means exhaustive. But it is hoped that those who access this page will co-operate in building on this information. If you know of any other works on subjects related to these themes, please let me know at, so that I can update the list. Similarly if you notice any errors in the list below, please let me know.  When addressing titles to me it would be easier if you respected the format adopted here (ie Author's family name/ Author's Christian name/Title (in italics)/ Name of publisher/ Place of publication/Date of publication). Thanks for any help you can give.

AZEMA (J-P) & BEDARIDA (F), (eds) 1938-1948, Les années de tourmente, dictionnaire critique, Flammarion, Paris, 1995 

BAILLY (Jacques-Augustin), La Libération confisquée, le Languedoc, 1944-45, Albin Michel, Paris 1993. 

CAPDEVILA (Luc), Les Bretons au lendemain de l'Occupation, Imaginaire et comportement d'une sortie de guerre, 1944-1945, Presses Universitaires, Rennes, 1999

CRAIPEAU (Yvan), La Libération confisquée, Savelli Syros, 1978 

FONDATION CHARLES DE GAULLE, Le rétablissement de la légalité républicaine, Complexe, Brussels, 1996 

FOOTIT, Hilary & SIMMONDS (John), France 1943-45, Leicester UP, 1988 

GUILLON (Jean-Marie) & BUTON (Philippe), (eds), Les pouvoirs en France à la Libération, Belin, Paris, 1994 

GUILLON (Jean-Marie), Le Var, la guerre, la résistance, 1939-45, Imprim. Hemisud, Le Revest, 1994. 

KITSON (Simon), "The Police in the Liberation of Paris", in KEDWARD (H.R.) & WOOD (Nancy), The Liberation of France. Image and Event, Berg, Oxford, 1995.

KITSON (Simon),"The Marseille police in their context, from Popular Front to Liberation", D
 phil (supervised by Roderick KEDWARD), Sussex University, 1995. 

KITSON (Simon), "La reconstitution de la Police à Marseille (août 1944-février 1945)", Provence Historique, n° 178, October 1994, pp 497-509.

KITSON (Simon), "Rehabilitation and frustration: the experience of Marseille police officers at the Liberation", Journal of Contemporary History, Vol 33, N° 4, October 1998.

KUPFERMAN (Fred), 1944-1945: le procès de Vichy: Pucheu, Pétain, Laval, Complexe, Brussels, 1980 

LABORIE (P)., Résistants, vichyssois et autres, l'évolution de l'opinion et des comportements dans le Lot de 1939 à 1945, CNRS, Paris, 1980. 

MADJARIAN (Grégoire), Conflits, pouvoirs et société à la Libération, Union Générale des Editions, Paris, 1980 

NOVICK (Peter), The Resistance versus Vichy: The Purge of Collaborators in Liberated France, Chatto & Windus, London, 1968 

PITEAU (Michel) (Ed.), La Provence et la France de Munich à la Libération (1938-1945), Diffusion Edisud, Aix-en-Provence, 1994. 

RIOUX (J-P), La France de la IVe République, Seuil, Paris, 1983 

ROUQUET (François), L'épuration dans l'administration française, CNRS, Paris, 1993 

ROUQUET, François, & VOLDMAN, Danièle, eds., Identités féminines et violences politiques (1936-1946). Les Cahiers de l'Institut d'Histoire du Temps Present, Cahier no. 31, Paris, 1995.

SHENNAN (Andrew), Rethinking France: Plans for renewal, 1940-46, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1989

VOLDMAN, (Danièle), Attention mines, 1944-1947, Editions France-Empire, Paris, 1985.

VOLDMAN, (Danièle), Le déminage en France après 45, Odile Jacob, Paris, 1999

VOLDMAN, (Danièle),  La reconstruction des villes françaises de 1940 à 1954 : histoire d'une politique, L'Harmattan, Paris, 1997


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Photo- Collaborators with shaven heads are paraded through the town by the French resistance on Bastille Day.

Royan- the last pocket of German resistance in south west France

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