Simon Kitson's











This page is currently divided into the following sections: 



What is Resistance?

Barriers to Resistance

Beginnings of Resistance

Differentiating Resistance

Resistance activities

Who were the Resisters?

Geography of Resistance

Resistance and Population


Towards unity

What role did Resistance play in the Liberation?  












What is Resistance?

It is actually very difficult to define Resistance despite a number of attempts by historians. Two competing visions of Resistance have emerged. One is a structural form which tries to limit Resistance to the activity of those belonging to officially recognized movements and networks. This is somewhat restrictive and fails to recognize that Resistance could occur outside of these structures. The second form of definition on the other hand highlights Resistance in society and thereby runs the risk of diluting it by turning everyone into a Resister when there were in fact different degrees of activism and different levels of danger endured (*1). It has so far been impossible for historians to agree on a totally adequate definition. With this proviso in mind I want to highlight some key elements essential to any definition of Resistance. 

Let’s look firstly at the defining objectives of Resistance. Resistance is usually described as an ideological or patriotic struggle to liberate the territory (*2). Perhaps this should be seen more as a long-term objective because in the early years of the occupation most activity described as Resistance would not by itself contribute in any great degree to this ultimate aim. For example the Resistance book ‘Le Silence de la Mer’ by Vercors is universally accepted as presenting a form of Resistance because it proposes not speaking to the occupier. This suggests that rather than having as it immediate aim the liberation of the territory Resistance is more often simply an activity designed to undermine the occupier either physically or, in this case, psychologically. So the first component of a definition of a Resistance act would be focused less on the ultimate liberation of the territory than on undermining the plans or the morale of the occupier in the immediate. An obvious problem with this is to decide whether acts directed against Vichy should in fact be interpreted as Resistance. Most historians do indeed include anti-Vichy actions in their definition of Resistance on the grounds that through collaboration Vichy had established itself as an objective ally of the Germans. Therefore undermining Vichy is to undermine the Germans. Asserting values such as Republicanism could effectively be a challenge to the ideals that Vichy and the Germans were trying to impose on France. The notions of Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité were so far removed from the totalitarianism of the Germans and the reactionary politics of Vichy that encouraging such ideas to flourish could help scupper German plans.

The second element in deciding whether a given act is actually Resistance revolves around the intention of the person committing the act and intentions are clearly sometimes difficult for an historian to determine. In other words to be defined as a Resister an individual must be consciously trying to undermine the occupier or their Vichy accomplice. Giving a concrete example will make this point clearer. There may be a number of reasons why individuals would commit an act of violence against a German soldier. Fights occurred in bars through jealousy or drunkenness. These cannot really be considered as Resistance because the fight did not really come about through an attempt to challenge the Germans’ presence in France. Similarly there were cases where Gangsters were paid by the French secret services to shoot German agents. It would appear that in this case the primary motive of the gangster carrying out the shooting was financial reward and as such their act was not one of Resistance. Related to this idea of being conscious of committing a Resistance act is the idea that Resistance is voluntary. To illustrate this consider the following two situations. (A) Armed Resisters break into a town-hall and force the officials in that town hall to hand over ration cards. (B) Officials in a town hall contact resisters to offer them ration tickets. It is clear that under no circumstances can the attitude of the town officials in the first of these situations be considered as Resistance. The second can on the understanding that the officials are volunteering help to the Resistance in order to help them in their struggle against the occupier. 

Some historians, like Francois Bédarida, include the word ‘clandestine’ in their definition of Resistance. Personally I would challenge this. ‘Clandestinity’ was a necessary element of the life of full-time Resisters. However not all Resistance was clandestine. Resistance could be ‘underground’ or ‘overground’. ‘Underground’ activity is carried out secretly. In other words in this case the Resistance operation is clandestine. Now the ‘product’ of this activity may be visible or invisible, according to the degree of public awareness. Visible Resistance ‘products’ include clandestine newspapers. They are clandestine in the sense of being created illegally, secretly printed and distributed but they give a visibility to the Resistance by making the public aware of it. Invisible clandestine activity is activity which is also carried out clandestinely but where the ‘product’ of Resistance is also invisible. An example of this is intelligence gathering. This is carried out by secret networks and these networks do not make any attempt to disclose their activity to the general public. Their raison d’être is to transmit this information directly to the Allies and for security reasons the fewer people who know about that the better. So ‘underground’ resistance may be visible or invisible. 

What I mean by ‘overground’ Resistance are actions such as street demonstrations. These may be organized by Resistance movements. However the people participating in the demonstration are not necessarily members of a Resistance structure. At the end of the demonstrations they will return to their everyday life and may not participate in any other form of Resistance. The demonstration will be seen as a form of Resistance if its intention is to assert values to challenge the occupier or Vichy. Their Resistance is visible- in the sense of trying to make others aware of it- but it is also not operated clandestinely. The demonstration is acted out publicly. Another example of what I would term ‘overground’ Resistance would be those individuals who insult the Germans with a genuine intention to undermine them psychologically. Someone who goes up to a group of German soldiers and tells them to leave the country is offering a challenge to their presence which clearly cannot be described as ‘clandestine’ or ‘underground’. All Resistance, whether ‘underground’ or ‘overground’, is necessarily in opposition to established legality. Insulting Germans, organizing street demonstrations, publishing clandestine newspapers or intelligence gathering against the Germans are all outlawed in the context of the occupation.

(* 1) François Marcot divides the Resistance into ‘Résistance-Organisation’ and ‘Résistance-Mouvement’. Résistance-Organisation’ is activity which takes place within official Resistance structures whereas ‘Résistance-Mouvement’ is the wider support for Resistance in society. The problem with Marcot’s analysis is that the expression ‘Résistance-Mouvement’  is somewhat confusing given that the organised structures of Resistance are known as ‘Networks’ and ‘Movements’. François Marcot, ‘Les paysans et la Résistance: problèmes d’une approche sociologique’ in Jacqueline Sainclivier & Christian Bougeard, (eds), La Résistance et les Français : enjeux stratégiques et environnement social,  Rennes, Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 1995, p 255. Michel Boivin and Jean Quellien take this notion to a more sophisticated level. They suggest seeing the Resistance as a pyramid in which the small upper triangle is made up of those people belonging to Resistance structures. The second level is made of reliable contacts for the Resistance who offered help through shelter and information. A third level is made up of minor actors who were not formally engaged in Resistance but were prepared to carry out occasional minor acts of defiance such as flowering the tombs of Allied servicemen, patriotic street demonstrations, lacerating German or pro-collaboration posters or putting pro-Allied graffiti on walls. A final level consists of ‘armchair Resisters’ who listened to BBC radio propaganda broadcasts but did not actually take part in any activity.  Michel Boivin and Jean Quellien, ‘La Résistance en Basse-Normandie:définition et sociologie’ in Jacqueline Sainclivier & Christian Bougeard, (eds), La Résistance et les Français : enjeux stratégiques et environnement social,  Rennes, Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 1995, p 171.

(*2) Jean-Pierre Azéma looks at it very much in this way in his chapter ‘ Des Résistances à la Résistance’ in Jean-Pierre Azéma & François Bédarida (eds), La France des Années Noires, Paris, Seuil, 1993, vol 2, pp 275-308.



Barriers to Resistance

In the summer of 1940, public attitude was governed largely by confusion and despair. Certain administrations had been evacuated, many people had left their homes during the exodus. Basically France was in chaos. People were generally incapable of looking beyond this sense of chaos and uncertainty at this time. They were worried about how to get back home, how to trace relatives who had disappeared in the exodus and concerned about the fate of loved ones who had been taken prisoner of war. The defeat added humiliation to this chaos. It was a big shock for a great power such as France to be so easily beaten militarily. In the wake of this defeat, the country declined into a crisis of national identity and people began to look around for strong leadership. 

The population keenly rallied to Pétain. The rallying to Pétain was part of a need to find new certainties. He spoke of order, of sincerity and the need for reconstruction. He had a glorious past as a successful officer in World War One and because of this many felt Pétain could not possibly betray France. Pétain was also reputed for his humane approach to his soldiers. It was said that during the army mutinies of 1917 he had behaved in as humane a way as possible. Pétain was seen as a possible unifier. He was reputed to be above party politics. He made simple speeches using simple moral themes. His age 84 in 1940 was considered a sign both of wisdom and honesty. If he agreed to take power it must be out of self-sacrifice and not ambition.  

Vichy propaganda help to create a cult of personality around him. Pétain’s image was omnipresent. His portrait appeared on stamps, posters, postcards as well as in colouring books and board games. Propaganda encouraged a mea culpa around the defeat. It stressed that people should pay for past errors and need to suffer errors and that they needed to obey their leaders. Propaganda exploited the patriotism of Pétain: using questions such as ‘Etes-vous plus français que lui?’ The affection for Pétain was genuine as were the expectations. One and a half million letters of greeting were sent to him in the New Year of 1941 as well as thousands of presents. French people wanting to denounce misdemeanours on the part of their compatriots often wrote letters of denunciation to the Marshall. It was also common practice to ask the Marshall to intervene for loved ones imprisoned by the French or German authorities.  

In reality there seem few political alternatives to Pétain in the summer of 1940. Pétain had a couple of massive advantages over de Gaulle in his attempts to rally opinion at this stage. His military stature and reputation were such that all French people knew who he was and had an idea of his personal history. De Gaulle on the other hand was the most junior General in the French army and few outside of military circles had heard of him let alone were familiar with his attitudes. Whilst de Gaulle was away from French soil in Britain- an absence which was considered by some as an act of treason for an army officer- Pétain was present in France and could thereby claim to be sharing France’s suffering. He also had the advantage of being able to make his presence felt by regularly touring his territory. His visits to Marseille, Lyon, Toulouse, etc were major events accorded massive coverage by the media.  

Another potential source of guidance should have come from the political domain. Political parties, which usually offer some guidance to people, were in disarray following the defeat. The most obvious candidate to provide opposition to the Nazis should have been the PCF (Parti Communiste Français). However, the Nazi Soviet pact of 1939 severely compromised it. The official line, inspired by the ‘Comintern’ in Moscow, was henceforth that the war was an imperialist enterprise in which both the Germans and the Allies were equally to blame. The Soviets would stay out. Some individual communists broke with the party line and engaged in an anti-Nazi stance from the beginning. The PCF itself however tried, unsuccessfully, in the summer of 1940 to negotiate with the Germans for an authorised publication of the communist newspaper l’Humanité. The talks broke down due to reticence from both the communists and the Nazis. L’Humanité stopped calling for fraternisation with German soldiers but continued until the spring of 1941 in a neutralist line. The communist organ did, however, take an extremely strongly anti-Vichy stance from the outset. It therefore found itself in the uncomfortable position of being opposed to the Valet and not the Master. In May 1941, in other words slightly before the Nazi attack on the Soviet Union, the French communist party began to make clear preparations for an anti-German strategy as is seen in the setting up of the Front National movement.  

It should be noted that no other political party could be described as giving a clear lead in respect of Resistance in the first year after defeat. The socialist party came closest. The socialist party was divided by the support which many of its members had given to Pétain in the vote of 10 July 1940. In the winter of 1940-41 a splinter group emerged from the ashes of the old party to establish a clandestine socialist party from which were expelled all those who had voted full powers to Pétain.  The socialist party, however, decided against forming a distinctive grouping within the Resistance. Individual socialists were left to joint he Resistance in an individual capacity rather than as members of the party.

The basic fact is that there seemed to be little purpose in Resistance in the summer of 1940. The left-wing journalist, Georges Boris, later noted that :

the arguments advanced by those in favour of prolonging the struggle may have expressed the instinctive wishes of the majority of Frenchmen, but from the practical point of view they seemed to be little more than the voicing of a pious wish (*1).

After all the question recurred to a number of French people: ‘if the French army- the best, the only organised force available- had been beaten in five weeks, how and where could resistance be continued?’ (*2). Most feared that since the French had been demolished in the space of weeks, there was no hope whatsoever that the English could hold out more than a month, or that an unarmed, pacifistic Britain, whose troops had failed to distinguish themselves in France, could succeed where the mighty French Army had failed. In 1940 it seemed like a reasonable assumption to presume that the Germans would win the war.

 Besides, what practically could be done against the Germans which would have any effect? People had little idea on how to organise underground warfare. It seemed sensible to wait on events. The expression ‘attentiste’ (‘wait and see’) is often used to describe French opinion during the early stages after the defeat.

(*1) Georges BORIS, French public opinion since the armistice, Oxford, O.U.P.,  1942, p 5.

(*2) Georges BORIS, French public opinion since the armistice, Oxford, O.U.P.,  1942, p 5.


 Beginnings of Resistance

The barriers to resistance mentioned above help explain why there was little collective opposition in the period prior to July 1942. There were some student demonstrations in Paris on 11 November to commemorate the victory in the First World War. There were also Miners’ strikes in the Northeast in May 1941, although some, such as Lynne Taylor, have attributed these more to simple wage demands than any patriotic opposition to the Germans (*1). In any event such collective shows of strength were the exception rather than the rule in the first two of the ‘Dark Years’. 

Early Resisters were isolated and diverse. Resistance grew from below, a fact which would always make it difficult to impose uniformity on it from above. There was no standard model of Resistance to adopt. There were historical precedents that could be looked to such as the actions of the Camisards, Protestant rebels in the Cévennes area of France who stood up to the Catholics and the Monarchy in the early part of the 18th century or the Communards of 1871 who opposed the Prussian invaders (*2). But most Resisters initially felt the scale of the rout of 1940 bore little comparison with historical examples. Exceptional circumstances require exceptional responses and most Resisters looked no further than their imagination for inspiration. The responses they came up with were very varied. 

Resistance began with small acts of individual defiance. There were both isolated from each other and diverse in their form. There were some acts of sabotage and a few incidents of shooting German soldiers in June 1940 but these should perhaps be seen more as the last skirmishes of the Battle of France than the true beginnings of Resistance. Much more characteristic of the early forms of Resistance were the attempts to help stranded Allied (British, Polish or Belgian) service personnel to escape from France so that they might continue the fight. This was an activity which was, for obvious reasons, particularly concentrated in port areas. In the occupied zones of France individuals began to develop actions designed to irritate the Germans (‘narguer les Allemands’). These ranged from pretending not to understand to turning road signs around or giving fake direction so that German convoys would take the wrong route. 

There were also more grandiose schemes. In fact one of the common denominators of many early forms of resistance was that they were often unrealistic and out of all proportion with real possibilities. 

 The most grandiose scheme of all was that undertaken by General De Gaulle and in many ways his efforts also seemed to fly in the face of reason. De Gaulle’s speech of 18 June 1940 calling for patriotic French people to join him was wildly optimistic. He was the most junior General in the French army, only having been promoted to this rank less than three weeks previously. In the 1930s he had achieved some notoriety in political and military circles for his controversial views on organising a more mechanised army. Indeed so outspoken had he been in the defence of these ideas that he had gained many enemies. Outside of these milieus, however, he was scarcely a household name. That a relatively unknown 50 year-old should be challenging the wisdom of Marshal Pétain seemed to many in June 1940 as unbelievably pretentious. That he should make his broadcasts from a Britain which was seen to have contributed little to the fighting and would shortly be sinking much of the French fleet at Mers el-Kébir seemed almost treasonous. De Gaulle’s speech made little initial impact. Few heard it. Many were on the road as refugees or else had other preoccupations than listening to the BBC in the immediate aftermath of France’s disastrous defeat. It is true that some newspapers such as Le Petit Provençal in Marseilles carried the text of his appeal in their edition of 19 June but the fact that they misspelled his name merely serves to underline how little known he was. De Gaulle’s was by no means the first voice to speak in favour of continuing the struggle but it would later assume huge importance.

(*1) Lynne Taylor, Between resistance and collaboration: popular protest in Northern France, Basingstoke, Macmillan, 1999. For an account showing how early miners’ protests about material concerns developed into a more patriotic form of action see: Diana Cooper-Richet and Guy Groux, ‘Les ouvriers, l’Eglise et la Résistance’, in Jacqueline Sainclivier & Christian Bougeard, (eds), La Résistance et les Français : enjeux stratégiques et environnement social,  Rennes, Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 1995, p 138.

 (*2) Robert Zaretsky, Nîmes at War, Pennsylvania, USA, Penn State Press, 1995, pp 120-123.


 Differentiating Resistance

 There are at least three different ways in which we can separate out the development of Resistance which highlighted both the diversity of organisations which emerged and the range of experiences encountered. The first would be to contrast internal and external Resistance, the second would be to examine the difference between movements and networks and finally to compare Resistance in the occupied and unoccupied zones.



Resistance had already divided into Internal and External structures, in other words those movements and networks operating within France, the Internal Resistance, and those operating in London, the Free French, or Washington, France forever. We shall explore later how these Internal movements came to accept de Gaulle’s leadership but the initial period of 1940-41 was a period when de Gaulle’s Free French organisation were largely ignorant of the development of internal Resistance structures within France. Internal Resistance movements for their part were not keen to be subsumed under his control because they were fiercely jealous of their independence. The expression ‘Gaullist’ to describe Internal Resistance was a Vichy invention. From late 1940, Vichy authorities described any non-communist opposed to the armistice as a supporter of de Gaulle. This was a massive simplification because most of them had come to resistance independently of de Gaulle. In fact some of them were suspicious of de Gaulle’s democratic credentials and insisted that the General should give them a written promise to respect democracy after the Liberation of France which he duly did in the Spring of 1942.




One division in Resistance development came about as a result of the division of the country into different zones of occupation. Indeed due to the difficulty of communication as a result of the demarcation line, only one movement, the communist movement Front National, operated in both zones.

Northern Resistance was particularly fragmented owing to the danger represented by the presence of the Germans. Even the movements were relatively small there as a response to the demands of security. Most of the earliest Resistance structures in this zone were decimated as inexperience made them an easy target for the Nazi police. Very few of the leaders of such structures survived the war. It was difficult to discuss openly in public places. Communists who were lulled into a false sense of security by the PCF’s initial line of fraternisation with the Germans found themselves arrested.

Movements in the south profited from the relative freedom of the southern zone. There were such a large number of refugees from the exodus in the southern Zone and such a high level of unemployment that groups of individuals discussing at a table in café or bar attracted little attention before about 1942. This allowed for greater discussion and more reflection. Three essential movements developed in the south: ‘Combat’, ‘Franc-Tireur’ and ‘Liberation-Sud’.

The Northern Resisters having less time to discuss ideology tended to be more nationalistic in their approach. Their focus was more on military and less on political aspects. In the south on the other hand the only German or Italian soldiers visible were the members of the armistice commission delegations. Resisters there had to try to snap their compatriots out of their complacency. They also had to decide how to react towards Vichy, whereas the Northern Resisters usually chose to ignore Pétain’s regime to focus exclusively on the Germans. Surprisingly few Resisters in the Southern zone rejected Pétain immediately. Indeed, Henri Frenay who was the founder of the movement which became ‘Combat’ continued to quote Pétain in favourable ways right through to the Summer of 1941. It was only in April 1942 with the return of Laval that his movement explicitly condemned Pétain.



Each network generally had a clear, specific aim, either intelligence or escape. Their activity was usually confined to the military domain although it should be noted that some humanitarian escape organisations were also referred to as networks. The networks usually became directly linked to either the British or Free French secret services. The networks did not seek visibility for their activities. They did not issue clandestine newspapers and most of them were entirely unknown to the general public until after the Liberation. Instead they operated in small, tightly knit, very security conscious units. Even the names they used like ‘Prosper’, ‘Alibi’, ‘Confrérie Notre Dame’ or Alliance’ were coded, giving little indication either of their activities or their political orientation. Networks generally spurned politics, placing instead the emphasis on simply helping the Allies win the war as quickly as possible. 




Resistance activities

 Most Resistance groups initially rejected the idea of violence but as the ‘Dark Years’ progressed armed Resistance became increasingly central. Before 1942 it was really only the communists who countenanced armed Resistance against the Germans and even they did so with some reticence. In the Autumn of 1941 communist resisters began a series of assassinations of German soldiers. This was always controversial because the Germans responded by executing French citizens, sometimes as many as 50 for each German killed. The logic behind the communist position was to relieve pressure on the Soviet Union by making life difficult for the Germans in France thereby requiring them to station more troops there rather than in the east. It was also hoped that if the Germans could provoked into taking reprisals this would force them to reveal their true colours, undermining all pretence that their soldiers were behaving correctly. It was hoped that this Nazi brutality would force the French population into opposition. French citizens would join the Resistance to avenge the dead, so the argument went. 

 For the movements much of the energy often went into producing tracts or newspapers. Most movements had such publications, indeed most came to be named after their newspaper. In a country which has such a long tradition of freedom of expression as France this seemed natural to many Resisters. The newspaper was a way of offering alternative means of information from that which was available in the official, authorised press. But producing a newspaper also served an important functional role in expanding participation in the movement. It necessitated finding printing presses willing to take the risks involved in producing illegal publications. For the movement itself the production of the paper was a challenge which forced it to look for new sources of income in the shape of wealthy sponsors. Newspapers are expensive to produce, particularly when ink and paper are in short supply. For obvious reasons it was not possible to finance these publications by the normal means of advertising or even revenue on sales. The papers could not be sold on newsstands. Instead they were distributed free of charge. Volunteers would leave them in public places, such as on trains, or would slip them into letter boxes after dark. Distributing a newspaper was a task which fell within the possibilities of almost anyone and didn’t require the specialist talents of, say, an intelligence agent. Here was a means of doing something concrete, of being active.



Who were the Resisters?

The Resisters of June 1940 were drawn from those who held particularly strong views on how the war or the country should be run. They were usually drawn from the ranks of the army, or from intellectually or politically active milieus, although even within these sections of society those looking to continue the struggle at this point were a minority.

New recruits were pushed towards the Resistance by the realities of Vichy and German policy. Persecution forced individuals such as freemasons, communists or socialists to choose between submission and rebellion. In the second half of 1941 Vichy’s increased collaboration made it increasingly difficult to separate Vichy’s domestic programme from its foreign policy of submission to the Germans.

 The majority of Resisters were only part-time. They continued in their profession. This offered two advantages. On one level it meant that the Resister was not dependent on the Resistance for finances. On another level it meant that these professional Resisters could keep the movements and networks abreast of developments within their professional activity.

Resisters came from a wide range of professions.


Geography of Resistance

Initially the Resistance was mainly urban. There were less Germans soldiers in the countryside than the cities and the peasantry were actively courted by Vichy. Strangers were conspicuous in the countryside. The anonymity of cities made it generally easier to hide out there. This was particularly the case in a city like Lyons which had a series of hidden passageways between the buildings in Croix Rousse area of the town which made it easy to pass undetected. A similar architectural advantage was present in the Panier district of France’s oldest city, Marseilles. This part of the city was so ideal for clandestine activity that the Germans raised it to the ground at the beginning of 1943.


Resistance and Population

Initially had only a limited influence on the population in general. The contact most people had with resistance propaganda before 1942 was with the broadcasts of the BBC. Resistance newspapers had a very limited circulation initially. Julian Jackson has calculated that at the end of 1941 only 30000 copies of all the Resistance newspapers in the Southern zone were distributed. By the end of the following year this had almost quadrupled.




Vichy’s concept of unity rapidly revealed its limitations, however, as certain categories of the population: Free Masons, Jews, Communists, Left-wingers were subjected to persecution and repression. What Vichy achieved by these measures was to alienate increasing segments of the population to such an extent that by August 1941 Pétain felt obliged to make a radio broadcast in which he spoke openly about the ill wind of discontent which was sweeping through France and in which he felt compelled to state that the government’s decisions had his personal support, highlighting a gulf between his own popularity and that of his government. Resistance had initially been so diverse that it was sometimes difficult to see a common ideology between different groupings- indeed some, such as Frenay’s group Combat, were prepared to give Pétain the benefit of the doubt. But Vichy by being so openly anti-republican helped ensure that pro-republicanism would indeed be a central tenant of most Resistance. Vichy’s internal policies thus helped shape the development of Resistance. But this was even more the case of its foreign policies. Collaboration had not yielded the promised results. There had been no massive return of Prisoners of War. The demarcation line was an irritation for most French people- it hindered the circulation of goods and raw materials between the occupied and unoccupied zones and perhaps even more annoyingly it cut people off from friends and loved ones in the other zone. Vichy was perceived as far too submissive to the Germans. This was the lesson drawn from Vichy’s participation in the round-up of Jews in the Summer of 1942. Even some armchair anti-Semites were shocked by what these actions seemed to reveal about Vichy’s level of submission. Vichy’s legitimacy was further undermined when in November 1942 the Allies took control of its North African Empire and the Germans invaded the unoccupied zone of France. The Service du Travail Obligatoire in February 1943 completed the discrediting of the regime in the eyes of many. How could the regime honestly be claiming to promote French ‘travail, famille et patrie’ when this forced labour draft decided on by the Germans but administered by Vichy targeted ordinary French people, take them from their workplace, sending them to a foreign country away from their family.


Of course it was not just Vichy but also German policy which was pushing French people into opposition. The German army had initially embarked on a policy of appearing correct. Indeed it should be noted that on an individual level many German soldiers continued this correctness right through the occupation period. However, the German occupation machine rapidly revealed its more brutal nature. In the Autumn of 1940 they had ceased Alsace and Moselle and imposed a policy of Nazification on the region. This consisted of changing street names, forcing individuals to speak German, to change their names to German equivalents and eventually compelling them to enrol in the Wehrmacht, the German army. Even beyond Alsace brutality was becoming increasingly evident. German posters in the occupation zone announced executions carried out against the French population. The first of these was the execution of Jacques Bonsergent who was arrested following a fight with a German. He was shot on 23 December 1940. From the Summer of 1941 such posters became increasingly common place as the Germans responded to Resistance attacks with a policy of execution of hostages. The Germans executed 471 hostages between September 1941 and May 1942. But this was only the tip of the iceberg as concerns German repressions in France. Overall the number of French people executed by the Germans could be counted in the thousands. It was probably the imposition of the STO which was to have the most profound effect on the growth of Resistance- as people sought to escape being drafted to work in German factories. 

 Besides Vichy and German policy the course of the war and Resistance propaganda were also instrumental in determining a growth of Resistance.

 In 1940 German victory seemed the most likely outcome of the war. The British resilience in the Battle of Britain did not necessarily lead to the conclusion that Britain would end up on the winning side in the war. It just made it apparent that Britain might take more beating than most had initially believed. It was in late 1941 that the first tentative signs of  future German defeat could be detected. The first important event in this respect was the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June. This simplified the situation for French communists by removing them from the embarrassing compromises of the Nazi-Soviet pact but it also had historical resonance for French people because Napoleon had invaded Russia at the beginning of the 18th century. He had got as far as Moscow before becoming bogged down in weather conditions and the vast territory. Some French people thought a similar fate would befall Hitler. The entry of America into the war in December 1941 also had historical resonance for the French. They remembered how the American entry into the First World War in 1917 had ultimately proved decisive in 1918. As I say these were only tentative indications of a future German defeat because initially the Germans made rapid advances into the Soviet Union and the Americans were again slow to mobilise their resources for war. It was not until the Summer of 1942 that the allies started to enjoy some victories in battles, in particular in North Africa where De Gaulle’s Free French army came to prominence in the battle of Bir Hakeim in Libya where they fought off the superior forces of Rommel, thereby helping relieve pressure on the British. Events started to turn more decisively in Favour of the Allies with Allied invasion of North Africa in November 1942, the Soviet victory at Stalingrad in February 1943 and the collapse of fascist Italy in the Summer of 1943. The situation was thus seen as becoming increasingly favourable to the Allies although it should be noted that the possibility of any Allied landing in continental Europe continued to be shrouded in mystery- no one knew when or where such an attack would take place and the wildest rumours circulated about it and hopes were raised and dashed several times before D-Day finally took place in June 1944.


Resistance propaganda was able to exploit any events favourable to the Allies and detrimental to the Axis war effort. Although resistance newspapers initially had very small circulation this had grown considerably by 1944. But far more important from a propaganda point of view was that spread by the French broadcasts on the BBC. These could reach a huge audience. People tuned in to hear alternative means of information to that permitted by the Germans or Vichy. But they also looked to the BBC as point of contact with the outside world- a way of reminding them that France had not been forgotten. The BBC was also used increasingly to issue instructions. These took two forms- on the one hand there were messages aimed at named collaborators. They had messages addressed to them personally and by name and these were accompanied by the threat that unless they changed their ways they would be punished. To make the threat credible it was important to follow it up with punishment. In many cases people executed by the Resistance had previously received such a personal message on the BBC. But the BBC also carried coded messages for Resisters themselves- for example in the run up to D-Day secret codes were activated triggering Resistance to attempt to secure their local objectives. Usually these codes were made up of a short poem which was specific to Resisters in a particular area.


Listening to the BBC was widespread and subject to severe German penalties. However it should not be imagined that the majority of French people were permanent members of Resistance. Only a small minority of French people were active members of the resistance. That said increasing numbers of people were offering support to the Resistance. And Resistance had expanded geographically. Between 1940 and 1942 it had mainly be confined to urban areas. After the imposition of the STO rural areas also participated to a large degree.


Towards unity

 Increasingly, resisters began to group and eventually these groupings attempted to coordinate their efforts and eventually to merge structurally.

 Prior to 1942 four very clear divisions within the Resistance were evident. There were the differences between movements and networks. There were the political differences between communist and non-communist Resistance. There were the differences between external and internal Resistance. There were the differences the North and South.

 The division into movements and networks remained valid throughout the occupation, although as we have seen some movements did engage in acts of intelligence gathering and escape, actions which are usually more associated with  networks, there was never any attempt to amalgamate the two types of structures. The networks often viewed the movements with a degree of suspicion because their propaganda activities pushed them into the realm of political debates when the networks were more concerned with straightforward military operations. The networks viewed their own operations as more professional and secretive than those of the movements. It is true that there were a few individuals who served simultaneously in networks and movements but the two types of structure remained separate.

 The division between communists and non-communists was obviously an important one. Non-communists were often suspicious of the communists because of age-old hostilities, because of the Nazi-Soviet pact or because of the tactics adopted by communists from the Autumn of 1941 which included the shooting of German soldiers with all the risk of reprisals that that entailed. The communists for their part were often suspicious of non-communists because they viewed them as class enemies, or they felt that in Resistance they didn’t have as much dynamism as the communists. In May 1941, however, the communists had launched the Front National movement and had opened its membership to non-communists. Initially this wasn’t very successful because non-communists were reluctant to join a communist dominated structure.




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




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Les chefs qui, depuis de nombreuses années, sont à la tête des armées françaises, ont formé un gouvernement.
Ce gouvernement, alléguant la défaite de nos armées, s'est mis en rapport avec l'ennemi pour cesser le combat.
Certes, nous avons été, nous sommes, submergés par la force mécanique, terrestre et aérienne, de l'ennemi.
Infiniment plus que leur nombre, ce sont les chars, les avions, la tactique des Allemands qui nous font reculer.

Ce sont les chars, les avions, la tactique des Allemands qui ont surpris nos chefs au point de les amener là où ils en sont aujourd'hui.
Mais le dernier mot est-il dit ?
L'espérance doit-elle disparaître ?
La défaite est-elle définitive ?
Non ! Croyez-moi, moi qui vous parle en connaissance de cause et vous dis que rien n'est perdu pour la France.

Les mêmes moyens qui nous ont vaincus peuvent faire venir un jour la victoire.
Car la France n'est pas seule !
Elle n'est pas seule !
Elle n'est pas seule !
Elle a un vaste Empire derrière elle.

Elle peut faire bloc avec l'empire britannique qui tient la mer et continue la lutte.
Elle peut, comme l'Angleterre, utiliser sans limites l'immense industrie des Etats-Unis.
Cette guerre n'est pas limitée au territoire malheureux de notre pays.
Cette guerre n'est pas tranchée par la bataille de France.
Cette guerre est une guerre mondiale.
Toutes les fautes, tous les retards, toutes les souffrances, n'empêchent pas qu'il y a, dans l'univers, tous les moyens nécessaires pour écraser un jour nos ennemis.
Foudroyés aujourd'hui par la force mécanique, nous pourrons vaincre dans l'avenir par une force mécanique supérieure.
Le destin du monde est là.

Moi, Général de Gaulle, actuellement à Londres, j'invite les officiers et les soldats français qui se trouvent en territoire britannique ou qui viendraient à s'y trouver, avec leurs armes ou sans leurs armes, j'invite les ingénieurs et les ouvriers spécialistes des industries d'armement qui se trouvent en territoire britannique ou qui viendraient à s'y trouver, à se mettre en rapport avec moi.

Quoi qu'il arrive, la flamme de la résistance française ne doit pas s'éteindre et ne s'éteindra pas.
Demain, comme aujourd'hui, je parlerai à la Radio de Londres.


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Pierre GEMIN's last letter sent to his parents [Taken from René TERRISSE, Face aux pelotons nazis, souge, le mont Valérien du Bordelais, Aubéron, 2000, pp 118-119]

Background: Pierre Gemin was born on 9 June 1921 at Caudrot in the Gironde. His intellectual qualities earned him a place at the Ecole St Louis in Paris where he was to prepare for the Ecole de l'Air entrance exam. Following his participation in the patriotic demonstration of 11 November 1940, Gemin was expelled from the Ecole St Louis. After two failed attempts to join the gaullists in London, Gemin joined the 'S/R Kléber' Resistance intelligence network supplying information to the Second Bureau of the Army General Staff. A denunciation lead to his arrest by the Germans at the Café des Arts in Bordeaux in 1942. A German military tribunal in Bordeaux condemned him to death on 8 July. Vichy's Direction des Services de l'Armistice negotiated his exchange against  Albert Reymann who had been sentenced to death by a Vichy military tribunal in Casablanca on 4 October 1941 for pro-German espionage in the unoccupied territories. It was only once Reymann was handed over on 22 July that the Germans informed Vichy that they would not be keeping their side of the bargain and that in fact Gemin had been executed on 13 July. 

..... Dans mes bons moments, j'espère toujours que ma demande en grâce sera acceptée. Dans mes mauvais moments, il me semble qu'elle sera refusée. Depuis que toutes mes espérances sont systématiquement déçues, je n'ai plus la force d'espérer. Ce qui me fait trembler et me rend infiniment malheureux, c'est la pensée que vous appreniez ma condamnation.

La mort me serait mille fois plus douce si à tout moment je ne m'imaginais que je serai bientôt pour vous l'objet de la pire souffrance qu'on puisse imposer à des êtres humains. A cause de moi, vous allez être pendant des années torturés moralement. Votre vie si laborieuse vous aurait pourtant donné droit à une vieillesse heureuse et tranquille, au milieu de l'affection constante de mon frère et moi, pour qui vous avez tant fait.

Nous aurions pu être si heureux tous les quatre. Le sort en a décidé autrement. Au fond, quand on y réfléchit bien, la vie n'est qu'une continuelle souffrance, puisqu'il nous faut mourir un jour. En mourant jeune, on n'a donc pas le temps de souffrir beaucoup.

La mort ne me fait pas peur, de ce côté-là, je ne suis pas à plaindre.

Je vous supplie, je te supplie, maman chérie, d'être courageuse et d'accepter la fatalité. Je sais que ta vie va être brisée, mais je te demande, au nom de l'amour que j'ai pour toi, au nom de celui que tu me portes, de ne pas sombrer dans un noir désespoir, ni de ne plus trouver goût à rien.

Soyez forts et courageux pour moi. Reportez sur mon frère tout l'amour que vous me vouez. Essayez de m'oublier en vous disant: 'Notre Pierrot est mort pour une noble et grande cause. Il nous avait demandé d'accepter la fatalité avec résignation. Il pensait que nous ferions encore pour lui ce dernier sacrifice. La mort, ainsi, lui aura été plus supportable'.


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A poem in tribute to the Resister Gabriel Péri

Paul Eluard, Au rendez-vous allemand (1944)

[Taken from A CHASSANG & Ch SENNINGER, Recueil de textes littéraires français, Tome 6: Xxe Siècle, Hachette, Paris, 1970, p 194]

Background: Born in Toulon in 1902, Péri became communist member of parliament for Argenteuil in 1932. Staunchly hostile to Munich, Péri did not wait for the communist party to reject the Nazi-Soviet pact before entering into Resistance. Arrested by the French police on 18 May 1941 and handed over to the Germans, he was executed at Mont Valérien on 15 December 1941. Became one of the principle martyrs of the communist party. 


Un homme est mort qui n'avait pour défense

Que ses bras ouverts à la vie

Un homme est mort qui n'avait d'autre route

Que celle où l'on hait les fusils

Un homme est mort qui continue la lutte

Contre la mort contre l'oubli


Car tout ce qu'il voulait

Nous le voulions aussi

Nous le voulons aujourd'hui

Que le bonheur soit la lumière

Au fond des yeux au fond du coeur

Et la justice sur la terre


Il y a des mots qui font vivre

Et ce sont des mots innocents

Le mot chaleur le mot confiance

Amour justice et le mot liberté

Le mot enfant et le mot gentillesse

Et certains noms de fleurs et certains noms de fruits

Le mot courage et le mot découvrir

Et le mot frère et le mot camarade

Et certains noms de pays de villages

Et certains noms de femmes et d'amis

Ajoutons-y Péri

Péri est mort pour ce qui nous fait vivre

Tutoyons-le sa poitrine est trouée

Mais grâce à lui nous nous connaissons mieux

Tutoyons-nous son espoir est vivant


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Background: written by Joseph Kessel and Maurice Druon in 1943 and initially sung by Anna Marly, the song became the musical symbol of the Resistance. 

A recent cover version was a huge hit for the Toulouse based band 'Les Motivés'

Ami, entends-tu le vol noir des corbeaux sur la plaine ?
Ami, entends-tu le bruit sourd du pays qu'on enchaîne?
Ohé partisans, ouvriers et paysans, c'est l'alarme!
Ce soir l'ennemi connaîtra le prix du sang et des larmes.

Montez de la mine, descendez des collines, camarades,
Sortez de la paille les fusils, la mitraille, les grenades;
Ohé Francs tireurs, à la balle et au couteau tirez vite!
Ohé saboteur, attention à ton fardeau dynamite!

C'est nous qui brisons les barreaux des prisons, pour nos frères,
La haine à nos trousses, et la faim qui nous pousse, la misère.
Il est des pays où les gens aux creux des lits font des rêves
Ici, nous, vois-tu, nous on marche et nous on tue nous on crève

Ici chacun sait ce qu'il veut, ce qu'il fait quand il passe;
Ami, si tu tombes, ami sort de l'ombre à ta place.
Demain du sang noir séchera au grand soleil sur les routes
Sifflez, compagnons, dans la nuit la liberté nous écoute.


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Table of armed Resistance activity in Marseille, 29 March-29 May 1943

Vichy often tried to claim that the Resistance was a terrorist movement. One of the essential differences between Resistance and terrorist movements is in their targets. Resistance movements will target those involved in maintaining the power of the occupant (occupation soldiers, collaborators, etc) or materials and equipment used by the occupier. Terrorists indiscriminate targets include the civilian population. As can be seen from the table below the Resistance was therefore not a terrorist organisation since its targets were 'legitimate', although some civilians did get hit accidentally . The table also highlights just how active armed resistance was. 

Source: Simon KITSON, "The Marseille police in their context, from Popular Front to Liberation", D phil , Sussex University, 1995, pp 166-167

Table of Resistance attacks in Marseille from 29 March through to 29 May 1943, based on information in Archives départementales des Bouches-du-Rhône (AD BDR) M6 11073, Rapports du Chef d'escadron, Commandant la Compagnie de Gendarmerie Nationale des Bouches-du-Rhône, sur la physionomie du département du 20/3 au 20/4 & pour le mois de mai 1943; AD BDR M6 11073, Rapport du Lt. Colonel, Commandant la 15e Légion, mai 1943; AD BDR M6 11073, Bulletins Hebdomadaires de RG, de mars à mai 1943.







Gare de la Blancarde

3 incendiary devices placed in a depot



bd. Oddo, quartier du Canet

Bomb thrown in the direction of a German barrack

1 German soldier killed


l'usine d'acétylène, bd. des Vignes

An incendiary device exploded at the base of an electric transformer



Air France building, la Canebière

Bomb thrown in the direction of the building (occupied by a German service)



rue de l'Harmonie, l'Estaque

Unexploded bomb left on the window of a German barrack



rue Châteauredon;

place Mal Foch;

Chemin de St Julien;

rue Paradis

Bombs aimed at the offices of the Légion des Combattants

2 people injured (rue Paradis)


Cours Julien

3 incendiary devices went off in the vicinity of a barrack housing Italian soldiers

1 injury (German civilian visiting the barracks)


bd. Garibaldi;

rue Peysonnel

2 incendiary devices thrown at German barracks



bd. Perrier

Assassination of Chef Adjoint de la Milice Française

Death of de Gassowski, Chef Adjoint de la Milice Française


between Marseille and Allauch

Explosion of electricity pylon



bd. National

A motorcyclist fires on German soldiers with a pistol

2 members of the SchutzPolizei injured


bd. National

Shots are fired on a German vehicle

no injury


Traverse du Portugal

Police officers fired upon by individuals they summon

A brigadier and a gardien of the Commissariat de la Capelette are injured


bd. Longchamp

30 or so shots are fired on a group of German soldiers from an automobile



gare du Canet

Shots are fired on the train from Marseille to Miramas



rue de l'Eclipse

A device explodes near an Italian barrack

7 soldiers injured, one fatally



2 bombs explode in a coach belonging to the Wehrmacht

1 passer-by and 2 women in a neighbouring building injured


Bd Lieutaud

4 armed individuals fired a number of shots at 2 Miliciens, one of whom was its Propaganda director

Death of both of the Miliciens


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Archives Nationales, 3AG/2/345 BCRA SECTION NM, rapport no WEZ/14-36.809, date de l’information : Oct. 43, Informations de Vichy, 15/10/43

« Mesdames, mesdemoiselles, messieurs, aujourd’hui, 12 Octobre 1943, la guerre est terminée .»
Telle est l’annonce sensationnelle que les auditeurs matinaux de Radio-Vichy ont pu entendre ce jour-là à la première émission de six heures précédée d’une insolite et vibrante Marseillaise.
Si l’émotion qu’ils durent ressentir ne fut pas plus répandue, c’est sans doute qu’il y a peu de gens qui se réveillent à six heures pour prendre la radio nationale.
Néanmoins la nouvelle, bien qu’implicitement démentie par le bulletin d’informations subséquent qui n’offrait rien que d’ordinaire, était de telle taille qu'elle ne pouvait passer inaperçue.
A Vichy, dans la matinée, les coups de téléphone se succédèrent au Parc et à la Paix. Laval, furieux, avait ordonné une enquête à la Radio; elle révéla qu’un speaker faisant avant l’émission des essais au micro, et croyant l’antenne débranchée, s’était amusé à cette anticipation.
Le censeur allemand, supputant que la plaisanterie serait peu goûtée à Berlin, la prenait lui-même fort mal, s’attendant à être rappelé. Laval avait fait arrêter le malheureux speaker.....




Document containing German request to limit the ringing of Church bells because the Resistance was using them to warn of a German presence in the area



Clermont-Ferrand, 5/7/44

Le Commandant Von BRODOWSKI de l'Etat-Major Principal de Liaison 588 à MM les Préfets Régionux, Clermont-Ferrand et Limoges

"Questions intéressant le maintien de l'ordre"

Objet-Sonnerie des cloches d'églises

Il est établi que des terroristes ont été avertis à son de cloches de l'approche ou de la présence de troupes-allemandes. En vue d'empêcher qu'il en soit abusé à l'avenir, vous êtes prié d'ordonner, avec effet immédiat, que dans tout votre ressort les sonneries de cloches d'églises soient limitées aux cas suivants:

1° Le matin, à midi, et le soir pour l'Angelus.

2° Le dimanche, au début, pendant et après l'office, et

3° Pour les obsèques religieuses.

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Oral testimony from Madeleine Baudoin (Marseille, 6 September 1971)

The following testimony was gathered by Rod Kedward of Sussex University. Madeleine Baudoin was an active member of the 'groupes francs' (resistance units specialising in armed attacks and sabotage). The testimony underlines the isolation felt by some Resisters who, in their life of secrecy and danger, sometimes felt cut off from their compatriots. Obviously this is just one person's account and like all historical sources needs to be subject to the utmost critical scrutiny. The comments she makes about public opinion in France are at odds with most of the historical research carried out on this theme. Although few did hear de Gaulle's speech of 18 June 1940 at the time it was on the front page of a Marseille newspaper the following day- although significantly they misspelled his name ('de Gaule'). 

The testimony is reproduced in H.R.KEDWARD, Resistance in Vichy France, OUP, Oxford, 1978, pp 276-278 where one can find a number of other eye witness accounts (not to mention Kedward's excellent text). 


In 1940, I had just finished my first year in the Faculté des Lettres at Aix-en-Provence and was 19 years old. I came from a family whose politics were in the centre, but from the time of the Popular Front in 1936 I myself had been passionately left-wing although I had not joined any party. I felt angry about the Munich agreements because France had repudiated its pact with Czechoslovakia. I had also supported those who called for intervention in Spain against Franco. The declaration of war seemed logical to me. But no one wanted to go to war. The people of France were more afraid of Bolshevism than fascism. So too was the government. 

The Nazi-Soviet pact deeply shocked me. I found it inexcusable. It was more than a non-aggression pact: the Germans and Russians made several agreements to aid each other with petrol and raw materials. The pact caused all the ambiguities in the French communist party before June 1941. 

The Armistice was inevitable. The whole public wanted it. I was against Pétain from the start because he was defeatist. But the people of France were to blame. They wanted him. They followed him blindly. At the time it was said, 'Pétain is France, France is Pétain'. It was absolutely true. I approved of the English attack on the French fleet at Mers-el-Kébir. I understood why the English had done it. The French fleet ought to have gone over to the English side in defiance of the Armistice.

We talked about all these events in the Faculté. Most students were very shocked by the events and when the Dean made an obsequious speech in homage to Pétain there were a lot of shouts from the audience. 

No one heard de Gaulle's appeal of 18 June: it was far too badly jammed. People in Marseille were fairly content with the situation because there was no occupation. They talked about nothing else but rationing. The more the Germans took the more they thanked Pétain for saving what was left. However bad the food situation was they believed it would have been worse without Pétain. Their attitude was 'Pétain saves every day'. The word 'resist' was used right from the beginning. but it meant resisting the system of rationing, getting round it, finding a bit more food somehow from somewhere. 

The communists in the Faculté were completely blocked by the Nazi-Soviet pact. It's true they were hostile to Vichy and Pétain but they had nothing to say about the Germans. They were against the valet but not his master.

To stand out against all this and to resist by wanting to go on fighting against the Germans was like being in a foreign country. No one agreed with you and they happily denounced you. They were obsessed by day-to-day problems of food and any goods in short supply. If hunger could have caused Resistance, everyone in the south would have been resisters. there was hunger everywhere, but very, very few Resisters. In Marseille the hunger was even worse than most places, but did it produce more resisters? No.

What was done before 1942? Very little. A few students circulated tracts, and demonstrated against the raising of the colours on the festival days authorized by Vichy. But there was no really active Resistance until after 1942. I don't believe that there was anything called 'Resistance ideas' or 'Resistance opinion'. You either did something or you were one of the mass who wouldn't do anything. France was Pétainist and attentiste to the end. If you wanted to do anything you had to mistrust everyone.

The Légion was very popular and when Pétain visited Marseille the enthusiasm was enormous. People at first believed that the Germans were protecting them against the Bolsheviks. And there was a lot of Anglophobia. members of the Légion made continuous speeches against Russia and against England.

Everyone found ways of getting bread, more vegetables, more food. But they didn't resist the Germans. There were a few individuals in Marseille before 1942: a few small groups of Resisters. That's all. Combat was the first to be established, but it was mostly a question of discussion and writing tracts. Very few of those who wrote or read tracts went into active, armed resistance after 1942. Even after 1942 there was no patriotic upsurge; that's a myth. There was no national insurrection; that's another myth, created by the gaullists and the communists for different reasons. real Resistance was anti-fascist; a small minority, fighting international Fascism. It was 'gauchiste' before the word was known: independent action without orders from the top and without a hard political line. This was the character of the groupes francs in the area after 1942 in which I was involved. I myself was no patriot, though I was prepared to fight to defend the Canebière [one of the main streets in Marseille]. But I would have fought in the same way in Spain or anywhere else against fascism. It was an international fight. 


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Below you will find a who's who of Resisters and a glossary related to this topic, drawn from texts regularly cited with regard to this subject. It is by no means exhaustive and it may contain some errors. But it is hoped that those who access this page will co-operate in building on this information. If you notice any inaccuracies, please let me know at, so that I can update the list. 



Early resister who sabotaged German telephone cables in the Le Havre region. Shot dead on 6 July 1940.


Born in Marseille in 1893 into a bourgeois Protestant family. Politically engaged she was close to the British feminist grouping 'Birth Control'. She also belonged to the ‘Ligue des Droits de l’Homme’ in the 1930’s and offered considerable help to anti-fascist refugees.

After the armistice, she met up in Marseille with her friend Henri FRENAY, who she had first met in 1935. She helped him to form the 'Mouvement de Libération National' which would become ‘Combat’.

Arrested in January 1942, she was freed against an agreement to arrange a meeting between FRENAY and Henri ROLLIN, the Director of the Vichy Police. Interned again in May 1942 she managed to escape on 23 December 1942 with the help of members of ‘Combat’. Her third arrest was to be her last- caught by the Gestapo in Maçon on 28 May 1943 she died in the Fresnes prison. The exact circumstances of her death are not clear but it is thought that she committed suicide on 31 May so as not to succumb to torture.

Georges ALTMAN


Journalist whose early career consisted of writing articles for communist newspapers but who broke with the PCF in 1929.

In Lyons, in the aftermath of the armistice he became an immediate opponent of PETAIN. At the beginning of 1942 he accepted the editorship of the clandestine paper ‘Franc-Tireur’. He was also one of the instigators of the satirical Resistance paper ‘Le Père Duchesne’.

Resistance journalist working for Combat.


Louis Aragon was born in the bourgeois sixteenth arrondissement of Paris. He went to school at the Lycée Carnot and went on study medicine at the University of Paris. In World War I Aragon served briefly as an 'auxiliary doctor' and resumed his studies once the conflict was over. André Breton introduced him to surrealism and together they founded the review Littérature in 1919:Like many radical intellectuals in the 1920s, Aragon joined the Communist Party, and in 1930 he visited the Soviet Union, after which he broke with the surrealists. During the Spanish Civil War, Aragon fought with the Republicans against the Nationalists. Following  the Nazi invasion of France he became a member of the Resistance movement, after escaping from German captivity. During the Occupation he wrote anti-German verse, which appeared in the publication, 'Le Crève-coeur' (1941).ARAGON helped to set up the ‘Comité National des Ecrivains’ (Zone Sud)- a Resistance structure attached to the communist-inspired Front National.
François Jean ARMORIN
Resistance journalist working for the newspaper 'Franc-Tireur'

It was Jacques LECOMPTE-BOINET who, in June 1942, recruited the 21 year-old lawyer Pierre ARRIGHI to the Resistance movement which was to become ‘Ceux de la Résistance’.

ARRIGHI was given the position of ‘responsable militaire’ (later ‘délégué militaire’) for this movement in which capacity he tried to strengthen Resistance links between Paris and the Provinces. He created the ‘Groupes Francs’ within the movement and organised liaisons with the BCRA in London.

Betrayed, ARRIGHI was arrested by the infamous BONNY-LAFONT team of Gestapo auxiliaries in November 1943. He died at Mathausen in 1944.


Born in 1894, ARTHUYS was one of the founders of the ‘Organisation Civile et Militaire’ (OCM) Resistance movement.

Although he had been a Croix-de-Feu militant in the 1930’s he was strongly opposed to Nazism. In the Autumn of 1940, he organised a small Resistance group recruiting friends and neighbours. It was this group which, at the end of 1940, merged with that of BLOCQ-MASCART to become the OCM.

Arrested by the Germans on 21 December 1941, he was deported and died at the Hinzert camp in 1943.



D'Astier, who was born on 6 January 1900 in Paris, began his career as a naval officer but resigned his post in 1923 to become a journalist. It was only in the 1930's that he began to adopt leftist views. 

 D'Astier was immediately hostile to the Vichy regime and created the newspaper 'Dernière Colonne'. By the end of 1940, d'Astier had managed to recruit Raymond and Lucie Aubrac, the philosopher Jean Cavaillès and the Socialist deputy André Philip. From the beginning of the 1941 he began to live a clandestine existence. In July 1941 this initial grouping formed the Libération-Sud Resistance movement producing an underground newspaper: 'Libération'. The social base of this group was widened by the affiliation of the trade unionist Léon Jouhaux of the CGT (Confédération Générale du Travail). This clearly marked out 'Libération-Sud' as a left wing movement.

In January 1943, D'Astier became one of the three members (along with Frenay and Lévy) of the executive committee of the newly formed Mouvements Unis de la Résistance.

In London in 1943 d'Astier turned his hand to song writing, co-penning with Anna Marly "La complainte du partisan" which would later be covered by Leonard Cohen under the title 'The Partisan' . The song never enjoyed the same success as the "Chant des partisans" by Joseph Kessel and his nephew Maurice Druon.

D'Astier was appointed to the Assemblée Consultative in Algiers in August 1943.

Became Commissaire à l'Intérieur of the Comité Français de Libération Nationale in November 1943. From this position he helped convince the British to resume parachute drops of arms into France.

Elected as a communist member of parliament in 1945. He continued as a journalist in the post-war period and died in 1969.

Alexandre ASTRUC
Resistance journalist working for the newspaper 'Combat'


(1912- ). History teacher and former member of the ‘Jeunesses Communistes’ who was to become one of the most important women in the Resistance. In the Autumn of 1940, Lucie met up with Jean CAVAILLES at Clermont-Ferrand and together with Emmanuel D’ASTIER they created the ‘Libération-Sud’ movement.

When her husband Raymond was arrested on 15 March 1943 in Lyons, Lucie visited the ‘Procureur’. She managed to intimidate him by threatening him with Resistance reprisal if he did not free her husband and telling him to listen to BBC radio for a particular message concerning him, which Lucie duly had read on the air-waves. Hearing this message the ‘Procureur’ had Raymond released.

On 21 June 1943, Raymond AUBRAC was arrested again, this time in the company of Jean MOULIN and other important Resistance figures. On 21 October 1943, despite being pregnant, she organised her husband’s escape and fled with him to London.

Raymond AUBRAC



Born Raymond SAMUEL in 1914, he adopted the name AUBRAC in the Resistance. Together with his wife Lucie he participated in the founding of the ‘Libération-Sud’ movement.

On 15 March 1943, AUBRAC was arrested by the French Police on charges of black marketeering but he was released after his wife had intimidated the ‘Procureur’.
A meeting organised at Caluire, in the suburbs of Lyons, on 21 June 1943 brought together a number of important Resistance figures including Jean MOULIN and Raymond AUBRAC. The meeting was betrayed to the Gestapo by René HARDY and its participants arrested by the Gestapo under the orders of Klaus BARBIE. After spending several months in Montluc prison, Raymond was freed by an operation organised by his wife and members of ‘Libération-Sud’ who attacked the German military vehicle in which he was being transferred.

After this escape, Raymond and Lucie fled to London. Raymond then participated in the Assemblée Consultative Provisoire in Algiers and became Commissaire de la République in Liberated Marseille between August 1944 and January 1945.

When BARBIE was brought to trial in 1987 for Crimes against Humanity his lawyer Jacques VERGES tried to claim that it was AUBRAC who had denounced the Caluire meeting to the Gestapo but VERGES, who always sought media attention for himself, never brought any evidence to support this accusation and subsequently lost the libel trial brought by AUBRAC.

Vincent AURIOL


Socialist Resister who became the first President of the IV Republic
Antoine AVININ


AVININ was one of those Resisters who began activity shortly after hearing DE GAULLE’s broadcast of 18 June. In August 1940, in Lyons, together with a group of his friends, he organised an escape network. In November 1940, AVININ’s group merged with that of Auguste PINTON (of centre-left persuasions) and a small extreme-left group organised around Elie PEJU. The new organisation became known as France-Liberté. The movement really began to take off with the arrival of Jean-Pierre LEVY and in December 1941 ‘Franc-Tireur’ was created.

AVININ became the regional head of Franc-Tireur in the Toulouse area. He subsequently represented Franc-Tireur at the co-ordinating meetings of the MUR and the CNR.

Communist and member of the FTP-MOI, she was one of 23 members of the 'Groupe Manouchian' arrested by the Brigades Spéciales of the Paris police in November 1943. Subsequently handed over to the Nazis, she was the only woman in the group and the only member not to be shot by German firing squad on 21 February 1944. She was, however, executed by decapitation on 10 May.
Madeleine BAROT

Pre-war BAROT was an active militant in christian student groups. After the armistice she accepted Pasteur BOEGNER’s offer to become ‘Secrétaire Générale’ of the CIMADE. She set up headquarters in Nîmes (near BOEGNER) from where she organised help in favour of those interned in camps in the Southern Zone.

Later, after the deportations of Jews began, she tried to organise escape routes, through Spain or Switzerland, for those threatened.

Fernand BARRAT
Head of the FTP (communists) in the Var, and then leader of the Milices Patriotiques in the department. Became a member of the FRS before joining the CRS.
Imprisoned for two years for having spread communist propaganda, Bastard became one of 6 communist hostages executed by the Germans on 22 August 1941 in reprisal for the first assassination of a German soldier in France which had been carried out by FABIEN the previous day. He was 45 years old.



Although aged only 14 in 1940 BATANY organised clandestine activities in his Lycée from the moment of the armistice.

In 1942, he entered the Resistance movement ‘Combat’, specialising in helping individuals to cross the Spanish border clandestinely.

In 1943, he was appointed to the function of ‘Secrétaire-Adjoint’ of the Regional head of the MUR. He organised the Groupes-Francs of this movement and was injured in an attack on the Germans.

Betrayed in the Summer of 1944, he was arrested, tortured and killed by the Milice.

Albert BAYET


Resister who contributed articles to 'Franc-Tireur'
Georges BEGUE


In the night of 5-6 May 1941 Bégué became the first agent working directly for the British to be parachuted into France. With the help of Max HYMANS he set up a group of militant socialists to organise future plane landings and parachute drops.

BEGUE helped the SOE to enter into contact with Jean PIERRE-BLOCH who helped similar operations in the Dordogne.

It was BEGUE who suggested the system of personal messages on the airwaves of the BBC as a way of contacting Resisters in France. He tested this system by getting the BBC to read out the message ‘Lisette va bien’ to indicate the date of an aerial operation.

Arrested by the French police in October 1941, but escaped from an internment camp in July 1942 and returned to London.



Born in 1917, BERNARD entered into contact with FRENAY in 1941 and was to become an important member of ‘Combat’, occupying the functions of Secrétaire-Général of the movement. He co-ordinated the liaisons necessary for transporting Resistance newspapers and sending correspondence.

In the Spring 1943, he was appointed head of the NAP-Fer and NAP-PTT.

Arrested with his wife in January 1944, he was deported and died at Auschwitz.


Leader of the Lyon section of the 'Nilo' Resistance network which provided information directly to the British.




Born in 1899 in Moulins to a traditional catholic family. Taught history and was active in catholic youth groups in the inter-war period. He then became a journalist and ultimately editor with the Christian Democrat newspaper ‘L’Aube’.

Mobilised and made a Prisoner of War during the conflict, he was freed in 1941. He made his way to the Southern Zone in February 1942 where he entered ‘Combat’.

After MOULIN’s arrest in 1943, BIDAULT took over as President of the CNR.

He resigned from the CNR after the Liberation and became Minister of Foreign Affairs on 9 September 1944. One of the founders of the MRP, he became head of the Provisional Government between June and November 1946.

During the Algerian war he became an opponent of DE GAULLE and assumed executive functions in the Organisation de l’Armée Secrète (OAS)(-the right wing movement which sought to keep Algeria French and subsequently tried to assassinate DE GAULLE).

François BILLOUX



Communist elected as one of Marseille's parliamentary representatives in 1936, Billoux was sent the following year by the Communist Party on a mission to oversee the political control of the International Brigades fighting in Spain. Arrested in October 1939 as a result of the anti-communist measures imposed by Daladier as a reaction against the Nazi-Soviet pact.  In December 1940 he wrote a letter to Pétain offering himself as a Prosecution witness against Daladier and Blum in the Riom trial. Transferred with other communist prisoners to the military prison in Algiers, he was released following the Allied invasion of North Africa. One of the key figures in the reconstruction of the communist party in Algeria he was invited to participate in the Consultative Assembly. He served as a Minister between 1944 and 1947. 




History Lecturer and co-founder (with Lucien FEBVRE) of the Economic and Social History review ‘Les Annales’. Despite being Jewish, BLOCH initially managed to obtain a special authorisation to continue lecturing after the creation of Vichy’s anti-Semitic legislation, owing to his voluntary engagement in the French army in 1939. However, he was removed from his post on 15 March 1943.

BLOCH became an important member of the Resistance group ‘Franc-Tireur’. His arrest by the Gestapo in Lyons on 8 March 1944 was followed by imprisonment and torture. He was executed on 16 June 1944.




After the French defeat, BLOCQ-MASCART formed a small Resistance group made up of his friends from the ‘Confédération des Travailleurs Intellectuels’ (CTI). This group merged with that formed by Jacques ARTHUYS and from this merger emerged in the Spring of 1941 the Organisation Civile et Militaire (OCM).

During the insurrection of Paris, BLOCQ-MASCART was one of the advocates of a truce with the Germans- against the will of the Communists.




An upper middle class Jewish intellectual, Blum entered parliament in 1919, becoming leader of the socialist group after the Socialist-Communist split in 1920. He was Prime Minister of the first Popular Front government from June 1936 to June 1937 and held the office again briefly in March-April 1938. He was one of the 80 members of parliament who voted against full powers for Marshal Pétain in July 1940. Arrested in October of that year, he was put on trial by the Vichy government in 1941, but eventually handed over to the Germans. They deported to Buchenwald concentration camp in 1943 where he was interned with General Maxime WEYGAND. Following his return to France at the end of the war, he again played an active part in politics despite the poor health brought on by his captivity, and was even Prime Minister once more from December 1946 to January 1947.




The most important spokesman of the Protestant church, he became President of the Fédération Protestante in 1929 and of the Reformed church of France in 1938.

During the war he protected the work of charitable associations in favour of anti-Nazi refugees. BOEGNER was an outspoken critic of the anti-Semitic persecutions of the war period- he protested to Vichy against the ‘Statuts des Juifs’, the obligatory wearing of the gold star of St David by Jews in the Northern zone and the deportation of Jews in the Summer of 1942.




In 1940, BOLLAERT was removed from his post of Prefect of the Rhône for his outspoken criticism of the Armistice.

In 1943, BOLLAERT was appointed as ‘Commissaire du Gouvernement’ in the CNR where he strove to reinforce the cohesion between different Resistance movements.

He was arrested in February 1944 in the company of Pierre BROSSELETTE. BOLLAERT was subsequently deported to Buchenwald (August 1944-April 1945). Upon his return he was named as Commissaire de la République in Strasbourg (June 1945-March 1946).


Young monarchist militant who assassinated François DARLAN on 24 December 1942.




A 28 year old Engineer of Breton origin, BONSERGENT became the first French person to be executed in Paris after the occupation when he was shot by a German firing squad at Vincennes on 23 December 1940 after participating in a fight during which one of his friends hit a sergeant of the Wehrmacht. BONSERGENT refused to denounce this friend and took sole responsibility for the incident.


Florimond BONTE

Communist journalist and Resister.

Georges BORIS



Former advisor to Léon BLUM. Leading member of the Free French.





Engaged in the FFL in London in June 1940. DE GAULLE appointed BOUCHINET-SERREULLES as his aide-de-camp- a post which he occupied until October 1942 when he was transferred to the BCRA.

In February 1943, he was sent on mission to France to help Jean MOULIN.

Claude BOUCHINET-SERREULLES was one of the instigators of the FFI in February 1944.




A left-wing catholic born in 1909, who would play an important role in the Resistance.

In 1941 he met FRENAY who recruited him to the MLN, which would become ‘Combat’ and gave him responsibility for the Alpes-Maritimes.

A member of the executive committee of the movement, it was BOURDET who replaced FRENAY when the latter was on mission and took over his responsibilities permanently once FRENAY left for Algiers in 1943.

One of his best known contributions to the Resistance was to persuade Jean MOULIN of the necessity of extending the NAP (‘Noyautage des Administrations Publiques’) network to the whole of France.

BOURDET was arrested by the Gestapo in Paris in 1944 and deported first to Oranienburg then to Buchenwald.

After his return from Germany he pursued a journalistic career.



Bréchet was one of 6 communist hostages executed by the Germans on 22 August 1941 in reprisal for the first assassination of a German soldier in France which had been carried out by FABIEN the previous day. He had been imprisoned 9 days previously for his activity as one of the leaders of the PCF in Paris. He was 40 years old.





Left-wing journalist and opponent of Munich, member of the Socialist party and friend of Léon BLUM who was to become a symbol of the heroic sacrifice of Resisters.

After his demobilisation BROSSELETTE joined the ‘Musée de l’Homme’ Resistance group in December 1940 and the became active in the Confrérie Notre-Dame network of Colonel Rémy. He wrote a number of articles for the underground paper 'Résistance'

Through contacts he established with London he was able to improve liaisons between Internal and External Resistance.

He left for London in April 1942 as a representative of the movements of the Northern Zone. He subsequently made radio broadcasts on the BBC and became Passy's deputy in the BCRA.

Brosselette was hostile to the inclusion of political parties in the Resistance.This caused him to clash with Jean MOULIN.

In September 1943, he returned to France with the mission of preparing the post-Liberation press and radio and of presenting the new CFLN delegate, Emile BOLLAERT, to the heads of the Resistance movements.

Both men were arrested on 3 February 1944 by the Gestapo. BROSSELETTE committed suicide by throwing himself out of a 5th floor window on the rue Foch, Paris, during a Gestapo interrogation.





The strongly francophile head of the French section of SOE (Special Operations Executive).

BUCKMASTER organised a series of Resistance networks in Southern France (90 such networks existed by the Summer 1944). In order to ensure the security of these networks recruitment was very restricted in numbers and often limited to those with a strong connection with Britain. These networks participated in sabotage and the arming and training of French Resistance groups. In all they organised about half of the parachute drops into war-time France.




With four of his friends, he created the ‘Valmy’ resistance group on 21 September 1940 which established a paper of the same name in January 1941.

BURGARD was a history teacher at the Lycée Buffon in Paris and took advantage of this position to encourage his pupils to paste up anti-German stickers on the walls of Paris and to participate in the demonstration of 11 November 1940.

BURGARD, who was of Alsatian origin, was not afraid to show his face in patriotic demonstrations that he had helped to organise- thus in May 1941 he took part in the commemorations of ‘Jeanne d’Arc’. The demonstration gathered together several thousand people singing 'La Marseillaise'.

The Valmy movement was dismantled in the spring of 1942. BURGARD was arrested on 2 April 1942. His arrest was followed by a demonstration by pupils of Lycée Buffon for his release.

He became a victim of Nazi barbarism on 15 June 1944 when he was decapitated in the courtyard of Cologne prison.


After the death of his brother in the RAF in 1942, this Cambridge-educated son of a Belgian poet renounced his pacifism and joined the SOE. He was to become one of its best agents in France.


Albert CAMUS



Resister, writer and journalist. Born in 1913 he died on 3 January 1960.




Communist Resister born in Ajaccio, responsible for communist youth groups such as the Union des Jeunes Filles de France. After the armistice she helped reconstruct the underground communist party and wrote for 'L'Université Libre' and 'La Pensée Libre'. She was one of the founders of the Comités Féminins de la Résistance.

Arrested by the French police on 14 February 1942, she was subsequently handed over to the Germans. Initially interned at Fresnes, she was deported to Auschwitz on 24 January 1943. Died of typhus in May 1943 at the age of 34.





Born in the fishing port village of Bowmore on Islay (Scotland), Caskie was educated at Edinburgh University before becoming a Minister of the Scot's Kirk in Paris in 1935. After the defeat of France he moved to Marseille. Here he was attached to a network set up by Captain Ian Garrow of the Seaforth Highlanders. From a head-quarters set up in the British Sailors' Mission in the rue Forbin, Caskie's time was spent helping stranded allied airmen to escape from France offering them false papers obtained from the US consulate and advice. His activities in France and his Scottish background earned him the nickname 'Tartan Pimpernel'. He subsequently moved to Grenoble where he was arrested in 1943 and sentenced to death at a Nazi show trial before being released due to the intervention of a German pastor. After the war he was awarded the OBE for his heroism.





A jurist who made his way to London in June 1940 to join the Free French.

CASSIN was responsible for writing the DE GAULLE-CHURCHILL agreements of 7 August 1940 which gave Free France a legal status recognised by Britain. It was also CASSIN who wrote most of the decrees and laws of Free France.

CASSIN was a fervent Republican. In his radio broadcasts on the BBC he strongly attacked Vichy claiming that PETAIN’s regime was illegitimate.




Anti-fascist writer who joined the ‘Musée de l’Homme’ Resistance group. After the dismantling of this group CASSOU fled to Toulouse where he participated in other groups.

Following his arrest on 12 December 1941, he used his imprisonment to write Resistance poems. After his release he continued his Resistance activity before being badly wounded by a German bullet on 19 August 1944.





Philosopher and co-creator of the Resistance movement Libération-Sud. Became a member of Libération-Nord until his arrest and execution by the Germans in 1944.




A former tennis champion and rugby player born in 1915. Jacques DELMAS (‘CHABAN’ was a nom de guerre added later) was a member of the information network the OCM.
During the Liberation of Paris, CHABAN tried to persuade the Allies to make straight for Paris rather than circumventing it as they planned to. On 19 August he was favourable to the proposed truce with the Germans in Paris- against the wishes of the Communists.
After the war he pursued a political career. He became Prime Minister under Georges POMPIDOU before presenting himself as an unsuccessful Presidential candidate.




Member of the committee of Franc-Tireur from the Spring of 1942.




Journalist who joined Libération-Sud in the Summer of 1942. Quickly became the second in command in the movement and, following D'ASTIER's move to the post of Commissaire à l'Intérieur, became the movements leader in November 1943. He was also a member of the executive bureau of the CNR.





Resister who had held extreme-right wing views before the war. Entered the Forces Françaises Libres in London in 1940. After parachuting into France on 26 July 1942 he is appointed as Jean MOULIN's secretary. In recent years he has published a number of volumes of a very thorough biography of MOULIN.


Jean-Marie CURTIL

Liaison agent of Libération-Sud. Arrested on 14 March 1943 in the station at Bourg-en-Bresse.


Resister. Responsible for the idea of gathering large Resistance forces at the Vercors.




A lawyer and socialist militant in Marseille before the war. Helped in the clandestine re-organisation of the socialist party in Marseille after the armistice. An important spokesman for the socialists within the Resistance. Member of the réseau Brutus.Became Mayor of Marseille before becoming Minister of the Interior between 1981 and 1984.


(alias 'Vidal')


Delestraint was an army officer who became a General in 1936. Like de Gaulle he was a strong advocate of the use of tanks in warfare. In the 1940 campaign he was de Gaulle's commander in the field. Delestraint was immediately hostile to the armistice and the policy of collaboration. In the Summer of 1942, he accepted the invitation to become head of the Secret Army. In this capacity he was, unlike Frenay and Emanuel d'Astier de la Vigérie, an opponent of Immediate Action because he feared the vicious reprisals that the Germans would use. Following some indiscretions within his movement General Delestraint was arrested by the Germans  in Paris on 9 June 1943. Deported, first to Struthof then to Dachau, he was executed in April 1945.


(Comte Henri Louis) Honoré D’ESTIENNE D'ORVES



Born into an aristocratic family, he was politically to the right and an Action Française supporter. D'Estiennes d'Orves opted for a naval career at the beginning of the 1930's but after the armistice of 1940, unlike many other French sailors, he chose to join de Gaulle in London. He was one of the first agents sent into France by de Gaulle. His mission was to set up the Nemrod network in Brittany. Denounced by his radio operator (Marty), D'Estiennes D'Orves was arrested by the Germans in January 1941 and executed on 29 August at Mont Valérien. This was the first execution of a 'Free French' agent.


Colonel FABIEN



Colonel FABIEN’s real name was Pierre GEORGES. He was a young communist who had fought on the Republican side during the Spanish civil war. After having served as a propaganda agent for the communists in the Marseille area in the immediate aftermath of the armistice, he returned to Paris in 1941 where he became assistant commander of the communist youth groups and tried to encourage these groups to turn their attention to shooting down German soldiers in occupied France. Following the execution of 2 Communist militants on 19 August 1941, FABIEN carried out the first assassination of a German officer, MOSER, himself- an assassination which took place on 21 August in the métro Barbès. The execution of these communists and FABIEN’s attack on MOSER was the beginning of an increasing spiral of violence.





(Alias ‘Grégoire’)- Resister sympathetic to the communists.

Journalist with the 'Progrès de Lyon'. Member of the Franc-Tireur Resistance movement. Given responsibilities in the organisation of the Maquis from the beginning of 1943. Informed in April 1944 of his selection to the post-Liberation function of Commissaire de la République in Lyons, he assumed this function from the beginning of September. In this capacity he showed a particular keeness to punish industry leaders and to nationalise certain industries.


Lawyer in Lyon who represented a number of members of the Franc-Tireur movement.




Professional officer born in 1905. Became one of the most important of the initial Resistance figures. Having been made a Prisoner of War on 25 June 1940, he escaped five days later and made his way to Marseille where he began looking for ways of continuing the struggle. FRENAY began recruiting the embryos of a movement initially known as the ‘Mouvement de Libération Nationale’ (MLN) which became ‘Petites Ailes’ and then ‘Combat’. In January 1941, FRENAY left his army post to devote himself full time to his Resistance activities. He assumed control of ‘Combat’ until 1943 when he left for London and Algiers, leaving BOURDET in control of the movement.

FRENAY was always a controversial figure. Despite being in the Resistance, he was slow to criticise PETAIN because he was convinced that the Marshal must be playing a double game. FRENAY’s failure to denounce PETAIN caused some suspicion amongst Resisters of other movements.

Criticism of FRENAY grew when in January 1942 he accepted an invitation to meet with Henry ROLLIN, Director of the Vichy Police, and Pierre PUCHEU, Minister of the Interior. 

Although FRENAY was keen on the idea of greater co-ordination between the different Resistance groups, he guarded jealously his dominant position in ‘Combat’. When MOULIN came to France to try to facilitate co-ordination of the movements, FRENAY showed hostility to him. He never overcame his suspicions of MOULIN and even later made the absurd accusation that MOULIN was a communist agent.

Varian FRY



An American journalist who accepted a mission on behalf of the Emergency Rescue Committee in New York to come to Marseille and help anti-fascist intellectuals, artists and politicians escape from Europe for America. He arrived in Marseille in the Summer of 1940 with a list of 200 individuals to save but it rapidly became apparent that he would have to help many more. Initially intending to stay one month, he ended up staying thirteen giving help to more than 4000 refugees and participating directly in the escape of over 1000 including many of Europe’s leading intellectuals and artists.

Facing both the hostility of the Vichy state and that of the American consulate in Marseille, Fry was forced to leave France in the Autumn of 1941. Back in America he devoted himself to criticising American immigration policy and to trying to publicise the fate of Jews in Europe- in particular in an article in the ‘New Republic’ in December 1942 under the title of ‘the massacre of Jews in Europe’.

Although his work went largely unrecognised during his lifetime he became one of the few Americans nominated to the title of Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur (by de GAULLE in 1967) and the only American to be declared a ‘righteous amongst nations’ by Israel.


Cristino GARCIA

Garcia was a Spanish member of the French resistance (FTP-MOI). He organised a jail break of 20 Resisters from Nimes prison in February 1944 and he killed a German general in the Cévennes on 25 August 1944. After the occupation he returned to Spain where he was arrested and shot in July 1946 by the Franco dictatorship as a punishment for his role in the French resistance. 9902lm18.03.html




De Gaulle began his career as a professional soldier entering the St Cyr academy in 1909. By the time of the First World War he was an infantry Lieutenant. Serving under the orders of Pétain at Verdun, he was taken prisoner by the Germans in 1916.

During the inter-war period he achieved some notoriety in army circles (though little outside them) through the elegance of his writings on military strategy. In his book 'Vers l'armée du métier' he argued for a professional, non-conscript, army with modern equipment and a strategy based on mobility. Such arguments were not necessarily well viewed by his hierarchical superiors.

At the outbreak of war, de Gaulle was a commander in charge of a tank brigade within the 5th army in Alsace and he began fighting the Second World War in this capacity.

During the 1930s he had made some useful political contacts; the most influential being Paul Reynaud. Reynaud replaced Daladier as Premier in March 1940 and called de Gaulle into his cabinet as under-secretary for defence on 6 June 1940 (5 days after his promotion to General).

When his former patron, Pétain, became Prime Minister and sued for an armistice, de GAULLE flew to London. There he set himself up as the leader of the "Free French" which wanted to continue the struggle against Germany. The movement was initially of little material significance. No high profile figures rushed to join him in London and few Vichy colonies rallied. Pétain's government forced its military tribunals to pronounce a death sentence in abstentia on the man they called 'l'ex-général de Gaulle'. The early radio appeals de Gaulle made into France on the airwaves of the BBC made little impact on his compatriots, many of whom had more pressing concerns as they fled the German advance and most of whom did not at that stage hear the broadcasts. As the most junior general of the French army he had no natural audience in the population of his homeland and even many of those determined not to surrender were not initially inspired by him. For the mass of the citizenry his appeals to continue the fight would have seemed to fly in the face of reason- if the French army, which many French had believed the best in the world had been so easily defeated where could Resistance continue? Besides in denouncing the armistice, he was pitting himself against the huge popularity of Marshal Pétain, a genuine war hero from the last conflict. If the initial material impact of his position in June 1940 was limited it would gain huge symbolic significance in the later occupation years as de Gaulle was able to prove that he had been willing to fight on from the beginning.

An arrogant and determined man, de GAULLE displayed remarkable skill in managing to preserve his political independence from his British paymasters upon whom he depended entirely for material support.

The British government found de Gaulle irritating; the Americans were to hate him. They cast around for an alternative. To begin with they looked to General Weygand, the Delegate-General of French North Africa, whose strong hatred for the Axis was a secret to no one. But Weygand remained loyal to Vichy and was in any event recalled to metropolitan France in November 1941 before being arrested and deported by the Germans the following year.Following 'operation Torch', the invasion of North Africa by the Allies in November 1942,the Americans put their trust in the embarassing figure of Vichy turn-coat Admiral Darlan, who happened to be present when the Americans landed. But Darlan was assassinated less than a month later. The Americans then turned to General Giraud who had recently escaped from a German prisoner of war camp. But by that stage de Gaulle had assured himself the support fo the majority of the internal Resistance movements and the pre-war democratic political parties. Giraud was politically naive and by mid-1943 found himself playing second fiddle to the more astute de Gaulle.

De Gaulle's success was in outmaneuvering all other rivals for power both inside and outside France so that, by the time of the Liberation in 1944, he was accepted by Allies, resistance and people-albeit with varying degrees of enthusiasm-as the legitimate head of the French government.

Although he had made use of underground political parties as a prop during the occupation years, de Gaulle mistrusted professional politicians. He resigned from government in January 1946 when their activities became intolerable to him. He returned to power in May 1958 when France was deeply divided over the question of Algeria. Founder and first president of the Fifth Republic, de GAULLE’s aloof figure dominated French politics until 1969 when he again resigned after the French people had rejected his proposals for governmental reform in a referendum.


Pierre GEMIN 


Pierre Gemin was born on 9 June 1921 at Caudrot in the Gironde. His intellectual qualities earned him a place at the Ecole St Louis in Paris where he was to prepare for the Ecole de l'Air entrance exam. Following his participation in the patriotic demonstration of 11 November 1940, Gemin was expelled from the Ecole St Louis. After two failed attempts to join the gaullists in London, Gemin joined the 'S/R Kléber' Resistance network supplying information to the Second Bureau of the Army General Staff. A denunciation lead to his arrest by the Germans at the Café des Arts in Bordeaux in 1942. A German military tribunal in Bordeaux condemned him to death on 8 July. Vichy's Direction des Services de l'Armistice negotiated his exchange against  Albert Reymann who had been sentenced to death by a Vichy military tribunal in Casablanca on 4 October 1941 for pro-German espionage. It was only once Reymann was handed over on 22 July that the Germans informed Vichy that they would not be keeping their side of the bargain and that in fact Gemin had been executed on 13 July. 

General Henri GIRAUD



Captured with his troops by the Germans on 19 May 1940, GIRAUD managed to escape from Koenigstein and on 17 April 1942 he arrived in the Southern Zone. The ‘Alliance’ Resistance network managed to organise his departure from Le Lavandou for North Africa where he arrived on 9 November 1942.

He accepted the position of military Commander-in-Chief under DARLAN before occupying the Admiral’s position after his assassination of 24 December. GIRAUD’s main objective was to build up the French army in North Africa; he tended to neglect the re-establishment of Republican Legality which would have given him greater credibility with the Resistance.

On 30 May 1943, DE GAULLE arrived in Algiers. On 3 June the CFLN was created and was initially jointly presided over by DE GAULLE and GIRAUD. Progressively GIRAUD was pushed aside by the more politically astute DE GAULLE who benefited from more credibility with France’s growing internal Resistance movements. On 9 November 1943 a division of responsibility was introduced in the leadership of the CFLN- DE GAULLE becoming its sole President whilst GIRAUD was given the position of Military Commander-in-Chief. On 4 April 1944, GIRAUD lost even this title and with it any influence over the Resistance.

Charles GONARD
Born in 1921 in a bourgeois family in the Lyons area. He was unable to find passage to London in the wake of the defeat but managed to establish contact with the ‘Combat’ movement at the beginning of 1942 and became an agent of this movement.
Adolphe GUYOT

Initially arrested for distribution of anti-German tracts, Guyot became one of 6 communist hostages shot by the Germans on 22 August 1941 in reprisal for the first assassination of a German soldier in France which had been carried out by FABIEN the previous day.

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An engineer working for the SNCF. Recruited by the Combat movement at the end of 1942, he became the head of NAP-fer, a network designed to co-ordinate efforts to infiltrate the Railway network for the Resistance. Accused of having betrayed the Resistance by delivering Jean MOULIN and the other members of the Resistance leadership assembled at Caluire in June 1943.


Mathurin HENRIO 

(alias Barrioz)


The youngest Resister to be awarded the 'Ordre de la Libération', Henrio was just 14 when he was tortured to death by the Germans in Baud, Morbihan. 

Butcher who became an early Resister at Saint-Germain-La-Poterie in the Oise. Shot for sabotage on 20 October 1940.



Resister who had been a socialist member of parliament before the war


Socialist lawyer born on 22 November 1905 who became an important Resistance figure in the Bouches-du-Rhône from 1940, occupying the roles of: local head of the AS, departmental head of 'Combat', departmental head of the MUR, member of the regional directive committee of the MUR for the region 'R2' and ultimately President of the CDL of the Bouches-du-Rhône.


Resister, writer and journalist for 'France-Soir'. In 1943 he wrote the novel 'L'Armée des Ombres' which Jean-Pierre MELVILLE turned into a film. Co-writer of the Resistance song 'le chant des partisans'.


Trade unionist and communist militant who became Raymond AUBRAC's right hand man at the head of the para-military formations of Libération-Sud. Arrested in March 1943, he managed to escape in May and made his way to Paris where he became a member of COMAC.





Born 1889. Member of OCM from December 1942. Arrested, February 1944. Minister of finances in provisional government. Died November 1944.


Jean-Pierre LEVY



Founder and leader of the movement 'Franc-Tireur', created at the end of 1941. Played the role of a moderator in the quarrels between Jean MOULIN and the leaders of the internal resistance movements (Emmanuel D'ASTIER DE LA VIGERIE; Henri FRENAY).




Armenian poet who had been involved in the French communist party throughout the 1930's. He joined the FTP-MOI resistance group and urged a greater emphasis on direct action. Arrested in November 1943 by the infamous Brigades Spéciales of the Parisian Police MANOUCHIAN was tried and sentenced to death by a German military tribunal in February 1944. He was one of 10 communists who were featured on a German propaganda poster known as l’Affiche Rouge. As its name suggests this poster was red- it bore the title ‘L’Armée du Crime’ and it tried to present the 10 foreign communists featured on it as typical of the French Resistance. It was thus trying to play on public feelings of anti-semitism and xenophobia to give the impression that the Resistance was made up of foreign extremists and criminals.

General Emile MOLLARD

Army General and head of the CMD (Camouflage du Matériel) which tried to hide French army equipment from the gaze of Axis inspection controls in the hope that this material could be used to re-equip the French army should it be brought back into the war. But after the Axis occupation of the southern zone, most of the clandestine arms dumps were denounced to the Germans by Vichy's political and military leaders.


(alias MAX, REX, MARTEL).



Jean Moulin was born into a strongly Republican family. His Father, a Radical and Free-Mason, was the President of the Ligue des Droits de l'Homme in Béziers. After studying law at Montpellier University Jean Moulin entered a career in public administration. In 1930 he became the youngest Sous-Préfet (Sub-Prefect) in France. In 1937, he was appointed to the post of Prefect of the Eure-et-Loir department.

In June 1940, the Germans tried to persuade him to sign a document attributing to Senegalese soldiers the blame for atrocities committed by the Germans themselves in the department. Moulin ajudged this to be compromising for the French authorities for whom the Senegalese soldiers had been fighting. Moulin attempted suicide rather than sign it. He continued as Prefect until 16 November 1940 when Vichy sacked him.

After his departure from the administration, he entered into contact with the internal Resistance movements of the Southern zone and most notabl with Henri Frenay and the Christian Democrat François de Menthon. On 9 September 1941 he left to join de Gaulle in London, where he arrived on 20 October.

Moulin convinced de Gaulle that he would need to offer material aid to the internal Resistance movements if he wanted to secure his authority over them. On 2 January 1942, Moulin was parachuted back into France on de Gaulle's instructions with the mission of persuading Resistance movements in the Southern Zone to accept the General's leadership. This led to the creation of the Mouvements Unis de Résistance (MUR) and its military wing the Armée Secrète (AS). After returning to London in February 1943, Moulin was sent on another mission to unoccupied France in March. He managed to persuade all internal Resistance forces to recognise the authority of the Conseil National de la Résistance, formed in Paris on 27 May 1943. On 21 June 1943, Moulin was arrested by the German police ('Sipo-SD') during a Resistance meeting held in a Doctor's surgery in Caluire in the Lyons suburbs. Brutally tortured by the 'Gestapo' torturer Klaus Barbie, Moulin died in July.

After the war Moulin was celebrated as a unifying symbol of the Resistance. His ashes were buried in the Panthéon in 1964. But his memory was also subject to controversy. Since his arrest was probably due to a betrayal, the identity of the traitor who 'sold' him to the German police has continued to be the subject of some speculation. Most resisters and a majority of historians have held René Hardy responsible for his betrayal. Hardy, previously a Resister of impeccable credentials, inexplicably turned up at the meeting at Caluire shortly before the arrival of the Germans police. Hardy then managed an immediate escape in suspicious circumstances. However, a handful of individuals have tried to place the blame for Moulin's arrest on Raymond Aubrac who was arrested at the same time as him. Aubrac, a senior figure in the Resistance in the southern zone, was at first interned with Moulin and others at the Fort Montluc prison in Lyons. However, a daring escape organised by his wife, Lucie, herself a celebrated Resistance figure, allowed him to regain his freedom. Suspicion was cast on Aubrac during the trial of Klaus Barbie in 1987 by Barbie's lawyer, the controversial figure of Jacques Vergès. Further suspicion was cast upon Aubrac by the historian Gérard Chauvy in his book about Lyons during the war. Few historians accept the claim that Aubrac was involved in the Moulin betrayal.

Further controversy surrounded Moulin when a former Resister, Henri Frenay, called into question Moulin's attitude towards the communist Resistance. Frenay suspected Moulin of being a closet communist. To refute these claims Moulin's former secretary Daniel Cordier set about researching a mammoth biography of him. The result was an extremely well-researched and documented series of texts which still remain unfinished.



(alias LUNEL)


Member of the Resistance movement 'Combat' and secretary to Maurice CHEVANCE-BERTIN. Following his arrest by the Germans in Marseille on 28 April 1943 he offered his services to the Gestapo and his denunciation of other Resistance members led to around 120 arrests including of some of the most senior members of the Resistance.


Alexandre PARODI



Parodi became head of de Gaulle's General Delegation in March 1944.

Gabriel PERI



Born in Toulon, Péri became communist member of parliament for Argenteuil in 1932. Staunchly hostile to Munich, Péri did not wait for the communist party to reject the Nazi-Soviet pact before entering into Resistance. Arrested by the French police on 18 May 1941 and handed over to the Germans, he was executed at Mont Valérien on 15 December 1941. Became one of the principle martyrs of the communist party. 





Socialist deputy born in the Gard in 1902. He was first elected at the time of the Popular Front. One of the 80 members of parliament who refused full powers for PETAIN on 10 July 1940 continuing in that the logic of his previous staunch anti-Munich position. He joined up with Emanuel d'Astier de la Vigérie shortly afterwards and began to devote himslef to Resistance. In his role as a member of the executive committee of Libération-Sud, he organised the liaison between this resistance movement on the one hand and socialists and trade unionists on the other. PHILIP was one of the instigators of the Comité d’Action Socialiste and the underground Socialist Party. Wanted by the Police, PHILIP made his way to London on 27 July 1942 where he was appointed as Commissaire à l’Intérieur.




Resister who had been a socialist member of parliament before the war. Helped BEGUE to organise SOE parachute drops in the Dordogne.


POSTEL-VINAY was taken prisoner on 17 June 1940 but managed to escape on 24 of the same month. He returned to his pre-war position as an Inspecteur des Finances. Contacted by Pierre D’HARCOURT in October 1940 he entered into relations with a Resistance information network. He also established contact with the ‘Musée de l’Homme’ group, as well as with the ‘Pat O’Leary’ network. It was a member of this last organisation who betrayed him. He was arrested on 14 December 1941 and attempted suicide to avoid facing an interrogation. During his subsequent hospitalisation he feigned madness, a simulated mental state which ultimately allowed him to escape. He arrived in England on 15 October 1942 and entered into contact with DE GAULLE.





RAVANEL (real name Serge ASCHER) entered the Resistance movement 'Libération-sud' in September 1942, becoming an important member of the central committee of the Secret army until his arrest in March 1943. Following his escape in May of that year, he became the national head of the 'groupes francs' of the MUR. In the Spring of 1944 he became regional head of the FFI in the Toulouse region.



Louis Risch belonged to the Libération Nord movement. Arrested during an attack on a German convoy, he was shot of 16 August 1944 at Garges. 




Communist resister shot by the Germans in October 1941.



One of 6 communist hostages guillotined in 1941 in reprisal for the first assassination of a German soldier in France which had been carried out by FABIEN .Trzebucki was a 57 year old Jew who had originally been arrested and imprisoned for using false papers.


Early Resister in the Oise. Shot on 2 November 1940 for possession of arms and attacking German soldiers.

 Jacques WOOG


Initially arrested for distribution of anti-German tracts, Woog became one of 6 communist hostages shot by the Germans on 22 August 1941 in reprisal for the first assassination of a German soldier in France which had been carried out by FABIEN the previous day.




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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.

1940      1941    1942    1943   1944
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17 06 1940 de Gaulle quitte Bordeaux et s'envole pour Londres

17 06 1940 à Chartres, Jean Moulin tente de suicider plutôt que de signer un texte déshonorant pour l'armée française

17 06 1940 à Brive, Edmond Michelet et à Bordeaux, le député communiste Charles Tillon distribuent, indépendamment, des tracts protestant contre la demande d'armistice

18 06 1940 de Gaulle lance sur les ondes de la BBC son premier 'appel' à poursuivre la résistance

21 06 1940 après accord sur le transfert en Afrique du Nord d'une partie du gouvernement, départ, à bord du 'Massilia' pour Casablanca, de 27 députés ou sénateurs opposés à tout armistice

24 06 1940 les passagers du 'Massilia' sont arrêtés dès leur arrivée à Casablanca

28 06 1940 de Gaulle est reconnu par le gouvernement britannique comme le 'chef des Français Libres'

14 07 1940 défilé à Whitehall des soldats ralliés à de Gaulle

22 07 1940 les Nouvelles-Hébrides se rallient à de Gaulle

23 07 1940 loi 'relative à la déchéance de la nationalité à l'égard des Français ayant quitté la France'

30 07 1940 convocation d'une cour chargée de juger les responsables politiques accusés 'd'avoir trahi les devoirs de leur charge' ainsi que 'toute personne accusée d'attentat contre la sûreté de l'Etat'

02 08 1940 condamnation à mort par contumace du général de Gaulle pour désertion et atteinte à la Sûreté de l'Etat

07 08 1940 Reconnaissance de la Force Française Libre par Churchill

26 08 1940 le Tchad se rallie à la France Libre

27 08 1940 le Cameroun se rallie à la France Libre

28 08 1940 le Congo se rallie à la France Libre

02 09 1940 ralliement de la Polynésie à de Gaulle

09 09 1940 ralliement à de Gaulle des comptoirs français de l'Inde

23 09 1940 ralliement à de Gaulle de la Nouvelle-Calédonie

23-25 09 1940 les gaullistes et les britanniques échouent dans leur tentative de débarquer à Dakar

18 10 1940 ralliement du général Catroux à de Gaulle

24 10 1940 à Brazzaville de Gaulle crée le Conseil de défense de l'Empire

28 10 1940 loi de Vichy 'interdisant la réception de certaines émissions radiophoniques'

02 11 1940 révocation par décret du préfet Jean Moulin

11 11 1940 manifestation patriotique de lycéens et d'étudiants à l'Arc de Triomphe, Paris

12 11 1940 conquête du Gabon par les Français Libres

15 11 1940 manifeste à Paris de 12 dirigeants syndicaux français hostiles à la Révolution Nationale

16 11 1940 déclaration organique de la France Libre à Brazzaville

01 12 1940 sortie du premier numéro de 'Libération Nord' entièrement rédigé, comme les 69 suivants, par Christian Pineau

15 12 1940 premier numéro de 'Résistance', publication clandestine du groupe du musée de l'Homme

19 01 1940 offensive des Britanniques et des Français libres contre les Italiens en Erythrée


1940      1941    1942    1943   1944
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28 01 1941 le 'groupe' du musée de l'homme est décapité par les Allemands

10 02 1941 les forces F.F.L. commandées par Leclerc encerclent Koufra (Sahara italien)

01 03 1941 les forces F.F.L. commandées par Leclerc s'emparent de Koufra (Sahara italien)

15 05 1941 création d'un Front National par des résistants communistes

26 05 1941 début d'une grève des mineurs dans le nord

05 06 1941 de Gaulle propose aux Américains de mettre à leur disposition les bases en Afrique de la France Libre. Il ne reçoit aucune réponse

08 06 1941 début de la campagne des F.F.L. en Syrie

08 06 1941 Catroux proclame l'indépendance de la Syrie et du Liban

09 06 1941 fin de la grève des mineurs (commencée le 26/05)

07 07 1941 premier numéro de 'Libération-sud'

14 07 1941 lancement de 'Défense de la France'

14 07 1941 fin de la campagne de Syrie après l'armistice de Saint-Jean d'Acre

12 08 1941 discours de Pétain, dit du "vent mauvais": 'je sens qu' (…) véritable malaise atteint le peuple français' et annonce du serment de fidélité

14 08 1941 loi- à effet rétroactif- sur les sections spéciales destinées à lutter contre le 'terrorisme'

21 08 1941 le communiste Fabien abat l'aspirant allemand Moser au métro Barbès

27 08 1941 attentat contre Laval et Déat

10 09 1941 création par Vichy d'un Tribunal d'Etat chargé de 'réprimer les actes qui menacent l'intégrité et la sécurité de l'Etat'

12 09 1941 Jean Moulin franchit la frontière espagnole

16 09 1941 exécution de 10 otages par les Allemands

24 09 1941 constitution par de Gaulle à Londres du Comité national français

26 09 1941 l'URSS noue des rapports avec la France Libre

20 10 1941 arrivée de Jean Moulin à Londres

22/ 23 10 1941 -98 otages français fusillés par les Allemands à Nantes, Châteaubriant et au camp de Souges

25 10 1941 premier entretien à Londres entre de Gaulle et Moulin

06 11 1941 Yvon Morandat, premier émissaire de la France Libre chargé d'une mission exploratoire, est parachuté dans la région de Toulouse. Il contacte André Philip et Georges Bidault

01 12 1941 premiers numéros de 'Combat' et 'Franc-Tireur'

24 12 1941 les FFL comandées par l'Amiral Muselier débarquent à Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon

25 12 1941 les Japonais s'emparent de Hong Kong


1940      1941    1942    1943   1944
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01 01 1942 de retour de Londres, Jean Moulin, représentant du général de Gaulle, est parachuté en Provence. Il a pour mission de 'réaliser l'unité de tous les éléments qui résistent à l'ennemi et à ses collaborateurs'

21 01 1942 loi 'réprimant la lacération des affiches apposées au nom du gouvernement'

19 02 1942 ouverture par Vichy du procès de Riom où les accusés (Blum, Reynaud) se font accusateurs

03 03 1942 l'Amiral Muselier démissionne du Comité national français

28 03 1942 création par les communistes des FTPF

17 04 1942 évasion du Général Giraud de Koenigstein

courant 05 1942 ralliement de Léon Blum et des socialistes à de Gaulle

courant 05 1942 le colonel Rémy, proche de de Gaulle, rencontre un émissaire du P.C.F.

01 05 1942 manifestations résistantes dans la zone sud

24 05 1942 de Gaulle rencontre le ministre étranger soviétique Molotov à Londres

14 07 1942 importantes manifestations résistantes dans la zone sud

14 07 1942 la France Libre devient la France Combattante

16/17 07 1942  de Gaulle est reconnu par Washington comme 'symbole' de la résistance française. Il rencontre les généraux Marshall et Eisenhower

03 08 1942 protestation de monseigneur Salièges contre les mesures antisémites et les persécutions à la suite de la livraison de Juifs étrangers de la zone sud aux nazis

05 08 1942 départ de de Gaulle pour un voyage d'inspection au Levant et en Afrique

courant 09 1942 création du Comité national des écrivains (clandestin), qui regroupe la plupart des auteurs contribuant aux lettres françaises, dont Paul Eluard et Jean Guéhenno

03 09 1942 La France Combattante bénéficiera du prêt-bail

17 09 1942 arrivée à Londres de Pierre Brossolette et Charles Vallin

23 10 1942 conversations décisives à Londres de Frenay et d'Astier de la Vigerie avec de Gaulle pour la création d'un comité de coordination des mouvements de résistance de zone sud et d'une armée secrète commandée par le général Delestraint

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

27 11 1942 sabordage de la flotte française à Toulon

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


1940      1941    1942    1943   1944
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11 01 1943 Arrivée à Londres de Fernand Grenier, délégué du PCF

14 01 1943 Churchill propose à de Gaulle de se joindre aux entretiens de Casablanca (Anfa) auxquels Roosevelt et Giraud participent

18 01 1943 les communistes français délèguent un des leurs auprès de la France Libre

26 01 1943 fusion des trois principaux mouvements de résistance de la zone sud (Franc-Tireur, Combat, Libération-Sud): naissance des M.U.R.

12 02 1943 Jean Moulin et le Général Delestraint atterrissent à Londres après avoir, en treize mois, abouti à l'unification de la résistance intérieure et à la légitimation du général de Gaulle

21 02 1943 Jean Moulin est décoré de l'ordre de la libération. Il est chargé de constituer et présider le CNR qui devra comprendre des représentants des partis

14 03 1943 Discours du général Henri Giraud à Alger, première profession de foi démocratique

21 03 1943 le cardinal Liénart déclare que partir pour le STO n'est pas, en conscience, un devoir.

17 04 1943 réunification de la C.G.T.

14/15 05 1943 annonce à Londres de la constitution en France du Conseil de la Résistance

17 05 1943 Giraud invite de Gaulle à venir à Alger

27 05 1943 première réunion à Paris du Conseil National de la Résistance, sous la présidence de Jean Moulin

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

09 06 1943 arrestation à Paris du général Delestraint, chef de l'Armée Secrète

21 06 1943 arrestation à Caluire de responsables de la Résistance, dont Jean Moulin

15-16 08 1943 départ de Londres pour la France de Jacques Bingen et François Closon, chargés de mission clandestins

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

30 08 1943 à Paris, Georges Bidault devient président du Conseil de la Résistance

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

08 09  1943 soulèvement des résistants corses

02 10 1943 de Gaulle seul maître à Alger

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

03 11 1943 première séance de l'Assemblée consultative à Alger

04 11 1943 chute du réseau de renseignement Confrérie Notre-Dame

06-09 11 1943 remaniement du CFLN. De Gaulle en reste seul président; Emmanuel d'Astier, chef de Libération-Sud, devient commissaire à l'Intérieur; Henri Frenay, chef de Combat, commissaire aux Prisonniers et Déportés

08 11 1943 destruction par les équipes du BCRA des barrages de Gigny et Port-Bernalin sur la Saône

11 11 1943 manifestations de résistance pour les célébrations de l'armistice de 1918

13 11 1943 destruction par la Résistance du parc d'artillerie de Grenoble

27 11 1943 création à Alger de la DGSS chargée de réaliser la fusion entre le BCRA et les services spéciaux de Giraud

12 12 1943 discours de de Gaulle à Constantine annonçant la libéralisation du statut des Algériens musulmans

29 12 1943 Accord d'action commune entre l'Armée Secrète et les FTP- création des FFI. Les FTP maintiennent, de fait, leur indépendance


1940      1941    1942    1943   1944
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 05 01 1944 en France, regroupement des mouvements de résistance non-communiste ausein du Mouvement de Libération Nationale

10 01 1944 A Alger, à ordonnance  créant des commissaires de la République

20 01 1944 création par Vichy des cours martiales pour combattre la Résistance. 'Les coupables sont immédiatement passés par les armes'

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

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

03 02 1944 arrestation à Audierne de Bollaert et de Brossolette

21 02 1944 exécution des 22 partisans de la MOI condamnés dans le procès de 'l'affiche rouge'

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

22 03 1944 Suicide de Pierre Brossolette

26 03 1944 avec l'aide des miliciens, les troupes allemandes anéantissent le maquis du plateau des Glières

02 04 1944 les Allemands massacrent 86 habitants d'Ascq (Nord)

04 04 1944 entrée de deux communistes, Fernand Grenier et François Billoux, au CFLN

04 04 1944 suppression des fonctions de commandant en chef exercées par Giraud

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 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

16 06 1944 Marc Bloch est fusillé par les Allemands

28 06 1944 Philippe Henriot est tué par des résistants

17-23 07 1944 bataille du Vercors

09 07 1944 libération de Caen

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

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

15 08 1944 grève de la police parisienne

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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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 (Jean-Pierre), PROST (Antoine) & RIOUX (Jean-Pierre) (eds), Le Parti communiste français des années sombres, 1938-1941, Seuil, Paris, 1986 

BENEDITE (Daniel), La filière marseillaise, Clancier Guénaud, Paris, 1984 

CHEVANCE-BERTIN (Maurice), Vingt Mille Heures d'angoisse, 1940-45, Laffont, Paris, 1990 

COLLINS-WEITZ (Margaret), Les Combattantes de l’Ombre, Histoire des Femmes dans la résistance, Albin Michel, Paris, 1997 

CREMIEUX-BRILHAC, (Jean-Louis), La France Libre, Gallimard, Paris, 1996 

DOUZOU, (Laurent), La désobéissance: histoire d’un mouvement et d’un journal clandestins: Libération Sud (1940-1943), Odile Jacob, Paris, 1995 

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

FOURCADE (Marie-Madeleine), L'arche de Noé, Plon, Paris, 1989 

FRENAY (Henri), La nuit finira, R.Laffont, Paris, 1973 

FRY (Varian), Surrender on demand, Johnson Books, Boulder (Colorado), 1997 

GUILLON (Jean-Marie) & LABORIE (Pierre), Mémoire et Histoire: la résistance, Privat, Toulouse, 1995 

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

HIGGINS (Ian), Anthology of Second World War French Poetry, Methuen, London, 1982

KEDWARD (H R) & AUSTIN (R), Vichy France & the Resistance: Culture & Ideology, Croom Helm, 1995 

KEDWARD (H R), In search of the Maquis, OUP, Oxford, 1993 

KEDWARD (H R), Naissance de la Résistance dans la France de Vichy, Champ Vallon, Seyssel, 1991 

KEDWARD (H R), Resistance in Vichy France, OUP, Oxford, 1978 

KEDWARD (H.R.), Occupied France. Collaboration and resistance, Basil Blackwell, Oxford, 1985 

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.

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

LAZARE (Lucien), Rescue as resistance, how Jewish organisations fought the holocaust in France, Columbia UP, New York, 1996 

MAGUIRE, (G. E.),  Anglo-American policy towards the Free French,  Macmillan, Basingstoke, 1995

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

ROUGEYRON (A), Agents for escape. Inside the French Resistance, 1939-45, Louisiana state UP, 1996 

SADOUN (Marc), Les socialistes sous l'occupation, FNSP, Paris, 1982 

SEMELIN (Jacques), Sans armes face à Hitler, Payot, Paris, 1989 

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

SIMONIN (Anne), Les éditions de minuit, 1942-1955, IMEC Editions, 1994 

SWEETS (J.F.), The Politics of Resistance in France, 1940-1944, Northern Illinois University Press, Chicago, 1976 

VERCORS, Le silence de la mer, Albin Michel, Paris, 1951 

WIEVIORKA (Olivier), Une Certaine Idée de la Résistance: Défense de la France, 1940-1949, Seuil, Paris, 1996 


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Links to General sites concerned with the Resistance

Diversity of the Resistance

L'esprit de Résistance

French Foreign Ministry site- entry for Resistance

The activity of Polytechniciens in the Resistance

Haute-Savoie: Les Glières

WWII French Resistance re-enactors, FFI

Keller Jaguar's WWII Internet Project: French Resistance

Site National Historique de la Résistance

Lyon: the French Resistance in Lyon

Puritans and the French Resistance

The Partizans- contains a comparison between Croatian and French Resistance claiming that the former has been overlooked and the latter overblown in post-WWII memory

La Faucille, Monument to the French Resistance Movement in World War II, on the plateau where Allied forces air dropped supplies to the resistance movement throughout the war.

Plateau Des Glières

Allied airmen & French Resistance

WORLD WAR II Europe:  the French Resistance


Resistance in France, sites in English

Links to Resistance equipment

Traction Avants in Northern California: The car of Maigret and the French Resistance

Resistance equipment-The global issue and distribution of spike bayonets for the No.4 Rifle from 1941 untill 1945 (nb- you'll need an anorak to visit this site)

The Sten gun

Links to Sites concerned with individual resisters
website dedicated to Indian Princess Noor-un-nisa

Death of Resister André Devigny

Jean Pierre-Bloch

Death of Jean Pierre-Bloch

Website dedicated to Princess Noor-un-nisa Inayat Khan, heroine of the French Resistance in 1943.

Adventures of Princess Noor

Charles de Gaulle Profile

Charles De Gaulle

Charles de Gaulle Link

Charles de Gaulle

Entry for de Gaulle

War-time telegrammes sent by Georges Bidault

death of Colonel André Dewavrin, (Colonel Passy)

Jacques Ellul: helped Jews to safety from Vichy France

The History of the Nancay Radio Observatory- refers to the Resister Yves Rocard

Last letter from a French Resister

Account of one of SOE's most famous agents

Robert Schuman

Emilie Guth; rescuer of French Jews Guth and member of the French resistance group  "Combat". She distributed false ID cards, food ration cards and money to Jews who were in hiding in Marseilles.

Ermine Orsi; French rescuer of Jews in WWII and membert of "Combat". She arranged for Jews who had survived the deportations to be hidden in the village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon.

Lieutenant Colonel Jean Ballarin Dies

Lieutenant Colonel Jean Ballarin Dies

Lieutenant Colonel Jean Ballarin Dies

Lieutenant Colonel Jean Ballarin Dies

Lieutenant Colonel Jean Ballarin Dies

Lieutenant Colonel Jean Ballarin Dies

Tristan Tzara. He devoted much of his time to the reconciliation of Surrealism and Marxism and joined the Communist Party in 1936 and the French Resistance movement during World War II.

Jacques Ellul: During the mid-1930's he was a member of the French
Communist Party, and then fought with the French Resistance during World War II.

Photo Gallery General Charles de Gaulle and Georges Bidault. Standing in front of the Arc de Triomphe, de Gaulle speaks with Georges Bidault, French resistance leader prior to the victory march celebrating the liberation of Paris.

Biography of Yves Rocard (1903-1992)

The De Gaulle Statue Debacle

They made history in Lyon- includes biography of Jean Moulin

A Tribute to Emile Noël, former member of the Resistance

Spiros Pisanos- worked with the French Resistance and the American OSS sabotaging the German war machine in occupied France.

ARTHUR STAGGS. SOE Wireless operator : Hero of the French Resistance

Letters from members of the Moulin family

Robert Schuman

Links to Varian Fry
Varian Fry foundation site

Varian Fry site

Links to Escape from France

Personal account of escape from Vichy

General Chuck Yeager Biography-US pilot- helped to escape by Resistance- later became the first man to break the sound barrier

Links to Artists & Intellectuals associated with the French resistance

Louis Aragon

Josephine Baker Biography

Josephine Baker

Josephine Baker

Josephine Baker

Josephine Baker

Simone de Beauvoir (1908-1986)

Samuel Beckett

Samuel Beckett..

Biography: Samuel Beckett

Beckett Timeline

Samuel Beckett

Georges Bernanos (1888-1948) Novelist and essayist

Albert Camus. A page with links to people interested in and information about Albert Camus. Contains a bibliography, links to other Camus pages, and a list of people looking for Camus-related information

Albert Camus

Albert Camus

Albert Camus - Biography

Albert Camus.

Albert Camus

Albert Camus

Albert Camus

Albert Camus

André Malraux: A Biography by Curtis Cate.

Thelonious Monk - An appreciation of the great jazz pianist and composer.

Antoine de Saint Exupéry

Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980).
A short discussion on the life and work of Jean-Paul Sartre

Jean-Paul Sartre

Jean-Paul Sartre

Simone Weil



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