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Inglourious Basterds - LIFE in VICHY and OCCUPIED FRANCE

LIFE in VICHY and OCCUPIED FRANCE (Illustration) Biographies Famous Historical Events Famous People Geography History Social Studies World History World War II Law and Politics Film

General Charles de Gaulle broadcasts from the BBC, in London, during 1941.  He based his "Free French" resistance movement, against Germany's occupation of France, in Britain's capital city.  Image online, courtesy BBC.

 

On the 20th of June, Hitler gave France his terms of surrender.  In the north, Frenchmen would be cut-off from their ally, Britain, because German forces would occupy northern France

Awarding the Nazis a base of operations, against Britain, wasn’t Hitler’s only strategic move after France fell.  His men would directly control all areas which they occupied.  Paris, in other words, was also under German control.  So was the entire French sea coast.

Hitler allowed the rest of the country to be unoccupied, but it would be governed by a regime loyal to him.  Headed by Marshal Pétain, and located in Vichy, this new government was allowed to keep the French fleet and colonies.  It was not always respected, however, by Frenchmen living inside its borders.

More a puppet regime than an independent government, Vichy created propaganda cartoons mocking Allied efforts to assist France.  One, using American cartoon characters, tells a tale of bombs which harm (not help) the French people. 

What was life actually like in occupied and Vichy France?  Marcel Ophuls’ four-hour documentary, Le Chagrin et la Pitié (produced in 1969 and incorporating historical footage), gives us a glimpse into hardships endured by the French people.  Its title in English - The Sorrow and the Pity - provides some insight into the country’s emotional upheaval.  

Extremely upset when France gave up so quickly, Charles de Gaulle believed surrender was the wrong path for his country.  He, and other soldiers, wanted to “Keep France in the Fight.”  Churchill and the Brits agreed and allowed de Gaulle to communicate with his countrymen via the BBC.

Once Pétain won the argument - having suggested that joining forces with Britain was akin to “fusion with a corpse” - de Gaulle needed to operate outside France.  Winston Churchill, who (for the most part) greatly admired de Gaulle, cleared the way for the then-unknown leader, and his “Free French,” to be based in London.

The multi-faceted French resistance, in other words, now had a name.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5124stories and lessons created

Original Release: Jul 01, 2009

Updated Last Revision: Apr 23, 2015


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