French Resistance

Discussion in 'France' started by Capt Beekee, Aug 1, 2010.

  1. Capt Beekee

    Capt Beekee Junior Member

    Just had a quick look through the forum and couldnt find an area to discuss French Resistance activity....perhaps i missed it.

    I am moving to the Auvergne in the next few weeks and i know there was major activity in the department.

    The National Resistance Memorial is a couple of hours away from us at Mont Mouchet and is a facinating area to visit. There are lots of memorials and graves around the villages....one village sufferd heavily with executions.

    I am living in the Puy de Dome area. A local town to us, Arlanc, has some history to it and i look forward to finding out more in the future.

    There are lots of books, but they are in French....surprise surprise. Will have to progress my language to more than 'a beer please'.

    Perhaps there is someone out there who knows more????

    Also live near to Vichy...another fascinating place. No time to work...too much to see.

    Regards
    Chris
     
  2. Heimbrent

    Heimbrent Well-Known Member

    J
    There are lots of books, but they are in French....surprise surprise. Will have to progress my language to more than 'a beer please'.


    What's your native language, English? Do you read German?

    Welcome to the forum by the way!
     
  3. Capt Beekee

    Capt Beekee Junior Member

    Hi
    English only, i'm afraid. I was very bad at learning languages at school.
     
  4. Heimbrent

    Heimbrent Well-Known Member

    You probably won't get very far without French.
    What you could try is have a look at bibliographies of relevant books and try to find English translations.
     
  5. Capt Beekee

    Capt Beekee Junior Member

    I can read French better than speaking it. My wife speaks and reads good French. It might take a while, but i am sure i will manage to do some translations.
     
  6. Hilts

    Hilts Fat Biker Bloke

  7. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Also live near to Vichy...another fascinating place.

    Having just read , England's Last War With France just hearing that word 'Vichy' starts to make my blood boil.
    :mad:
    Funny isn't it?
    All this French people were in the resistance?
    My arse were they.
    Read a book couple of years ago, The Unfree French, where French parents encouraged their teenage sons to volunteer to work in Germany as part of their 'rite of passage' into adulthood as they couldn't join the army like their fathers had done.
    All part of making a man of them.
     
  8. Jen'sHusband

    Jen'sHusband Punchbag

    Having just read , England's Last War With France just hearing that word 'Vichy' starts to make my blood boil.
    :mad:
    Funny isn't it?
    All this French people were in the resistance?
    My arse were they.
    Read a book couple of years ago, The Unfree French, where French parents encouraged their teenage sons to volunteer to work in Germany as part of their 'rite of passage' into adulthood as they couldn't join the army like their fathers had done.
    All part of making a man of them.

    My grandfather, who fought in France in 1944 wasn't too complimentary about the seemingly large numbers of French who jumped on the resistance bandwagon once British troops were within striking distance.

    On one occasion, his unit was greeted by lots of so-called 'resistance members' until the enemy laid down a bit of a stonk for them. Apparently, that sorted the wheat from the chaff; only the real ones remained while the others legged it.
     
  9. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    A Vichy French soldier in Syria shouted at his British prisoner,
    "Ha! you thought we were yellow, you thought we couldn't fight! We showed you!"

    That really bugged me, reading that.
     
  10. Jen'sHusband

    Jen'sHusband Punchbag

    I think one of the things we have to remember is that the French were very divided before the war and many 'went over to the other side' in an attempt to stave off the effects of the dreaded Marxism. Or so the history books tell us. Having looking into it very briefly, I don't care what their motives were, the Vichy French were evil buggers. They also seemed, incredibly, to build even further upon their national arrogance.

    Where's me tin 'at? Again...
     
  11. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

  12. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron

    When discussing the topic of the seemingly large amount of "Resistance Fighters" who emerged once the battle was won, there is an inheritant danger here of throwing the baby out with the bath water.

    Whilst prepared to accept that many illegally jumped on the band waggon, one shouldn't sully the names of those who genuinely worked in the Resistance and who were often captured, tortured and executed by the Nazis.

    Many of these heros names come to mind.

    All honour to their actions.

    Lest we forget.
     
  13. Vitesse

    Vitesse Senior Member

    To my mind, French resistance history is probably one of the most complicated aspects of WW2. France had been through turbulent times in the 30s and you really need a background in the political history of the country to understand some of the strands - for example the relevant chapters of Barry Williams' "Modern France", David Thomson's "Democracy in France Since 1870" or, for a contemporaneous (1942) view, DW Brogan's "Development of Modern France".

    In a very broad brush approach, it is necessary to realise that there were Gaullist and Communist groups - read Collins & LaPierre's "Is Paris Burning?" for example as a neat encapsulation of the tensions between them by 1944. The Communists had been officially non-resistant until Barbarossa although individuals did take part in resistance acts before then. Anything on the resistance should be read with this very much in mind since pro-Gaullist writers tend to conveniently ignore the Communists and vice versa. And most of them aren't really keen to acknowledge the work of SOE in London either. OSS also operated in France, but the French don't like mentioning that - the pro-Communist writers for obvious reasons, the Gaullists because of the tensions between de Gaulle and Roosevelt.

    Foot's "SOE in France" is good but outdated, having been published in the 60s: even SOE was divided though, with F and RF Sections sometimes working against each other. Or at the very least not in each other's interests. Not to mention the rivalry between SOE and the established security services.

    Resistance of course took several forms:

    1 Espionage
    2 Helping escapers and evaders
    3 Sabotage
    4 Armed insurrection

    In English at least there's not much written about the espionage stuff (not glamorous and/or covered by the OSA), a bit about evasion including one or two memoirs like Donald Caskie's "Tartan Pimpernel" and Airey Neave's now very hard to find "Saturday at MI9". Lots of SOE operatives published their stories or were subjects of biographies - it can be quite interesting comparing accounts of operations - the Vercors rising for example. You can get some very different versions of the same events.

    Owen: I take your point about Service du Travail Obligatoire, but it did have the side-effect of prompting a lot of young Frenchmen (and women) to take to the hills and become part of the Maquis. Much more despicable in my view were the many thousands who chose to join the Milice: a lot got what they deserved.
     
  14. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

  15. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    I always think of collaboration as a bit of 'There but for the grace of God go I'. You can never tell what you would do until you are in similiar circumstances. Thankfully no one in the UK can think back to 1066 to know what they did back then.

    I heard tales from Kosovo and Bosnia when I was there of what long family friends and neighbours did to each other back in the 90's and 00's. Some people (porbably most) will always look after number one and their family first when push comes to shove.
     
  16. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    Cat Beekee has two threads running on virtually the same subjects,the other being "Hi from me".It would be better if they were amalgamated.

    On the subject of Vichy and the French Resistance,there have been a number of submissions on these subjects.Again it would be very tidy if we could file them such that we may see the discussions developed.

    Regarding Vichy,the seeds were sown for the emergence of the French right wing elements in their continual opposition to the popular government of Leon Blum in 1936.The group who were to emerge as Vichites detested the Third Republic for its democracy,who Blum was a part of.It has to be said the basis of hate towards Blum was that he was a Jew.Vichy went on to put Blum on trial, charging him with France's defeat in 1940,a charge which did not stick.However Blum was a prisoner of Vichy throughout the war but survived.

    About 110.000 French soldiers were evacated from France by June 1940.Some chose not to stay in Britain and fight for the Anglo Saxons but were evacuated to with our agreement to "France"."France" being the French territories of North Africa,principally Casablanca (port destination )and Algiers, the centre of what they saw as their independent government.(We could hardly ship them back to mainland France )The British leadership would disagree about that,but as events rolled on, the situation became clearer to the British Government as regards the attachment of Vichy to Hitler.Laval's utterences were not made in secret when he declared he was hoping for Britain's defeat at the hands of Germany.His thinking and that of Petain was that Britain's defeat would make France so much stronger in Europe being a member of Hitler's club.It transpired that Hitler had no such intentions about the entry of France into his "club",France would be solely used to to support Germany's war economy with her industrial output,foodstuffs,raw materials and the like transported to Germany.Further France would bear the German occupation costs which she could hardly bear.There was a further advantage to Hitler regarding Vichy's accomodation with the Third Reich,France could be "governed" by less troops such that France was used as posting from the eastern front for divisional refits,a practice which developed as the Red Army decimated German divisions in the east.

    Quite a a lot of material has been written about the French Resistance but those who were in a postion to register the true accounts,I feel are the ones to reference.

    Regarding the core of resistance,it has been said that those active amounted to about 5% of the French population.Additionally there were those who were engaged passively but the majority got on with their own lives and acquiesced.Some went on to be active collaborators,a minority were to get involved in the French Gestapo and portray themselves more German than the Germans themselves.Some were attracted to the intense collaboratation with the promise that they would be allowed German citizenship after the war, a war won by Germany.Such was the attraction of the "new order".

    De Gaulle,postwar, recorded that the active French Resistance amounted to the equivalent of no more than two army divisions.Nevertheless these irregulars were a thorn in the side of the German occupition forces,especially they were organised by De Gaulle's Free Frech movement and the likes of Jean Moulin etc.But it has to be said that they could not have untaken clandestine operations without receiving succour from the western allies.

    If you look at the people who were involved in the French Resistance,you will find the obvious sources of leadership such as those who had military basckgrounds,regular soldiers within France who had been in the French Armistice Army,(the army allowed to Vichy from the armistice.) However,further research throws up leadership from people of occupations, which on first evidence would not conventionally be associated with leadership,the skills of organisating and coordinating others etc and the ability to show high levels of moral and physical courage.There is the mention of Montmouchet, the resistance leader in the area,"Colonel" Emil Coulaudon (Gaspard) was a taxi driver who headed several thousand resistants and reverted to being a taxi driver in Clermand Ferrand after the war.Having said that Monmouchet was something of a disaster and a bloodbath because Coulaudon elected to take the battle to Germans in a fixed setting and did not have the heavier weapons which the Germans brought up.

    It is an interesting subject riddled with revision.
     
  17. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Ref the 1940 Op Dynamo bit: Virtually all the French Soldiers (with exception of the wounded) evacuated under Dynamo (26/5 to 4/6) were not in the UK for much over 24 hrs and were transported straight back to the West Coast of France to continue fighting according to quite a few books I've read. It does make sense considering the UK was sending a BEF Mk. II to West France as well in June.
     
  18. Hilts

    Hilts Fat Biker Bloke

    I always think of collaboration as a bit of 'There but for the grace of God go I'. You can never tell what you would do until you are in similiar circumstances. Thankfully no one in the UK can think back to 1066 to know what they did back then.

    I heard tales from Kosovo and Bosnia when I was there of what long family friends and neighbours did to each other back in the 90's and 00's. Some people (porbably most) will always look after number one and their family first when push comes to shove.


    I agree. I always think a somewhat smug approach to collaboration is taken by the Brits and Americans. Thank God we never had to find out IF we'd have done the same.
     
  19. Capt Beekee

    Capt Beekee Junior Member

    Thanks for all your replies.
    I know this is a vast subject to cover, but what i find most interesting as i drive around our local areas are the small memorials to groups and individuals that were killed in the middle of nowhere as well as villages and towns.

    I understand that a lot of people claimed to be resistance nearer the end of the war, but here you can see the testimonies to those who lived day by day fighting back and are not recognised further than the end of the road they are buried in.

    To be under forced Vichy rule must have been unbearable for so many, to have your own friends and family turn against you. There must be so many untold stories of courage that have gone to the grave.

    One memorial that sticks in my mind was grave stone of a 16 yr old boy shot by the SS at the side of the road in a most stunning valley. He was delivering messages from and to different groups. To find such a sad thing in a beautiful place brought home how different the country must have been to that of today.

    I hope to brush up my language in the future and start to uncover the true local heroes, not the hanger-on's and want to be's.
     
  20. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    A biker friend of mine has a bikers B n B in Treignac and I saw quite a few road side memorials as I rode around the area - Great area for biking by the way ;)
     

Share This Page