In early , the Vichy authorities created a paramilitary group, the Milice militia , to combat the Resistance.
They worked alongside German forces that, by the end of , were stationed throughout France. After the liberation of France in the summer of , the French executed many of the estimated 25, to 35, miliciens  for their collaboration. Many of those who escaped arrest fled to Germany, where they were incorporated into the Charlemagne Division of the Waffen SS. In the aftermath of France's defeat in June , the overwhelming consensus was that Germany would win the war, and given the apparent inevitability of the Reich 's victory, the widespread feeling was that resistance was futile.
The experience of the Occupation was a deeply psychologically disorienting one for the French as what was once familiar and safe become strange and threatening. The scenes look not just unreal, but almost deliberately surreal, as if the unexpected conjunction of German and French, French and German, was the result of a Dada prank and not the sober record of history. This shock is merely a distant echo of what the French underwent in seeing a familiar landscape transformed by the addition of the unfamiliar, living among everyday sights suddenly made bizarre, no longer feeling at home in places they had known all their lives.
Ousby wrote that by the end of summer of "And so the alien presence, increasingly hated and feared in private, could seem so permanent that, in the public places where daily life went on, it was taken for granted". Resistance when it first began in the summer of was based upon what the writer Jean Cassou called refus absurde "absurd refusal" of refusing to accept that the Reich would win and even if it did, it was better to resist.
Only by his hat, I tell you and because I was waiting on the roadside to see him pass. I saw his face all right, but there was no skin on it, and he could not see me.
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Both his poor eyes had been closed into two purple and yellow bruises". Frenay recruited for Combat by asking people such questions like if they believed that Britain would not be defeated and if they thought a German victory was worth stopping, and based on the answers he received would ask those whom he thought were inclined to resistance: "Men are already gathering in the shadows.
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Will you join them? I never killed a German or a Gestapo agent with my own hand". Louis Lallier, a farmer was shot for sabotage on 11 September in Epinal and Marcel Rossier, a mechanic was shot in Rennes on 12 September. Starting in the summer of anti-Semitic laws started to come into force in both the occupied and unoccupied zones. Many people, perhaps even most people, were indifferent. In the autumn of they had other things to think about; later they could find little room for fellow-feeling or concern for the public good in their own struggle to survive.
What happened to the Jews were a secondary matter; it was beyond their immediate affairs, it belonged to that realm of the 'political' which they could not longer control or even bring themselves to follow with much interest". From the beginning, the Resistance attracted people from all walks of life and with diverse political views.
According to the Abwehr officer Hermann Bickler, the Germans needed 32 indicateurs informers to crush all resistance in France, but he reported in the fall of that the Abwehr had already exceeded that target. Parisians, at least, had got the point as early as December When Hitler shipped back the Duc de Reichstadt's remains for a solemn burial in Les Invalides, people said they would have preferred coal rather than ashes.
On 10 November , a jostle on the Rue de Havre in Paris broke out between some Parisians and German soldiers, which ended with a man raising his fist to a German sergeant, and which led to a man named Jacques Bonsergent , who seems only to have been a witness to the quarrel being arrested, the reason why remains a mystery to this very day. On 5 December , Bonsergent was convicted by a German military court of insulting the Wehrmacht as he insisted on taking full responsibility, saying he wanted to show the French what sort of people the Germans were and he was shot on 23 December Some of them bared their heads as if in the presence of the dead".
Little flowers of every kind, mounted on pins, had been struck on the posters during the night-real flowers and artificial ones, paper pansies, celluloid roses, small French and British flags". In March , the Calvinist Pastor Marc Boegner condemned the Vichy statut des Juifs in a public letter, one of the first times that French antisemitism had been publicly condemned during the occupation.
The SOE preferred to recruit French citizens living in Britain or had fled to the United Kingdom, as they were able to blend in more effectively; British SOE agents were people who had lived in France for a long time and could speak French without an accent. At pm every night, the BBC's French language service broadcast the first four notes of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony which sounded like the Morse code for V as in victory , followed by cryptic messages, which were codes for the "personal messages" to the resistance.
In Britain, the letter V had been adopted as a symbol of the will to victory, and in the summer of , the V cult crossed the English Channel and the letter V appeared widely in chalk on the pavement, walls, and German military vehicles all over France. Hans-Gottfried Reimers was assassinated in Bordeaux on 21 October. As the PCF did not recognize de Gaulle's authority, the Communist assassins continued their work under the slogan "an eye for an eye", and so the Germans continued to execute between 50— French hostages for every one of their number assassinated.
As more resistance groups started to appear, it was agreed that more could be achieved by working together than apart. British SOE agents parachuted into France to help organize the resistance often complained about what they considered the carelessness of the French groups when it came to security. In November , Frenay recruited Jacques Renouvin , whom he called an "experienced brawler", to lead the new Groupes Francs paramilitary arm of the Combat resistance group.
On 7 December , the Nacht und Nebel degree was signed by Hitler, allowing the German forces to "disappear" anyone engaged in resistance in Europe into the "night and fog". On the night of 2 January , Moulin parachuted into France from a British plane with orders from de Gaulle to unify the resistance and to have all of the resistance accept his authority. To maintain contact with Britain, Resistance leaders crossed the English Channel at night on a boat, made their way via Spain and Portugal, or took a "spy taxi", as the British Lysander aircraft were known in France, which landed on secret airfields at night.
On 29 May it was announced that all Jews living in the occupied zone had to wear a yellow star of David with the words Juif or Juive at all times by 7 June She came humbly up and stood hesitating on the edge of the pavement. Jews were not allowed to stand in queues. What they were supposed to do I never discovered. But the moment the people in the queue saw her they signaled to her to join us.
Secretly and rapidly, as in the game of hunt-the-slipper, she was passed up till she stood at the head of the queue. I am glad to say that not one voice was raised in protest, the policeman standing near turned his head away, and that she got her cabbage before any of us. By , the Paris Kommandantur was receiving an average of 1, corbeaux poison pen letters [ clarification needed ] a day, which kept the occupation authorities informed about what was happening in France.
Since you are taking care of the Jews, and if your campaign is not just a vain word, then have a look at the kind of life led by the girl M. A, formerly a dancer, now living at 41 Boulevard de Strasbourg, not wearing a star. This creature, for whom being Jewish is not enough, debauches the husbands of proper Frenchwomen, and you may well have an idea what she is living off. Defend women against Jewishness-that will be your best publicity, and you will return a French husband to his wife. Well done! Poor people!
Cardinal Pierre-Marie Gerlier of Lyon, a staunch antisemite who had supported Vichy's efforts to solve the "Jewish question" in France, opposed the rafles of Jews, arguing in a sermon that the "final solution" was taking things too far; he felt it better to convert Jews to Roman Catholicism.
They are part of mankind. They are our brothers. Ousby argued that, given the widespread belief that the Jews in France were mostly illegal immigrants from Eastern Europe who ought to be sent back to where they came from, it was remarkable that so many ordinary people were prepared to attempt to save them. Now, as the threat of absence become brutally literal, their choices were more sharply defined, more urgent even than for other people in France. As in World War I and the war of —, the Germans argued that those engaging in resistance were "bandits" and "terrorists", maintaining that all Francs-tireurs were engaging in illegal warfare and, as such, had no rights.
Their symbol was the white gamma, the zodiacal sign of the Ram, symbolising renewal and power. At the Dora works near the Buchenwald concentration camp, about 10, slave workers, mostly French and Russian, were building V2 rockets in a vast subterranean factory; they were living in quarters meant to house only 2,, allowed to sleep only four and half hours every night, and regularly brutalised by the guards.
As the occupation went on, service with the STO was widened, with farmers and university students losing their exempt status until , when all fit men aged 18—60 and women aged 18—45 were being called up for service with the STO. Fritz Sauckel , the General Plenipotentiary for Labour Deployment and the man in charge of bringing slaves to German factories, demanded the flight of young men to the countryside be stopped and called the maquis "terrorists", "bandits" and "criminals".
Despite warnings from Laval, Sauckel took the view that he was ordered by Albert Speer to produce a quota of slaves for German industry, that the men joining the maquis were sabotaging German industry by fleeing to the countryside, and the solution was simply to kill them all. When Laval was presented with Sauckel's latest demand for French labor for German industry, he remarked: "Have you been sent by de Gaulle?
As Laval predicated, the hardline policies that Sauckel advocated turned the basically apolitical maquis political, driving them straight into the resistance as the maquisards turned to the established resistance groups to ask for arms and training. After the Battle of Stalingrad , which ended with the destruction of the entire German 6th Army in February , many had started to doubt the inevitability of an Axis victory, and most French gendarmes were not willing to hunt the down the maquis , knowing that they might be tried for their actions if the Allies won.
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Entering the popular vocabulary at more or less the same time, the words maquis and milice together defined the new realities: the one a little-known word for the back country of Corsica, which became a synonym for militant resistance; the other a familiar word meaning simply "militia", which became a synonym for militant repression. The Maquis and the Milice were enemies thrown up by the final chaos of the Occupation, in a sense twins symbiotically linked in a final hunt.
The established Resistance groups soon made contact with the maquis , providing them with paramilitary training. We established contact with them through our departmental and regional chiefs. Usually these little maquis voluntarily followed our instructions, in return for which they expected food, arms and ammunition It seemed to me that these groups, which were now in hiding all over the French mountain country, might well be transformed into an awesome combat weapon.
The maquisards were all young, all volunteers, all itching for action It was up to use to organize them and give them a sense of their role in the struggle. The terrain of central and southern France with its forests, mountains, and shrubland were ideal for hiding, and as the authorities were prepared to commit thousands of men to hunt the maquis down, it was possible to evade capture.
The maquis were careful about concealing fires and could usually avoid aerial detection.