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France during the German occupation from 1940 to 1944
  • Occupied Zone (North Zone)
  • Unoccupied zone until November 1942, then also occupied (south zone)
  • Lorraine cross

    The Resistance is a collective term for French , Belgian and Luxembourg movements in the resistance against National Socialism during the Second World War and against the domestic institutions and population groups that collaborated with the German occupying power .

    The resistance movements in this area were not organized and run uniformly, but pursued different goals in the interests of their supporting organizations. In the spring of 1943, Jean Moulin , an envoy from General de Gaulle , succeeded in defining the most important political groups in France, at least with general common goals, and in establishing a level of political coordination.

    Against the swastika used by the Germans, the Lorraine cross, modified by de Gaulle, was adopted by the Resistance as a symbol for the liberation struggle in France .

    Organization in France

    Comité Français de la Liberation Nationale

    From Lyon , Jean Moulin tried for a long time on behalf of de Gaulle to unite the resistance of the various groups to the Résistance in the Comité Français de la Liberation Nationale (CFLN), which he succeeded in May 1943 with the most important French resistance groups. Until November 1942, only the “northern zone” of France had been occupied; since then, the previously unoccupied “southern zone” was also occupied (see Vichy regime ).

    It merged from the southern zone (occupied territory since November 1942):

    with the groups from the northern zone (area occupied since June 1940):

    Political and military arm

    As a political arm, the Resistance developed a kind of underground political parliament of the various resistance groups, the Conseil national de la Résistance (CNR, German: National Resistance Council).

    Thanks to the tireless efforts of Jacques Bingen , a military arm of the Resistance, the Forces françaises de l'intérieur (FFI, German: French Armed Forces inside) , emerged in early 1944 . To this end, the following forces joined forces on February 1, 1944:

    Other groups of the Resistance in France

    B-17 bombers supply the Maquis in Vercors, 1944

    In France, however, other resistance groups also existed temporarily or permanently:

    The resistance in Belgium

    The coordination of the Belgian resistance was called Réseau de Résistance (RR) or Netwerk van de weerstand . Belgium, like northern France, had been occupied by German troops since the invasion, but resistance only began to grow gradually. Only the rigorous appointment of provincial and local administrations, bottlenecks in the food supply and the introduction of curfew did not cause the Belgian population to feel uneasy about the occupation regime. Rescue of shot down Allied pilots and sabotage were the main actions of the beginning Resistance against the occupation in Wallonia and Flanders. An important international escape aid network , which was already active in 1941, existed in the Réseau Comète founded by Andrée de Jongh .

    The three largest resistance organizations in Belgium were:

    • the UK-controlled Groupe G ( Groupe Géneral de Sabotage ). La grande coupure , the so-called “big cut” or power failure of January 15, 1944, when 28 high-voltage lines in Belgian territory were blown up, which led to a massive blackout throughout Belgium and into the Ruhr area, is one of the most popular actions of Groupe G.
    • the armée belge des partisans (PA), communist resistance
    • the armée secrète belge made up of former members of the Belgian army

    French Resistance operations

    Derailed train near Saint-Rambert-en-Bugey , July 6, 1944
    Battle for Paris, September 1, 1944

    The Resistance in France came into being immediately after the German occupation and the armistice signed by Marshal Pétain with Germany on June 22, 1940. Initially, there were only a few thousand people who did not simply want to endure the German occupation. Their goal was the planned action against the occupiers. For this purpose, private acts of revenge had to be contained, which were not uncommon. Thousands of civilians and soldiers had fled to the south of France before the approaching German troops. Search advertisements were advertised in newspapers in order to find relatives who had been lost on the run. Here the Resistance wrote reply letters in which those affected were asked to cooperate.

    She later went on to inform the Allies about the armament and movements of the German troops. Resistance acts of sabotage were intended to support the Allies' military operations and make those of the Wehrmacht more difficult. To this end, separate structures gradually emerged: a file was created for each French municipality in which every railway tunnel, every slow-moving section of the railway , every factory, workshop and shipyard was noted. Tons of ammunition and weapons were hidden instead of being handed over to the Wehrmacht (according to the armistice regulations). Membership lists were written on narrow strips of rice paper that were easier to swallow when arrested. It contained the name of the person admitted, his occupation and his connections, his accommodation and catering options as well as his means of transport (truck, car, motorcycle, bicycle). It was also registered there whether the person was assigned to sabotage, transport or command tasks. These lists were written by bank officials at night.

    The Paris Metro was the first “mobile” headquarters of the French Resistance. During the journey, plans could be made and messages exchanged. This made eavesdropping on the other side very difficult. Above all, the Gestapo found it difficult to identify and observe individuals who got on or got off in the crowd of thousands of people. Nevertheless, the secret activities did not remain hidden, after which the quarters had to be constantly changed. In the course of time, the work of the Resistance was structured in a division of labor: Quartermakers procured inconspicuous accommodation in a village or town, whose location, escape and alternative options they had checked beforehand. Twenty regional units commanded by officers were subordinate to a staff of the Resistance and changed their location every eight to ten days. For this purpose, about ten houses were selected in a village in which the command post was to be housed.

    Since the radio transmission of messages by radio direction finders of the Germans was endangered, they were often passed on orally: the messengers learned their assignment by heart, so that they could not be identified by anything in writing. Scouts checked the residents of surrounding houses before a planned coup and familiarized themselves with access options, security, their changing of the guard, their armament and alarm plans. The Corps Francs had established itself for command assignments . They were usually athletic men under the age of forty who were known as gorilles . They formed the shock troops , the attack on the German soldiers, guards, Gestapo resulted in a raid etc..

    Transport commands procured the frequently changed vehicles, scouted routes and roadblocks, and familiarized themselves with the route. The change of location of a command or staff usually took place at night on remote dirt roads. Transport options on French and German trains and on regularly circulating German army trucks were also scouted out and used. They provided the men who loaded and transported the weapons and ammunition that could possibly be captured in a robbery. A demolition squad set the site on fire or blew it up after a raid.

    Saboteurs were often women, adolescents and older men who achieved their goal less by muscle power and more by cunning: Instructors like Nancy Wake , who had been trained by the British Special Operations Executive , taught them how to set incendiary bombs and fix explosive charges on railroad tracks , by which the occupier made confiscated goods unusable, silently strangled a person, dismantled weapons, cleaned and handled them. These sabotage squads blew up bridges, railway tunnels, and telegraph poles.

    In the French mountains, the Resistance operated from the Maquis . These inaccessible areas were protected by the surrounding ravines and passes and could therefore be kept by a few people even with a strong enemy superiority by means of rifle stations, machine guns and artillery . The most important and largest maquis was in the Vercors .

    Paris June 21, 1944, French women accused of collaboration. Barefoot, burn marks on the face, the head shaved.

    Lines from Paul Verlaine's poem Chanson d'automne (1866) were sent by the Allies as a signal to the French Resistance via BBC on the evening of June 5th. The landing in France (June 6, 1944, Operation Overlord ) was announced within 48 hours . The first lines of the poem Les sanglots longs / des violons / de l'automne (Sighs glide / Die Saiten / Des Herbsts along) informed the resistance on June 1, 1944 that the landing would begin within 2 weeks. The following lines Blessent mon coeur / d'une langueur / monotone (Meet my heart / With a pain / dull and fear.) Were the call from June 5th to begin the sabotage (poetic adaptation by Stefan George ).

    The effectiveness and action of the Resistance against collaborators has been the subject of increased discussion in the French public since the 1970s .

    In art

    Resistance is also used as a literary term for a movement that illegally published literary texts and magazines during the Vichy period . Although it had not acted as part of the politico-military Resistance, it was retrospectively assigned a high symbolic importance because it had given the resistance a voice. The story Le silence de la mer , which appeared in 1942 under the pseudonym Vercors , is considered to be one of the best-known publications in résistance literature .

    Escape aid and refuge

    The Resistance and its offshoots set up various organizations to help people cross the border into neutral states or to hide in France or Benelux with false papers. Thousands of downed pilots were cared for and taken out of the country via networks like Komet . Jewish families and children were given shelter by French families. Young conscripts from Alsace-Lorraine ( Malgré-nous ) who were considered Germans and who escaped forced German recruitment by fleeing to occupied or unoccupied France, and young French who were threatened with deportation for forced labor or with the service du travail , were supported and partly recruited for active resistance.

    Countermeasures by the occupiers

    The German military commander, as the highest administrative and commanding authority for German-occupied France, took the following countermeasures contrary to international law:

    • Taking civilians hostage and shooting them according to the atonement order
    • Deportation and shooting of Jews, as they were generally suspected of being partisans
    • Abduction and murder of suspects by the Gestapo and Secret Field Police in accordance with the Night and Fog Decree
    • Parachutists, pilots and liaison officers captured while supporting the Resistance were in some cases killed in accordance with the command .

    Oradour-sur-Glane is a symbol of the SS's cruel revenge on resistance fighters . In response to actions of the Resistance in the area, a company of the Panzer Grenadier Regiment " Der Führer " destroyed the entire village on June 10, 1944 , executed the men and locked women and children in the church, which was then set on fire. More than 600 people were brutally murdered. Oradour-sur-Glane has been a memorial to the French resistance since the 1960s.

    Foreigners in the Resistance

    Maquisards with officers from the British SOE

    In addition to the French and Belgians, many foreigners fought on the side of the French and Belgian resistance. Initially, there were many former interbrigadistas alongside other emigrants , mostly from Spain but also from other nations. Fled across the Portuguese or French border because of participating in the Spanish Civil War , many of them were held in internment camps in the French Third Republic .

    A total of around 500,000 Spanish Republicans fled to France towards the end of the Spanish Republic around 1939. Often recruited there for forced labor, many managed to escape to join the French Resistance in the illegality.

    Participation from German-speaking countries

    In total, several thousand Reich Germans fought in the ranks of the Resistance. They sat down mainly of emigrants , which after the takeover of the Nazis abandoned after 1933 Germany, former Spain fighters , but also some scientists, diplomats and business specialists, who joined the French and Belgian resistance. They organized themselves, among other things. in the “Movement Free Germany in the West” (BFDW) (in France equal: CALPO - Comité “Allemagne libre” pour l'Ouest ; was also responsible for Belgium and Luxembourg) or the MOI ( Mouvement Ouvriers International ).

    Well-known German members of the Resistance were, for example, Otto Kühne (promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in the Resistance in 1943) and Peter Gingold (died 2006). He and other former resistance fighters led the founding of the all-German association DRAFD e. V. ( Association of Germans in the Resistance, in the armed forces of the anti-Hitler coalition and the "Free Germany" movement ). German Resistance fighters are honored and highly regarded in France, for example Gerhard Leo was made a Knight of the Legion of Honor .

    From May 1940 to spring 1945 there was a small independent Austrian resistance group in Belgium, the Austrian Freedom Front (ÖFF). In joint actions with the Belgian Resistance, leaflets and underground newspapers were distributed and military actions were carried out.

    Military members with contacts and as combatants of the Resistance

    Some members of the German armed forces and navy also tried to establish contact with the Resistance in France or even to take part in the resistance. The Petty Officer Hans Heisel , who worked in the Paris-based Marine Group Command West (MGK West) from 1940 to 1944, initiated the first contacts with the French Resistance in 1941. The occasion was reports from a left-wing Social Democrat whose brother had been badly mistreated by the Gestapo and the contact with resistance fighter Thea Saefkow . In 1943 Heisel joined the illegal PCF and took an active part in actions by the Resistance.

    Another military member of the MGK West's intelligence department, Corporal Kurt Hälker, was an active member of the Resistance and was a founding member of CALPO . Together with Kurt Hälker, Hans Heisel also started the resistance within the German military units stationed in France.

    The corporal Arthur Eberhard , also stationed in Paris, took part in the fight of the French Resistance after his desertion from the Wehrmacht.

    The example of the soldier Horst Behrendt shows how "doubly dangerous" just contacting the resistance was. As an intelligence soldier in the 371st Infantry Division , he received an order to drive the remnants of the so-called Stalingrad Army to be set up in the forests of Brittany to Paris in order to pick up several cannons. He saw this as his chance to contact the Maquis for the first time . In Paris he went to see the wife of a French slave laborer who had been deported to Berlin and whom he had known and befriended since his apprenticeship at the Fuess company in Steglitz . But already at the door of the woman's apartment, hatred and mistrust initially met him because of his uniform. With the help of his language skills and the detailed information about her husband from Berlin, the wife's doubts finally disappeared and Horst Behrendt received an address for another resistance group in Tours from several Maquis members who had been summoned . But the attempt to get there ended in Le Mans with his arrest by the German military police . Due to fortunate circumstances and advocacy, he "only" had to serve several days' arrest as a punishment. During his subsequent deployment to the front in Ukraine , he succeeded in working with the NKFD .

    After the war

    Memorial in Vassieux en Vercors

    The Resistance was heroized. The French Post issued a stamp series of 23 stamps with the theme from 1957 to 1961 Héros de la résistance out ( "Heroes of the Resistance"). Each brand portrayed a resister (20 men, 3 women); 22 of them paid for the resistance with their lives. The dates of life were on all stamps, e.g. B. "Louis Martin-Bret (1898-1944)" or "Gaston Moutardier (1889-1944)".

    For an academic account of the Resistance, see Peter Lieb , 2007.

    In 2014, French President François Hollande announced that the remains of four women and men from the resistance, Germaine Tillion , Pierre Brossolette , Geneviève de Gaulle-Anthonioz and Jean Zay, would be reburied in the Panthéon on May 27, 2015 , which is the highest posthumous award of the state. May 27th is National Resistance Day in France.

    See also



    • Guy Michaud, Alain Kimmel: La Résistance en France occupée pendant la Seconde Guerre mondiale. In: Le nouveau guide France. Hachette, Paris 1990, p. 159; again in: Karl Stoppel (Ed.): La France. Regards sur un pays voisin. A collection of texts on French studies. (= Foreign language texts). Reclam, Stuttgart 2008, ISBN 978-3-15-009068-8 , p. 228 f.
    • Klaus-Michael Mallmann: France's foreign patriots. Germans in the Resistance. In: Exile Research. An international yearbook. Vol. 15, 1997, pp. 33-63.
    • Walther Flekl: Resistance. In: France Lexicon. Erich Schmidt, Berlin 2005, ISBN 3-503-06184-3 , pp. 833-836.
    • Jean-François Muracciole : Histoire de la résistance en France. PUF, Que sais-je? Paris 2003.
    • Alain Guérin: La Résistance Chronique illustrée 1930–1950. 5 volumes. Livre Club Diderot, Paris 1972.
    • Jean-Pierre Azéma : Des résistances à la Resistance. In: La France des années noires. T2. Éditions du Seuil, Paris 1993.
    • Pierre Broué , Raymond Vacheron: Meurtres au maquis. Editions Grasset, Paris 1997.
    • Gilles Perrault : Taupes rouges contre SS. Éd. Messidor, Paris 1986 ( Communistes et antifascistes allemands et autrichiens dans la Résistance en France ).
    • Éveline and Yvan Brés: Un maquis d'antifascistes allemands en France (1942–1944). Presses du Languedoc, Max Chaleil Éditeur, Montpellier 1987.
    • Simon Epstein : Un paradoxe francais. Antiracistes dans la Collaboration, antisémites dans la Resistance. Albin Michel, Paris 2008, ISBN 978-2-226-17915-9 .
    • Christiane Goldenstedt: Les femmes dans la Résistance. In: Annette Kuhn, Valentine Rothe (ed.): Women in history and society. Volume 43, Herbolzheim 2006, ISBN 3-8255-0649-5 .
    • Christiane Goldenstedt: Motivations et activités des Résistantes. Comparaison France du Nord - France du Sud. In: Robert Vandenbussche (ed.): Femmes et Résistance en Belgique et en zone interdite (1940-1944). Institut de Recherches Historiques du Septentrion, Université Charles-de-Gaulle-Lille 3, Colloque organisé à Bondues 2007, ISBN 978-2-905637-53-6 .
    • Florence Hervé : "We felt free". German and French women in the resistance. Essen 1997, ISBN 3-88474-536-0 .
    • Florence Hervé (ed.): With courage and cunning. European women in the resistance against fascism and war. Papy Rossa, Cologne 2020, ISBN 978-3-89438-724-2 .
    • Evelyne Morin-Rotureau (dir.): 1939-1945: combats de femmes. Françaises et Allemandes, les oubliées de l'histoire. Éditions Autrement, Paris 2001, ISBN 2-7467-0143-X .
    • Pierre Péan : Vies et morts de Jean Moulin. Editions Fayard, Paris 1998.
    • Dominique Veillon : Les Réseaux de Resistance. In: La France des années noires. T1. le Seuil, 1993.
    • Dominique Veillon, Olivier Wieviorka : La Résistance. In: La France des années noires. T2. Editions du Seuil, Paris 1993.
    • Ulla Plener : Everyday life in the French Resistance. In: Yearbook for research on the history of the labor movement . Issue III / 2007.
    • Ulla Plener: Women from Germany in the French Resistance. 2nd Edition. Berlin 2006.
    • Philippe Bourdrel : L'Épuration sauvage 1944-45. Ed. Perrin, Paris 2002.
    • Gottfried Hamacher among other things: Against Hitler. Germans in the Resistance, in the armed forces of the anti-Hitler coalition and the "Free Germany" movement. Short biographies. (= RLS manuscripts. No. 53). 2nd Edition. Karl Dietz, Berlin 2005, ISBN 3-320-02941-X . ( PDF, 872 kB )
    • Marieluise Christadler : Resistance - collaboration. In: Robert Picht et al. (Ed.): Strange friends. Germans and French before the 21st century. Piper, Munich 2002, ISBN 3-492-03956-1 , pp. 45-50.
    • Helga Bories-Sawala, Catherine Szczesny, Rolf Sawala: La France occupée et la Résistance. (= Simple French ). Schöningh, Paderborn 2008, ISBN 978-3-14-046262-4 .
    • Robert Vandenbussche (ed.): Femmes et Résistance en Belgique et en zone interdite (1940-1944). Institut de Recherches Historiques du Septentrion, Université Charles-de-Gaulle-Lille 3, Colloque organisé à Bondues 2007, ISBN 978-2-905637-53-6 .
    • Jacques Lusseyran : The rediscovered light. 1966.
    • Matthias Bauer: The Resistance as the origin. On the genesis of private mutual agreement initiatives as a trailblazer for Franco-German reconciliation 1940–1949. University of Augsburg, Mag.-Arb., 2006.
    • Franz-Josef Albersmeier: Remembering versus repressing and forgetting. To come to terms with the collaboration and resistance problem in French film (1945–1993). In: Wolfgang Drost (eds.), Géraldi Leroy, Jacqueline Magnou, Peter Seibert: Paris sous l'occupation. Paris under German occupation. (= Siegen . Vol. 124, Romance Studies Department). Universitätsverlag C. Winter, Heidelberg 1995, ISBN 3-8253-0246-6 , pp. 166-177.
    • Vera Wiedemann: “Girl work” on the “silent front”? On the “Travail Anti-Allemand” of German-speaking women emigrants in the French Resistance. In: Daniel ED Müller, Christoph Studt (ed.): "... and because of that he stands in front of Freisler, as a Christian and as nothing else ...". Christian faith as the foundation and action orientation of the resistance against the "Third Reich" (= series of publications of the research community July 20, 1944 eV vol. 25). Augsburg 2019, ISBN 978-3-95786-234-1 , pp. 205–243.

    Web links

    Commons : Résistance  - collection of images, videos and audio files

    supporting documents

    1. ^ Publications of the Nederlands-Internetprojekt StIWoT
    2. Publications of the Fondation Armée secrète belge Armée secrète
    3. On women in the Resistance see Ulla Plener : Frauenalltag in der Frankreich Résistance. In: Yearbook for research on the history of the labor movement . Issue III / 2007 and Ulla Plener : Women from Germany in the French Resistance. 2nd Edition. Berlin 2006.
    4. Tsilla Hershco: The Jewish Resistance in France during World War II: The Gap between History and Memory. Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, March 1, 2007, accessed June 15, 2015.
    5. Sven Olaf Berggötz: Ernst Jünger and the hostages - Ernst Jünger's memorandum on the shooting of hostages in France in 1941/42. (pdf). In: Quarterly Books for Contemporary History. 2003, issue 3.
    6. ^ A b Matthew Paul Berg, Maria Mesner: After fascism: European case studies in politics, society, and identity since 1945. LIT, Münster 2009, ISBN 978-3-643-50018-2 , p. 40.
    7. Michael R. Marrus , Aristide R. Zolberg: The Unwanted. Oxford University Press, Oxford / New York 1985.
    8. See Ulla Plener : Women from Germany in the French Resistance. 2nd Edition. Berlin 2006.
    9. ^ Mouvement Ouvrier International (MOI) also as military. Arm of the Resistance, using the example of Georges Bouquie (French) ( Memento from March 6, 2016 in the Internet Archive ), at:
    10. ^ Gerhard Leo : Germans in the French resistance - a way to Europe. On
    11. Luitwin Bies: The IEDW was founded 35 years ago - counteract historical falsifications. At DRAFD e. V. Association of Germans in the Resistance, in the armed forces of the anti-Hitler coalition and the "Free Germany" movement. V.
    12. Gottfried Hamacher. With the assistance of André Lohmar: Against Hitler - Germans in the Resistance, in the armed forces of the anti-Hitler coalition and the "Free Germany" movement: short biographies. Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, Berlin. Volume 53, ISBN 3-320-02941-X . ( PDF ( Memento of October 5, 2007 in the Internet Archive ), see also in the DRAFD e.V. wiki )
    13. For the partisans it was "Le Rescapé". Peter Rau remembers the death of Gerhard Leo on
    14. Thea Saefkow in the DRAFD Wiki.
    15. Hans Heisel. ( Memento from April 18, 2013 in the web archive ) Statements by Hans Heisel in the production of the station Arte France and the German occupation
    16. Hans Heisel in the DRAFD Wiki
    17. Kurt Hälker in the DRAFD Wiki
    18. Peter Rau: Farewell to a Wehrmacht deserter. In: Junge Welt . March 5, 2010, on, on the occasion of the death of Kurt Hälker.
    19. Arthur Eberhard in the DRAFD Wiki
    20. Horst Behrendt in the DRAFD Wiki
    21. List here (French WP)
    22. Conventional war or Nazi ideological war? Warfare and the fight against partisans in France 1943/1944
    23. With extract from de Gaulle's London Appeal of June 18, 1940. In French. Esp. for school lessons.
    24. ^ Textbook. Mainly in French, e.g. Partly in German; with many illustrations and original doc.
    25. Autobiography of a blind man who joins the Resistance at the age of 17, takes on a special function and describes it as a traitor, later surviving the Buchenwald concentration camp .
    26. Not relocated. Also in the DFI library .