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German signs in occupied Paris.

Hitler in Paris, 23 June 1940.

The Military Administration in France (German language: Militärverwaltung in Frankreich) was an interim occupation authority established by Nazi Germany during World War II to administer the zone occupée in northern and western France. It remained in existence from May 1940 to December 1944.

The dictatorship

Forced Labor

During the German occupation, a forced labor policy, called in French Service du Travail Obligatoire or "STO", consisted of the requisition and transfer of hundreds of thousands of French workers to Germany against their will, for the German war effort. In addition to work camps for factories, agriculture, and railroads, forced labor was used for V-1 launch sites and other military facilities targeted by the Allies in Operation Crossbow.

Flag of the French Militia, created in 1943 to help the Germans fight the Resistance.


At night, inhabitants had to close their shutters or windows and turn off any light. Without an Ausweis, it was forbidden to go out during the night. During the day, numerous regulations, censorship and propaganda made the occupation increasingly unbearable.


Schoolchildren were made to sing "Maréchal, nous voilà !" ("Marshall, here we are!"). The portrait of Marshal Philippe Pétain adorned the walls of classrooms, thus creating a personality cult. Propaganda was present in education to train the young people with the ideas of the new Vichy regime. However, there was no resumption in ideology as in other occupied countries, for example in Poland, where the teaching elite was liquidated. Teachers were not imprisoned and the programs were not modified overall. In the private Catholic sector, many school directors hid Jewish children by providing education for them until the liberation.[citation needed]


Approximately 49 concentration camps were in use in France during the occupation, the largest of them at Drancy. In the occupied zone, as of 1942, Jews were required to wear the yellow badge. On the Paris Métro Jews were only allowed to ride in the last carriage. 13,152 Jews residing in the Paris region were victims of a mass arrest by pro Nazi French authorities on 16 and 17 July 1942, known as the Vel' d'Hiv Roundup, and were transported to Auschwitz where they were killed.[1]

Overall, according to a detailed count drawn under Serge Klarsfeld, slightly below 77,500 of the Jews residing in France died during the war, overwhelmingly after being deported to death camps.[2][3] Out of a Jewish population in France in 1940 of 350,000, this means that somewhat less than a quarter died. While horrific, the mortality rate was lower than in other occupied countries (e.g. 75% in the Netherlands) and, because the majority of the Jews were recent immigrants to France (mostly exiles from Germany), more Jews lived in France at the end of the Vichy regime than did approximately ten years earlier when Hitler formally came to power.[4]

Civilian Reprisals

Execution chamber inspected by a Parisian policeman and members of the FFI after liberation.

There were German reprisals against civilians in occupied countries; in France, the Nazis built an execution chamber in the cellars of the former Ministry of Aviation building in Paris.[5]


The Resistance

German military and résistants, July 1944

Although the majority of the occupied French population did not take part in active resistance, many resisted passively through acts such as listening to the banned BBC, or giving collateral or material aid to Resistance members. Others assisted in the escape of downed US or British airmen who eventually found their way back to Britain, through Spain. Beginning in 1942, many others refused to be drafted into the factories and farms of Germany by the "STO" organization, going underground to avoid imprisonment and subsequent deportation to Germany. For the most part, these "réfractaires" eventually joined the Resistance. Armed underground groups in the field (known as the "Maquis") began to organise in the more remote parts of France in late 1942 and 1943. They received weapons such as Bren guns, Sten submachineguns, US M1 carbines and other rifles, plastic explosives, ammunition, and funds from thousands of parachute drops and solo landings at night by RAF Lysander aircraft. They also received direct support on the ground from British radio operators and tactical advisors, such as Nancy Wake, who were parachute dropped to assist the Maquis in central France. After the Allied invasion of Normandy in June 1944, the French armed resistance groups (FFI, FTP and others) systematically sabotaged the railway lines, destroyed bridges, cut German communications and provided general intelligence that was communicated directly to London via radio within hours.

See also


  1. Online Encyclopedia of Mass Violence: Case Study: The Vélodrome d'Hiver Round-up: July 16 and 17, 1942
  2. Summary from data compiled by the Association des Fils et Filles des déportés juifs de France, 1985.
  3. Azéma, Jean-Pierre and Bédarida, François (dir.), La France des années noires, 2 vol., Paris, Seuil, 1993 [rééd. Seuil, 2000 (Points Histoire)]
  4. François Delpech, Historiens et Géographes, no 273, mai–juin 1979, issn 00 46 75 x
  5. "NAZI PERSECUTION". Imperial War Museum. 2011. Retrieved 2012-04-18. 

Further reading

  • Bueltzingsloewen, Isabelle von (ed) (2005). "Morts d'inanition": Famine et exclusions en France sous l'Occupation. Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes. ISBN 2-7535-0136-X
  • Philippe Burrin (1998). France Under the Germans: Collaboration and Compromise. New York: New Press. ISBN 1-56584-439-4. 
  • Gildea, Robert (2002). Marianne in Chains: In Search of the German Occupation 1940–1945. London: Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-333-78230-9
  • Hirschfeld, G. & Marsh P. (eds) (1989). Collaboration in France: Politics and Culture during the Nazi Occupation 1940-1944. Oxford: Berg.
  • Jackson, Julian T. (2001). France: The Dark Years, 1940-1944. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-820706-9

External links

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