France History : the World War II
France surrendered to Nazi Germany early in World War II (June 24, 1940). Nazi Germany occupied three fifths of France’s territory (Northern France and the entire French Atlantic Coast) and on July 10, 1940 established a new French government based at the town of Vichy.
This government, was commonly referred to as Vichy France and was headed by Henri Philippe Pétain, a General during World War One. Its senior leaders acquiesced in the plunder of French resources, as well as the sending of French forced labor to Nazi Germany; in doing so, they claimed they hoped to preserve at least some small amount of French sovereignty.
In the meantime, civilian anti-semites and Vichy officials aided in the concentration and persecution of Jews, in particular those of foreign citizenship. The Nazi German occupation proved costly, however, as Nazi Germany appropriated a full one-half of France’s public sector revenue.
On the other hand, those who refused defeat and collaboration with Nazi Germany, the Free French, organised resistance movements in occupied and Vichy France and the Free French Forces. The Free French Forces started in exile in and with the support of the UK.
They were led by Charles de Gaulle, under-secretary of state for war and national defence, whose role in the resistance was to pave the way for his immense impact on the future of France, as leader of its provisional government and first President of the French Fifth Republic.
After the Allied landings in North Africa (Operation Torch) the German Army occupied southern France as well, leading to the scuttling of the French Fleet at Toulon.
After four years of occupation and strife, Allied forces, including Free French Forces, liberated France in 1944.
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