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The French Resistance During World War II

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Published: Mon, 01 May 2017

“Throughout France, the Resistance had been of inestimable value …without their great assistance the liberation of France would have consumed a much longer time and meant greater losses to ourselves” (Eipper 9). The French Resistance during World War II was undoubtedly the greatest resistance movement in history. Without the movement, the war would have taken many more battles, as well as lives, to attain an end. The French Resistance during World War II greatly contributed to the Allied Forces’ victory by hindering the German troops, supplying priceless intelligence regarding battle plans to the Allied Forces, and brought France together through the formation of resistance groups.

During World War II, fighting against the Germans didn’t occur just on the battle field; it occurred throughout the world over numerous countries’ lands. Charles de Gaulle, the leader of the French Resistance movement, broadcasted a speech to the French rallying them to fight against the Germans who had recently taken over their country. “This war is not limited to the unfortunate territory of our country. This war is a world war…Whatever happens, the flame of French resistance must not die and will not die” (“The French Resistance 12). De Gaulle’s speech was only the beginning of the assailment Germany was about to receive. The French Resistance would progress to the killing of German soldiers and even the German defeat on D-Day. In France, resistance fighters exemplified their resistance by “individual acts of sabotage” Average people cut telephone lines so the Germans were unaware of bombing raids and other war acts against them, which resulted in many deaths on the German’s side. (“The French Resistance”).The resistance fighters were greatly inconveniencing the Germans, but they had the power to do more. Soon, groups of resistance fighters banded together to create a greater force against the Germans. “There were groups of people-intellectuals, university students, priests…who conceived of resistance as any form of action which might…liberate French territory…resistance…was a dangerous activity: arrests, torture, and executions were frequent” (McMillan 147). Resistance fighters were brave, yet ordinary people, who fought the Germans despite the danger it held. Even religious leaders fought against the Germans to help Jews escape. One priest was surreptitiously in helping Jews flee France, forging authentic records, and writing covert leaflets and publications that encouraged the killing of Nazis (Karnow 192). The fighters did everything they could to hinder the Germans, from intercepting messages and setting up bombs to even beguiling them on D-Day, the turning point of the entire war. “The operation began on the morning of 5 June…that night, altered by a coded message, broadcast on the BBC, French Resistance groups sabotaged rail and communication links. A massive deception operation was mounted…” (Edwards 5-6). The Resistance was extremely important to the defeat of Germany because of how they acted on D-Day as well as their numerous sabotages.

The Resistance fighters were organized into several different groups; groups that usually had different methods of resistance. Groups of workmen, groups of students, as well as woman’s groups were formed to fight the resistance. Woman played a huge role in the French Resistance, for the Germans did not expect much from them. One agency set up, named the Special Operations Executives, was particularly successful in vitiating the Germans. “The Special Operations Executive’s main task was to link up with resistance movements…to undermine the Germans in the countries they had occupied” (Trueman 1). One group in particular did it all, a communist group named the Manouchian Group. “The Manouchian Group led raids against German factories and complicated the ability of the Germans to organize troops.” The raids against the German factories were cardinal to the defeat, because the factories held everything from German weapons and supplies to badly needed food for the troops. These simple raids led to the disheartening of the German troops, as well as greatly mitigating them. “The raids included covert attacks on soldiers, derailing of trains, the distribution of papers printed in various languages that supported the Resistance movement, and the destruction of German military papers” (Resistance 1). The Manouchian Group is an example of what Resistance groups all across France did to fight off the Germans. The common enemy of Germany unified France because they were all fighting for the same purpose: to liberate their home country. In the memoir of a former CIA agent, the French Resistance and how it unified France is remembered. “We helped France….after the…long years of occupation. We did not make people love one another, but, on a small scale, we helped Frenchmen realize that they had to work together. It was, of course, de Gaulle’s ability to this on a grand scale…” (Kehoe 1). Charles de Gaulle, the leader of the French Resistance, was ultimately responsible for the unification of the French, for he was to one who encouraged the Frenchmen to work together for the greater good. “Perhaps the most remarkable achievement of the Resistance was that, out of so many diverse groups, it proved possible to forge a broad-based united movement” (McMillan 149).

The Resistance fighters not only helped the Allies by sabotaging the Germans, but also by revealing German battle plans to the Allies. Many Allied soldiers’ lives were saved because of the intelligence the Resistance fighters sent to the Allies. “The British attack on the radio base at Brueval in 1942 could have been a lot more costly in terms of lives lost, if the British had not received intelligence reports” (Trueman 7). Antony Beevor, acclaimed World War II writer, was asked about his opinion regarding the French Resistance’s importance in a recent interview. Beevor responded,”Patton…should have realized how much the Third Army in Brittany owed to the Resistance. He couldn’t have released so many of his divisions for the advance on the seine if it hadn’t been for the Maquis: from the start, they interfered with German communications and provided good intelligence” (Santoro 8). The Allies owed much to the French Resistance movement, especially in the final days before the Normandy Landings. Without the French Resistance, D-Day would have presumably not have been as successful. The “In the build up to D-Day, the intelligence they gathered was vital. In May 1944, they sent 3,000…reports to the Allies” (Trueman 11).

The French Resistance was one of the greatest weapons the Allies had on their side, for the French Resistance provided endless intelligence, weakened the Germans, and presented a united front against the Germans even after the capitulation of Paris. The Resistance may not have taken place on the battle-fields, but it was without a doubt a huge fighting force against the Germans. The Germans were supposed to be in charge of three-fifths of France, but instead, they were overrun and sabotaged by their own supposed civilians. Without the French Resistance, the war could have possibly resulted in the end of freedom for Europe, and leadership for Hitler.


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