France in World War 2
In 1939, Britain and France declared war on Hitler’s Third Reich following Germany’s September 1st attack on neighboring Poland. In the summer of 1940, the German Army did what was thought impossible and invaded France, their newly minted Panzer Divisions traversing through the supposedly impassible Ardennes Forest and completely circumventing France’s main line of defense…the Maginot Line. The French Army and the British Expeditionary Force which had been dispatched to the European mainland were thrown into disarray. Those who could made it out of Europe on the beaches of Dunkirk and the French government fled in exile.
The French people were forced to endure the humiliation of being subjugated by the Nazis. Hitler occupied the northern half of France and established a puppet government in the south with a new capital in Vichy. The collaborationist regime was headed by the aged Marshall Phillip Petain…a World War I general whom the Germans hoped the French people would rally around. Mass disdain for the occupation and the humiliation terms under which the people of France were now forced to live under led to the organic formation of small Resistance cells. Often beginning as gaggles of friends, these networks became more and more daring in their acts of resistance as they grew in numbers, strength and organization. The situation in France that the German occupation was without precedent as an entire civilian population was being subjugated and sought to strike back in even the smallest act of resistance. In the midst of this, many women found themselves caught up in action that in the past would have been left exclusively to men.