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French Resistance Movements during WWII

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  • Ghetto Fighters House Archives
    Miriam Maroussia Novitch (1908 - 1990)
  • Guy Léonce Gaston Hericault (1902 - 1990)
    Medaille de la Résistance décret du 03/08/1946 Membre des forces françaises combattantes (FFC) Réseau JEAN-MARIE BUCKMASTER see also Les Français Libres, de juin 1940 à juillet 1943
  • Daniel Paul Gaston Hericault (1903 - 1960)
    Sources Réseau Musée de l'Homme du 11 Jan 1940 au 16 Jan 1941 et du 16 Jan 1941 au 17 Fev 1942 Réseau Jean Marie Buckmaster du 01 Jun 1942 au 10 Mai 1944 F.F.C.attestation n° 40 457 du 27 Jan ...
  • Lewis William Austin (1898 - 1954)
    WWI Aviator WWII Forces Française de l'Iintérieur Officier de la Légion d'Honneur par décret du 8 octobre 1933 Slt Louis William Guy Austin - Né le 22 mars 1898 à Nouméa (Nouvelle-Calédonie) - Fi...
  • Gérard Paul Robert Weil (1917 - 1988)

Background of the Movements

The French Resistance movement is an umbrella term which covered numerous anti-German resistance groups that were based within France.

There were a number of resistance movements, some that took direct orders from the Special Operations Executive, there was the communist resistance, groups loyal to de Gaulle, regional resistance movements that wanted independence etc. In the north, the target was simply the Germans while in the south, the Vichy government was a target as well as the Germans.

A militant Jewish Zionist resistance organization, the Jewish Army (Armée Juive), was founded in 1942 It was established and led by Abraham Polonski, Eugénie Polonski, Lucien Lublin, David Knout, and Ariadna Scriabina (daughter of the Russian composer Alexander Scriabin). They continued armed resistance under a Zionist flag until liberation finally arrived.

The German attack on Russia - Operation Barbarossa - led to many French communists joining the resistance movement. Politics took a back step and the French communists gained a reputation for being aggressive and successful resistance fighters. Many French people joined as the support for Vichy quickly waned, the treatment of the Jews being a major cause of resentment towards the Vichy government. Many joined the resistance as a means of fighting against a policy that the vast majority found abhorrent.

  • In 1944, the EIF and the Jewish Army combined to form the Organisation Juive de Combat(OJC). The OJC had four hundred members by the summer of 1944 and participated in the liberations of Paris, Lyon,Toulouse, Grenoble and Nice.
  • In the southern occupation zone, the Œuvre de Secours aux Enfants (roughly, Children's Relief Effort), a French-Jewish humanitarian organization commonly called OSE, saved the lives of between seven and nine thousand Jewish children by forging papers, smuggling them into neutral countries and sheltering them in orphanages, schools and convents.
  • Women were generally confined to underground roles in the French Resistance network. Only a limited minority took part in the armed battles.

Timeline of major operations

  • 21 Aug 1941

German naval cadet became the first victim of French Resistance, shot in a Metro station in Paris, France. Over 150 Parisians were shot in reprisal.

  • 24 Aug 1941

Vichy France passed anti-terrorist laws, punishable with death sentences, to deal with the resistance movement.

  • 15 Sep 1941

German soldiers were attacked by resistance fighters in Paris, France.

  • 1 Jan 1942

Jean Moulin, the former mayor of Chartes, parachuted into France in an effort to coordinate and unify resistance groups.

  • 15 Apr 1942

German headquarters at Arras, France was attacked by members of the French Resistance.

  • 31 Jan 1943

The Milice was created in Vichy France under Joseph Darnand to counter the Resistance, another force of the German occupation, reaching a strength of over 20,000 by the Allied invasion in 1944.

  • 27 May 1943

The first unified meeting of French resistance groups took place, chaired by Jean Moulin; it recognized de Gaulle as the leader of the movement. Moulin would be betrayed to the Gestapo a month later, dying en route to a concentration camp.

  • 3 Jun 1943

French Resistance saboteurs destroyed 300 tons of tires in the Michelin factory at Clermont-Ferrant.

  • 19 Dec 1943

French Résistants engaged in heavy fighting with Germans in Bernex, France.

  • 1 May 1944

British Squadron Leader Maurice Southgate, whose coordinated the various Maquis groups between the Loire River and the Pyrenees mountains, was arrested by the Gestapo in Paris, France.

  • 10 May 1944

The French Resistance claimed a membership of over 100,000 and requested more military aid from the Allies.

  • 28 Jun 1944

French resistance fighters killed Minister of Information and local Milice leader Phillipe Henriot. Milice leader in Lyon, Paul Touvier to conduct reprisal killings.

  • 30 Jun 1944

7 Jewish prisoners executed by firing squad as reprisal for the killing of Minister of Information and local Milice leader Phillipe Henriot two days earlier.

  • 9 Jul 1944

US 8th Air Force dispatched 5 B-17 bombers to drop propaganda leaflets in France and Belgium while 5 B-24 bombers paradropped supplies to French resistance fighters.

  • 6 Aug 1944

French resistance fighters captured three German posts along the Swiss border.

  • 20 Aug 1944

French resistance fighters liberated Toulouse, France.

The counter resistance movement

German forces employed a policy to rule by iron fist, including later retribution operations against innocent civilians. The SS also tortured many suspected resistance group members, with them ending up either dead or in a concentration camp. Rarely, entire villages would be razed as deterrence to future acts of sabotage; such was the fate of the village of Oradour-sur-Glane.

In 1943 the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) began sending its own agents into France in cooperation with the SOE to rally French support against German occupation. Several resistance groups merged into the Conseil National de la Resistance (CNR), with Moulin becoming the first chairman of the alliance. On 21 Jun, however, Moulin was captured by the German Gestapo and was tortured to death'


  1. Else Schönberg
  2. Violette Szabo

Excerpts from contributor C. Peter Chen