The Last Days Of The French Resistance.

by Daniel Russ on November 21, 2009

French Resistance Fighters Train.

French Resistance Fighters Train.

There was always a robust intelligence service deep in the heart of Paris that transferred tremendously helpful and timely information. That said, the Parisians were trying to adapt to a new world order, one where a hostile occupying army ruled over them and their historic city. Adapt they did and the German officer corps fell in love with Paris. It was the place where the Wehrmacht took R&R and by design it was also the seat of the Force Francaise Interieure, the hidden French Army. The free French were already on the move against the Germans on the side of the Allies. And the Germans, now lacking the ability to replace much their own manpower began forcing French workers to move to Germany and work there. But tides were turning. D-Day had transpired. A French force had already invaded their own country under General LeClerc and the Allies themselves were pushing into France from the Normandy coastline as well.

DeGualle began pushing the French through radio stations and secret communications to be prepare to rise up, the Allies were coming. The US didn’t trust De Gualle until thousands of French joined him.

Around the end of 1944, the French Resistance began increasing the pace of ambushes. The Germans reacted accordingly: with utter brutality and arbitrariness. When two Germans were killed, the Germans might decide to kill 80 French for each German killed in retaliation. Entire villages were punished for the actions of the resistance. The Germans posted notices of public executions, and otherwise humiliated the French population and dumped one atrocity after another on the locals.

It backfired. The resistance toughened. Worse for the Germans, the headquarters of the FFI was oftentimes in the catacombs under the offices of the Nazi occupiers. So when the Germans secretly began to pack up and leave, the resistance knew it. When most of the armed forces were pulled out and mostly administrative staff was left behind, the resistance sprung the trap.

When the Allies were kilometers from Paris, the resistance struck across the countryside. They knew where stolen weapons caches were, and on one night armed themselves to the teeth. They took over the public buildings either by storming them or clandestinely coming in with help from the intelligence and quietly taking over. Snipers parked themselves beside gargoyles and fired down on lone Germans or small groups. Over night, the Germans were trapped in small pockets around Paris and could not move. While heavy divisions were parked outside of Paris getting ready to retreat from the Allied onslaught, smaller Panzer brigades comprised of Mk.III and Mk.IV became easy targets for Molotov cocktails wielded by the now enflamed French resistance. (Pardon the pun).

Hitler told local commanders to destroy Paris. Here Panzer divisions had to move through Paris just to retreat and all of them had heavy weapons, so the French were worried that they would indeed bring the city down. Before that happened, the French actually fought retreating German divisions to a standstill. The French roadblocked the roads to their power plant, the gas works, the phone company. The fought a modern army with makeshift equipment and  waited for the Allies to relieve them.

The Germans were trapped in their own Hell. Outside of Paris, where the Germans still held control, executions, deportations to concentration camps and the slow moving genocidal cattle cars to camps went on.

In August, the US 4th and elements of the free French liberated Paris, and despite the stiff German resistance, the 4th infantry prevailed. Germans were deciding whether they should surrender to the French or the Americans. Battles raged one on block while wild celebration went on the next. Retribution at one end of the city where collaborators have their heads shaved or shot, and champagne was pouring into the helmets of GIs at the other.

Source: Knight, Frida (1975). The French Resistance, 1940-44. London: Lawrence and Wishart.

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