Sunday, August 3, 2008

The French/German Relationship and Vichy

• France and Germany have long been political and military rivals. At the conclusion of World War I, although Britain and other countries were at war with Germany alongside France, it was France who dictated the terms of Germany’s surrender at the Paris Peace Conference in January, 1919. Germany never forgot this.

• From the outset of World War II, the events which took place were devastating for France. She fought the enemy for a total of six weeks and then capitulated. Approximately two million men were taken prisoner by Germany and about ninety thousand soldiers were killed. France fell, and the surrender took place on June 25, 1940.

• When the time came to sign the armistice, Pétain, a World War I hero, freely handed France over to the Germans, and the country was divided into an occupied and a free zone. Because of Germany’s long memory, France was humiliated into signing her surrender agreement in the very same railcar where the Germans had signed their capitulation papers years before. The French had kept the car as a memento of the event.

• After the armistice, there were no longer so many military casualties, but the Germans continued to take prisoners of war back to Germany to work as slave laborers in their war machine. The number of French army prisoners numbered nearly two million. (Lucile Angellier’s husband and Benoît Sabarie are two such prisoners.)

• Part of the French defeat can be blamed on the thousands of French who clogged the roads and prevented the army from traveling to the northern front. Némirovsky describes this in excruciatingly moving detail.

1 comment:

Chain Reader said...

Thanks for the historical background!