France's Second Empire lasted from 1852 to 1870, coming between the Second and Third Republics. The Empire was established by Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte (Napoleon III), nephew to Napoleon I and a one-time London policeman. It came to an end with the disastrous Franco-Prussian war of 1870.
Charles de Gaulle was the leader of the Free French Forces based in London after the 1940 defeat of France. He went on to become Prime Minister, following France's liberation in 1944.
He retired from politics in 1946, but returned to form the Fifth Republic in response to the crisis in Algeria. He was president from 1959 to 1969, during which time he withdrew France from NATO and barred Britain's entry into the EEC.
Frederick Forsyth's bestselling thriller, The Day of the Jackal, describes an assassination attempt on de Gaulle.
Online archive of photographs, papers, letters of General de Gaulle.
De Gaulle broadcast a call to arms on 18 June 1940, following the fall of France and the British evacuation from the beaches of Dunkirk:
- The leaders who, for many years, have been at the head of the French armies have formed a government. This government, alleging the defeat of our armies, has made contact with the enemy in order to stop the fighting. It is true, we were, we are, overwhelmed by the mechanical, ground and air forces of the enemy. Infinitely more than their number, it is the tanks, the airplanes, the tactics of the Germans which are causing us to retreat. It was the tanks, the airplanes, the tactics of the Germans that surprised our leaders to the point of bringing them to where they are today.
- But has the last word been said? Must hope disappear? Is defeat final? No!
- Believe me, I who am speaking to you with full knowledge of the facts, and who tell you that nothing is lost for France. The same means that overcame us can bring us victory one day. For France is not alone! She is not alone! She is not alone! She has a vast Empire behind her. She can align with the British Empire that holds the sea and continues the fight. She can, like England, use without limit the immense industry of the United States.
- General de Gaulle speaking on the BBC during World war II - Credit: Bridgeman Art Archive
- I, General de Gaulle, currently in London, invite the officers and the French soldiers who are located in British territory or who might end up here, with their weapons or without their weapons, I invite the engineers and the specialised workers of the armament industries who are located in British territory or who might end up here, to put themselves in contact with me.
- Whatever happens, the flame of the French resistance must not be extinguished and will not be extinguished.
The civil National Police, under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of the Interior, holds primary responsibility for policing in cities and larger towns. The military Gendarmarie polices smaller towns and villages, representing about half the population, as well as fulfilling more specialist functions such as maritime security and counter-terrorism.
Since Lavaurette is a small town, it is policed by gendarmes.
Gendarmes were ordered to seek out Jews according to quotas established by the Germans. Over the following two years, more than 75,000 Jews were deported. Fewer than 2,000 survived. The deportations finally ended when the Allies liberated Paris.
Included within the Terms of the Armistice forced upon France on 22 June 1940 is Article XVIII:
The French-Government will bear the costs of maintenance of German occupation troops on French soil.
For the occupation army of 300,000 men, this was calculated to be 20 million reichmarks. An exchange rate of twenty francs to one reichmark was imposed, resulting in a daily bill of 400 million francs. This has been estimated to be fifty times the true cost of the occupation.
A great deal of agricultural and industrial produce was also demanded from France:
Photos of German officers leaving France when their tour of duty ended show them followed, like explorers, by trains of local bearers carrying their booty. The policy of plunder intensified as the Reich grew increasingly desperate to prop up its own failing economy and its faltering armies on the Eastern Front. France was being slowly bled dry by the outflow not just of meat and drink, fuel and leather, but of wax, frying pans, playing cards, axe handles, perfume and a host of other goods as well.
From Occupation: The Ordeal of France 1940-1944 by Ian Ousby.
Pierre Laval (1883-1945) had already served as President of the Council of Ministers four times before joining the Vichy government. The polar opposite of Pétain, he was a pacifist and a career politician. He was a socialist and champion of the workers. Before World War I, he said, "I am a comrade among comrades, a worker among workers." Laval and the patriarchal, conservative Pétain must have made odd bedfellows.
He was appointed foreign minister in December 1940, then sacked by Pétain, only to return as Prime Minister in 1942.
After the war, he was sentenced to death for his role in the Vichy government. Unlike Pétain, he was not granted a stay of execution. He faced a firing squad on 15 October 1945, and shouted "Vive la France!" as he died.
It was while setting up a later network in Limoges that Violette Szabo was captured. She was inserted with another SOE agent named Phillippe Liewer to set up the "Salesman II" circuit.
Liewer's original Salesman circuit, in the Rouen area, had been compromised and abandoned following a damage assessment by Szabo
Liewer stayed on after Szabo's arrest and assisted a communist resistance group in sabotage operations. He was awarded the Military Cross and the Croix de Guèrre after the war.
Another Limoges SOE agent was Muriel Byck, a Jewish WAAF recruited in 1943. Like "Hercule" in the book, she operated from a garage. Her wireless transmitter was set up in a shed just behind the repair shop to which German soldiers brought their vehicles. She was never caught, but died of meningitis in 1944, aged 25.