World War II: German Occupation of France (1940-44)

Figure 1.--This German photograph is unidentified. The men or Luftwaffe personnel. We believe it is a photograph taken in occupied France with French children. We wonder how common it was for French children to freely interact with German occupation forces like this. One might see GIs with a group like this, but probably not smoking like this. Click on the image for a fuller discussion of this ohotograph.

The German soldiers in France behaved very differently than they did in the East. With the exception of actions against Jews, the Germans behave realtively correctly. Even with the Jews, mmost of the actions were carried out by the French police and Milice. There were some attrocities against French civilians, especially after the Allied D-Day invasion, but these appeared to have been realtively exceptional. Our impression is that the French even today do not fully understand that the rlatively correct bhavior was a mattr of war time policy. And that after the War was won, the Germans had much more onerous plans for France. and the French people. There were many affairs with French women. This was not encouraged, but also not strictly proohobiyed. One question we have is how the German soldiers interacted with French children. There are of course countless images of American GIs with children in France and other liberated countries. We wonder how German soldiers got on with French children and how the children reacted to them. We would be interested in any information that readers may be able to supply on this topic.

Reader Comments

A French reader writes, "L'histoire est ce qu'elle est; force est de se souvenir qu'au début de l'entrée des troupes allemandes en France , notre jeunesse ne pouvait qu'être désorientée, à la maison elle y trouvait une ambiance anti-allemande. Dans les rues , dans les villages , nos jeunes côtoyait des soldats qui avec reçu l'ordre de respecter la population . A tout cela ajoutons la politique pro-allemande du chef de l'état qui s'exerçait par de la propagnade tant dans les écoles, sur les murs ou à la radio. Comment nos jeunes gens ne pouvaient t-ils pas s'interroger ? Cette photo est probablement antèrieure à 1941. Au début de la guerre de telles scènes étaient courantes. Après 1941, les difficultés aidantes, chacun devint distant l'un de l'autre." That would translate as something like, "History is what it is. When the German trrops first entered France, young people were disorientated. At home they found an ati-German environment. In the streets, in the villages, our young people encountered German soldiers who had received orders to respect the local population. In addition there was the pro-German policies adopted by Vichy officials who were at the time was the French Government. Vichy and German propaganda appeared in the schools, on the walls (posters) or on the radio. How could our young people not be affected by all of this. This photograph was probably taken in 1940-41. During the early years of the occupation sych scenes werecommon. After 1941, the situation began to change." Here some of the factors were the nspiring speeches of General DeGaulle from London. Then shortages began to occur because of all the shipments of food and goods to Germany. A major factor was the German demands for forced labor in Germany.


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Created: 5:21 AM 2/11/2005
Last updated: 6:53 PM 7/30/2017