The French Resistance
Sue MacGregor brings together French Resistance members who fought against Nazi German occupation of France and the collaborationist Vichy regime during the Second World War.
Sue MacGregor brings together members of the French Resistance who fought against Nazi German occupation of France and the collaborationist Vichy regime during the Second World War.
On 18 June 1940, as the French Prime Minister Phillipe Pétain prepared to sign an armistice with the Nazi invaders, General Charles de Gaulle spoke to the French people on the BBC from London asking them to join him in continuing the war.
“You had to be completely insane to believe him at the time,” says John James - then one of 8 million refugees fleeing the advancing German army. “For people like me, to know everything wasn’t lost, gave us great hope.”
Hundreds of thousands of people answered de Gaulle’s call and joined the French Resistance.
They carried out acts of sabotage against the Nazis and their Vichy allies, published underground pamphlets or offered help to downed allied airmen or the persecuted Jewish population. Over 100,000 members of resistance movements died during the war – some executed, others killed in combat or left to die in camps.
De Gaulle’s relationship with the Allies was difficult. London and Washington considered that the liberation was the task of the Allied troops, who would then occupy France under the authority of an allied Military Government that would run the country. De Gaulle and important sections of the Resistance had other ideas.
Sue MacGregor is joined by Marcel Jaurent Singer, a secret agent of the Special Operations Executive set up by Winston Churchill; Rene Marbot, a soldier in de Gaulle’s Free French army; John James, a member of a guerrilla fighting unit; Michèle Agniel who helped Allied airmen escape to freedom; and historian Matthew Cobb.
Producer: Emily Williams
Series Producer: David Prest
A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4