World War II

The extraordinary tales of wartime resistance on the French Caribbean island of Martinique

Portfolios — 10 photos

When general Charles de Gaulle, exiled in London, called on his countrymen in June 1940 to rise up against German occupation of France and the puppet pro-Nazi Vichy regime, his words inspired resistance not only in mainland, but also thousands of kilometres away across the Atlantic, in the French-governed islands of the Caribbean. On Martinique, many young men and women made perilous crossings to the British islands of Dominica and Saint Lucia to join up with the Free French Forces and fight in Europe. These are some of their extraordinary stories, told in picture-portraits by photographer Sylvain Demange and historian Sylvie Meslien, and which are part of an exhibition now showing in the Martinique capital Fort-de-France.

Looking back on France's Vichy regime, Hitler's willing collaborators

France — Link

On the 80th anniversary of the date when the notorious Vichy regime took power in German-occupied France, Jim Wolfreys, a senior lecturer in French and European politics at Kings College London, analyses the reactionary currents in French politics and society it drew upon, and its legacy.

French Resistance heroine Cécile Rol-Tanguy dies aged 101

France — Link

Cécile Rol-Tanguy, who joined the WWII French Resistance movement against German occupation and who along with her husband Henri became a prominen tmember, died on Friday at the age of 101 at her home in central France, just as Europe commemorated the 75th anniversary of the surrender of Nazi forces.

The forgotten wartime persecution of France's 'nomads'

France

The shameful mass internment of gypsies in camps across France between 1940 and 1946 remained a largely forgotten wartime episode until it finally received official recognition three years ago. Later this month, as part of that process, a ceremony will take place in homage to those who were placed in one of the camps, at Moisdon-la-Rivière in north-west France, where some died from the dire conditions. Pierre-Yves Bulteau traces the history of the persecution, and interviews survivors and witnesses of the horrors at the camp for "nomads" at Moisdon-la-Rivière.

France grants citizenship to 28 African WWII infantrymen

International — Link

The veterans, aged between 78 and 90, were among about 200,000 soldiers from France's former colonies in West Africa, notably Senegal, who fought to free France of German occupation and who lost their right to French nationality after their homelands gained independence.  

Hollande acknowledges France's role in WWII Roma internment

France — Link

French president made comments in speech to 500 people at Montreuil-Bellay, the largest of 31 camps in which up to 6,500 Roma were interned.

French MPs ponder return of 'national unworthiness' crime

France — Analysis

President François Hollande's socialist government has been at the centre of a political controversy since it announced that convicted dual-national terrorists would be stripped of French nationality. Many of its own supporters on the Left, including senior figures, are bitterly opposed to the idea. Now, as an alternative, some party MPs are suggesting a revival of the old offence of “national unworthiness”, which would entail the citizen concerned losing their civil rights and status, and which was last used at the end of World War II. Mathieu Magnaudeix explains.

France opens access to archives from Vichy wartime era

France — Link

Many documents relating to when Pétain regime collaborated with Nazi occupiers during World War II can now be ‘freely consulted’.

Fight for justice over African troops shot by French Army

International

On December 1st, 1944 dozens, perhaps scores, of African colonial troops who had fought for the Allies during World war II were shot dead by soldiers of the French Army in Senegal. The official story is that these infantrymen and former prisoners of war had staged an armed revolt because they had not been paid. Relatives of those killed or jailed for “rebellion” insist, however, that the French Army committed a massacre. Géraldine Delacroix reports on a recent court case that examined this grim episode in French colonial history.

The forgotten alliance: Serbia's Great War monument to France

International — Link

Statue in Belgrade bears witness to nations' close friendship that saw French troops land a hundred years ago to rescue their allies.

The fearless, peerless French lawyer who chronicled the Nazi Occupation

Culture-Idées

Maurice Garçon was a celebrated lawyer, essayist, novelist, gifted amateur artist and historian who was ultimately elected to the illustrious Académie Française. But Garçon also kept a diary during World War II, including France's Occupation by the Nazis. This recently-published journal reveals an apolitical, solitary, contradictory man who loathed Hitler and the collaborationist Vichy regime in France, but who also disdained Charles de Gaulle and who remained fiercely independent in his views throughout the duration of the conflict. Here Mediapart's Antoine Perraud examines the revealing insights of this eccentric but perceptive character into how French society coped with one of the bleakest episodes in the country's history.

The argument over Germany's 'colossal' WW2 debt to Greece

International

Greece has been summoned by its international creditors to present a package of spending reforms by Monday evening that must be approved before a final decision is taken on whether to give Athens a crucial four-month extension of debt bailout loans. Despite the new Greek government’s earlier concessions towards austerity measures which it initially rejected, the country’s lenders, and above all Germany, appear intent on squeezing more political blood from the radical-left administration. But beyond the struggle to obtain the immediate financial lifeline, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is in for a long haul of future negotiations. Key to these is his demand that Germany recognise its massive debt to Greece in reparations of its wartime occupation of the country, and the repayment of a loan the Nazis imposed on Greece. The potential sums of these are staggering, and have been estimated, at the least, as represnting more than 160 billion euros - before interest. The issue is not only a financial one, but also embarrasses Berlin and Brussels by raking over the generous debt-forgiveness deal offered to Germany in 1953 in the name of European reconstruction. Mediapart Brussels correspondent Ludovic Lamant and former Athens correspondent Amélie Poinssot examine the legal arguments, and the evidence, behind the Greek claim.     

Court drops case against German over Oradour-sur-Glane WWII massacre

France — Link

Cologne court says not enough evidence to convict 89-year-old over 1944 murder of 642 men, women and children in French village.

French TV ‘proves’ Coco Chanel spied for the Nazis

France — Link

Historian Franck Ferrand says previously unseen documents show the fashion designer worked directly for German military intelligence.

WWII letters from occupied France show morale-boosting role of BBC

International — Link

A book published in France reveals a forgotten cache of letters sent secretly to the BBC and which illustrate its role in French civil resistance.