18 June 1940

The “Finest Hour” speech is delivered by Winston Churchill.

"This was their finest hour" was a speech delivered by Winston Churchill to the House of Commons of the United Kingdom on 18 June 1940, just over a month after he took over as Prime Minister at the head of an all-party coalition government.

It was the third of three speeches which he gave during the period of the Battle of France, after the "Blood, toil, tears and sweat" speech of 13 May and the "We shall fight on the beaches" speech of 4 June.[1][2] "This was their finest hour" was made after France had sought an armistice on the evening of 16 June.[a]


In his speech, Churchill justified the low level of support it had been possible to give to France since the Dunkirk evacuation, and reported the successful evacuation of most of the supporting forces. He resisted pressure to purge the coalition of appeasers, or otherwise indulge in recrimination. He reviewed the forces still available to prevent or repel any attempted invasion,[b] summing up the review as follows:

I have thought it right upon this occasion to give the House and the country some indication of the solid, practical grounds upon which we base our inflexible resolve to continue the war, and I can assure them that our professional advisers of the three Services unitedly advise that we should do so, and that there are good and reasonable hopes of final victory.

He reported messages of support from the Dominions[c] and justified confidence in victory, even if it was not yet clear how that victory could be achieved.

In casting up this dread balance-sheet, contemplating our dangers with a disillusioned eye, I see great reason for intense vigilance and exertion, but none whatever for panic or despair. During the first four years of the last war the Allies experienced,...nothing but disaster and disappointment, and yet at the end their morale was higher than that of the Germans, who had moved from one aggressive triumph to another. During that war we repeatedly asked ourselves the question, "How are we going to win?" and no one was able ever to answer it with much precision, until at the end, quite suddenly, quite unexpectedly, our terrible foe collapsed before us.


The peroration, even at a moment of great apparent danger to British national survival, talks not only of national survival and national interest but also of noble causes (freedom, Christian civilisation and the rights of small nations) for which Britain was fighting and for which Churchill thought the United States should and eventually would fight.[4][d] The War Illustrated published the speech with the title "'If the Empire lasts a thousand years men will say, this was their finest hour'".[6]

....However matters may go in France or with the French Government or with another French Government, we in this island and in the British Empire will never lose our sense of comradeship with the French people. If we are now called upon to endure what they have been suffering, we shall emulate their courage, and if final victory rewards our toils they shall share the gains, aye. And freedom shall be restored to all. We abate nothing of our just demands—Czechs, Poles, Norwegians, Dutch, Belgians, all who have joined their causes to our own shall be restored.

What General Weygand has called the Battle of France is over... the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilisation. Upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be freed and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands.

But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new dark age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves, that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth[e] last for a thousand years, men will still say, "This was their finest hour."

Preparation and delivery

The speech was delivered to the Commons at 3:49 pm,[7] and lasted 36 minutes. Churchill, as was his habit, made revisions to his 23-page typescript right up to and during the speech. The final passage of his typescript was laid out in blank verse format, which Churchill scholars consider reflective of the influence of the Psalms on his oratory style.[8]

See also


  1. ^ Churchill had already made a short wireless broadcast on the afternoon of 17 June

    We have become the sole champions now in arms to defend the world cause...We shall defend our Island home, and with the British Empire we shall fight on unconquerable until the curse of Hitler is lifted from the brows of mankind. We are sure that in the end all will come right[3]

  2. ^ Touching in passing upon (and making light of) the entry of Italy into the war on the side of Germany

    We are also told that the Italian Navy is to come to gain sea superiority in these waters. If they seriously intend it, I shall only say that we shall be delighted to offer Signor Mussolini a free and safeguarded passage through the Straits of Gibraltar in order that he may play the part which he aspires to do. There is general curiosity in the British Fleet to find out whether the Italians are up to the level they were at in the last war or whether they have fallen off at all

  3. ^ Two versions exist of this portion of the speech, the version given in the on-line Hansard being considerably shorter; see the discussion page
  4. ^ In a Secret Session of the House two days later, Churchill gave his view that the USA would not support Britain if they thought it was down and out. The best chance of American intervention was the spectacle of Britain engaged in a heroic struggle. Already the US had promised Britain the fullest aid with munitions; after the US November elections, Churchill had no doubt, the whole English-speaking world would be in line together[5]
  5. ^ the on-line electronic Hansard has at this point 'the British Commonwealth and Empire'. as noted earlier, there are also discrepancies in the treatment given to the Dominions


  1. ^ Hansard debate, 13 May 1940 "His Majesty's Government"
  2. ^ The Churchill Centre: We Shall Fight on the Beaches
  3. ^ BBC Written Archives quoted in Gilbert, Martin (27 June 1983). Finest Hour: Winston S. Churchill 1939–1941. Heinemann. p. 566. ISBN 978-0434291878.
  4. ^ "The Finest Hour Speech". History on the Net. Retrieved 16 August 2018.
  5. ^ Gilbert (1983), p. 579
  6. ^ "'If the Empire lasts a thousand years men will say, this was their finest hour'". The War Illustrated. 28 June 1940. pp. 686–687. Retrieved 17 February 2018.
  7. ^ War Situation, retrieved 18 June 2010
  8. ^ Burns, John F. (18 June 2010), "Seventy Years Later, Churchill's 'Finest Hour' Yields Insights", New York Times, retrieved 18 June 2010

External links

14 June 1940

World War II: The German occupation of Paris begins.

German soldiers parade on the Champs Élysées on 14 June 1940 (Bundesarchiv)

Paris started mobilizing for war in September 1939, when Nazi Germany attacked Poland, but the war seemed far away until May 10, 1940, when the Germans attacked France and quickly defeated the French army. The French government departed Paris on June 10, and the Germans occupied the city on June 14. During the Occupation, the French Government moved to Vichy, and Paris was governed by the German military and by French officials approved by the Germans. For Parisians, the Occupation was a series of frustrations, shortages and humiliations. A curfew was in effect from nine in the evening until five in the morning; at night, the city went dark. Rationing of food, tobacco, coal and clothing was imposed from September 1940. Every year the supplies grew more scarce and the prices higher. A million Parisians left the city for the provinces, where there was more food and fewer Germans. The French press and radio contained only German propaganda.

Jews in Paris were forced to wear the yellow Star of David badge, and were barred from certain professions and public places. On 16–17 July 1942, 13,152 Jews, including 4,115 children, were rounded up by the French police, on orders of the Germans, and were sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp. The first demonstration against the Occupation, by Paris students, took place on 11 November 1940. As the war continued, anti-German clandestine groups and networks were created, some loyal to the French Communist Party, others to General Charles de Gaulle in London. They wrote slogans on walls, organized an underground press, and sometimes attacked German officers. Reprisals by the Germans were swift and harsh.

Following the Allied invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944, the French Resistance in Paris launched an uprising on August 19, seizing the police headquarters and other government buildings. The city was liberated by French and American troops on August 25; the next day, General de Gaulle led a triumphant parade down the Champs-Élysées on August 26, and organized a new government. In the following months, ten thousand Parisians who had collaborated with the Germans were arrested and tried, eight thousand convicted, and 116 executed. On 29 April and 13 May 1945, the first post-war municipal elections were held, in which French women voted for the first time.


Defense preparations

In the spring of 1939, war with Germany already seemed inevitable. In Paris, the first defense exercise took place on February 2, and city workers began digging twenty kilometers of trenches in city squares and parks to be used for bomb shelters. On March 10, the city began to distribute gas masks to civilians, and on March 19, signs were posted guiding Parisians to the nearest shelters. On August 23, Parisians were surprised to read that the German foreign minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop, and Russian minister Vyacheslav Molotov had signed the Hitler-Stalin Pact of non-aggression. L'Humanité, the daily newspaper of the French Communist Party (PCF), welcomed the pact, writing: "At the moment when the Soviet Union makes a new and appreciable contribution to safeguard the peace, constantly threatened by the fascist instigators of war, the French Communist Party addresses its warmest greetings to the country of socialism, to its party and to its great leader Stalin". In Paris, the copies of the newspaper and of the other Communist newspaper, Ce Soir, were seized by the police and their publication suspended. On August 31, anticipating bombardment, the French government began to evacuate 30,000 children out of the city to the Province (regions outside Paris). That night, the street lights were turned off as a measure against German air raids. On September 1, news reached Paris that Germany had invaded Poland, and France, as expected, promptly declared war on Germany.[1]

Safeguarding national treasures

On August 27, in anticipation of air raids, workmen had begun taking down the stained glass windows of the Sainte-Chapelle. The same day, curators at the Louvre, summoned back from summer vacation, and aided by packers from the nearby La Samaritaine and Bazar de l'Hôtel de Ville department stores, began cataloging and packing the major works of art, which were put into crates and labeled only with numbers to disguise their contents. The Winged Victory of Samothrace statue was carefully wheeled down the long stairway on a wooden ramp to be put on a truck for its departure to the Château de Valençay in the Indre department. Trucks used to move scenery for the Comédie Française were used to move the larger paintings, including Gericault's Raft of the Medusa. The art works were carried in slow convoys of trucks, convoys, with headlights off to observe the blackout, to the châteaux of the Loire Valley and other designated locations.[2]

The architectural landmarks of the city were protected by sandbags. The French Army waited in the fortifications of the Maginot Line, while in Paris ration cards for gasoline were issued, restrictions were put on the sale of meat and, in February 1940, ration cards for food were issued; however, cafés and theatres remained open.[3]

German invasion

The French defense plan was purely passive, waiting for the Germans to attack. After eight months of relative calm (known as the Phoney War, La drôle de guerre) on the Western Front, the Germans struck France on May 10, 1940, bypassing the Maginot Line and slipping through the Ardennes. By May 15, German panzer divisions were only 35 kilometers from Laon, in the rear of the French and British armies, racing toward the English Channel. On May 28, the British realized the battle was lost and began withdrawing their soldiers from the beaches of Dunkerque. Paris was soon flooded with refugees from the battle zone. On June 3, the Germans bombed Paris and its suburbs for the first time, targeting in particular the Citroën automobile factory. 254 persons were killed, including 195 civilians.[4]

French Prime Minister Paul Reynaud dismissed his supreme military commander, Maurice Gamelin, and replaced him with the 73-year-old Maxime Weygand. He also named the 84-year-old Philippe Pétain, a hero of the First World War, as deputy prime minister. Neither Weygand nor Pétain felt the Germans could be defeated, and they began looking for a way out of the war.


On June 8, the sound of distant artillery fire could be heard in the capital. Trains filled with refugees departed Gare d'Austerlitz with no announced destination. On 10 June, the French government fled Paris, first to Tours and then to Bordeaux. Thousands of Parisians followed their example, filling the roads out of the city with automobiles, tourist buses, trucks, wagons, carts, bicycles, and on foot. The slow-moving river of refugees took ten hours to cover thirty kilometers. Within a few days, the wealthier arrondissements of the city were nearly deserted, and the population of the working-class 14th arrondissement dropped from 178,000 to 49,000. [5]

Open city

The British General Staff urged the French to defend Paris street-by-street, but Pétain dismissed the idea: "To make Paris into a city of ruins will not affect the issue." [4] On June 12, the French government, in Tours, declared Paris to be an open city, that there would be no resistance. At 5:30 in the morning of June 14, the first German advance guard entered the city at Porte de La Villette and took the rue de Flandres toward the center. They were followed by several German columns, which, following an established plan, moved to the principal intersections. German military vehicles with loudspeakers circulated, instructing Parisians not to leave their buildings. At eight in the morning, delegations of German officers arrived at the Invalides, headquarters of the military governor of Paris, Henri Dentz, and at the Prefecture of Police, where the Prefect, Roger Langeron, was waiting. The Germans politely invited the French officials to put themselves at the disposition of the German occupiers. By the end of the afternoon, the Germans had hung a swastika flag at the Arc de Triomphe and organized military parades with a marching band on the Champs Élysées and Avenue Foch, primarily for the benefit of the German army photographers and newsreel cameramen.[6][7]


On the evening of June 16, Prime Minister Reynaud resigned. On the morning of June 17, General de Gaulle left Bordeaux by plane for London. At midday, Parisians gathered around radios heard Pétain, the new head of the French government, announce: "It is with a heavy heart that I tell you today that we must cease hostilities. The fighting must stop." Though no armistice had yet been signed, the French army stopped fighting.[citation needed]

Nazi leader Adolf Hitler arrived on June 24 for a rapid tour by car, his only visit to Paris. He was guided by the German sculptor Arno Breker and by his chief architect, Albert Speer, both of whom had lived in Paris. He saw the Opera House and viewed the Eiffel Tower from the terrace of the Palace of Chaillot, paid homage at Napoleon's tomb, and visited the artist's quarter of Montmartre.[3]

Axis occupation

During the Occupation, the French Government moved to Vichy, and Germany's Third Reich flag flew over all the French government buildings. Signs in German were placed on the main boulevards, and the clocks of all France were reset to the German time. The German military high command moved into the Majestic Hotel on Avenue Kléber; the Abwehr (German military intelligence), took over the Hôtel Lutetia; the Luftwaffe (German Air Force) occupied the Ritz; the Kriegsmarine (German Navy), the Hôtel de la Marine on the Place de la Concorde; the Carlingue, the French auxiliary organization of the Gestapo, occupied the building at 93 rue Lauriston; and the German commandant of Paris and his staff moved into the Hôtel Meurice on the rue de Rivoli.[8]

Paris became the primary destination for the rest and recreation of German soldiers. Under the slogan "Jeder einmal in Paris" ("everyone once in Paris"), each German soldier was promised one visit to Paris. One month after the beginning of the Occupation, a bi-monthly magazine and guide for visiting German soldiers Der Deutsche Wegleiter für Paris (The German Guide to Paris), was first published by the Paris Kommandantur.[9] Certain hotels and movie theaters were reserved exclusively for German soldiers. A German-language newspaper, the Pariser Zeitung (1941-1944), was also published for the soldiers. The German officers enjoyed the Ritz, Maxim's, the Coupole and other exclusive restaurants, as the exchange rate was fixed to favor the German occupiers. Many houses of prostitution existed in Paris and they began to cater to German clients.[citation needed]

The headquarters of the Sicherheitsdienst, the counter-intelligence branch of the SS was at 84 Avenue Foch. French auxiliaries, who worked for the Gestapo, Sicherheitsdienst and Geheime Feldpolizei were based at 93, rue Lauriston in the 16th arrondissement of Paris. They were known as the Carlingue (or French Gestapo) and were active between 1941 and 1944. The group was founded by Pierre Bonny, a corrupt ex-policeman. It was subsequently led by Henri Lafont and Pierre Loutrel, two professional criminals who had been active in the French underworld before the war.[citation needed]

Life in occupied Paris

Civilian population

By the time that the Germans arrived in Paris, two-thirds of the Parisians, particularly those in the wealthier neighborhoods, had fled to the countryside and the south of France, in what is known as the exode de 1940, the massive exodus of millions of people from the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, the north and east of France, fleeing after the German victory of the battle of Sedan (12–15 May 1940). Once the Occupation had begun, they started to return. By July 7, the city government estimated the population had risen again to 1.5 million; it climbed to two million by October 22, and 2.5 million by January 1, 1941. At the beginning of 1943, it fell again, because of air raids by the Allies, the arrest and deportation of Jews and foreigners, and the forced departure to factories in Germany of many young Frenchmen, as part of the Service du travail obligatoire (STO), "Obligatory Work Service".[5]

The attitude of the Parisians toward the occupiers varied greatly. Some saw the Germans as an easy source of money; others, as the Prefect of the Seine, Roger Langeron (arrested on 23 June 1940), commented, "looked at them as if they were invisible or transparent."[10] The attitude of members of the French Communist Party was more complicated; the Party had long denounced Nazism and Fascism, but after the signing of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact on 23 August 1939, had to reverse direction. The editors of the Communist Party newspaper, L'Humanité, which had been closed down by the French government, asked the Germans for permission to resume publishing, and it was granted. The Party also asked that workers resume work in the armaments factories, which were now producing for the Germans. Many individual communists opposed the Nazis, but the ambivalent official attitude of the Party lasted until Operation Barbarossa, the German attack on the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941.[11]

For the Parisians, the Occupation was a series of frustrations, shortages and humiliations. A curfew was in effect from nine in the evening until five in the morning; at night, the city went dark. Rationing of food, tobacco, coal and clothing was imposed from September 1940. Every year the supplies grew more scarce and the prices higher. The French press and radio broadcast only German propaganda.[12]

The beginning of the STO, the program that required large number of young Frenchmen to work in factories for the German war industry, in exchange for the return of older and sick French prisoners of war in Germany, greatly increased the resentment of the French population against the Germans. Most Parisians, however, only expressed their anger and frustrations in private, while the police of Paris, under German control, received every day hundreds of anonymous denunciations by Parisians against other Parisians.

Rationing and the Black Market

Finding food soon became the first preoccupation of the Parisians. The authorities of the German occupation transformed French industry and agriculture into a machine for serving Germany. Shipments to Germany had first priority; what was left went to Paris and the rest of France. All of the trucks manufactured at the Citroen factory went directly to Germany. (Later many of these trucks were cleverly sabotaged by the French workers, who recalibrated the dip sticks so that the trucks would run out of oil without notice). The greatest share of shipments of meat, wheat, milk produce and other agricultural products also went to Germany. What remained for the Parisians was strictly rationed, following the creation on 16 June 1940 of the Ministère de l'agriculture et du ravitaillement (Ministry of Agriculture and Supply), which began to impose a system rationing as early as 2 August 1940, as per Décret du 30 juillet 1940:[13] bread, fat, flour products, rice, sugar; then, on 23 October 1940: butter, cheese, meat, coffee, charcuterie, eggs, oil; in July 1941: and as the war went on: chocolate, fish, dried vegetables, (like peas and beans), potatoes, fresh vegetables, wine, tobacco... Products could be bought only upon presentation of coupons attributed to specific items and on the specific week in which they could be used. Parisians (and all the population of France) were divided into seven categories depending upon their age, and allotted a certain amount of each product each month. A new bureaucracy, employing more than nine thousand city employees, with offices at all schools and the city hall of each arrondissement, was put into place to administer the program. The system resulted in long lines and frustrated hopes, since promised products often never appeared. Thousands of Parisians regularly made the long journey by bicycle to the countryside, hoping to come back, with vegetables, fruit, eggs and other farm products. [14]

The rationing system also applied to clothing: leather was reserved exclusively for German army boots, and vanished completely from the market. Leather shoes were replaced by shoes made of rubber or canvas (raffia) with wooden soles. A variety of ersatz or substitute products appeared, which were not exactly what they were called: ersatz wine, coffee (made with chicory), tobacco and soap.[15]

Finding coal for heat in winter was another preoccupation. The Germans had transferred the authority over the coal mines of northern France from Paris to their military headquarters in Brussels. The priority for the coal that did arrive in Paris was for the use in factories. Even with ration cards, adequate coal for heating was almost impossible to find. Supplies for normal heating needs were not restored until 1949.[14]

Paris restaurants were open but had to deal with strict regulations and shortages. Meat could only be served on certain days, and certain products, such as cream, coffee and fresh produce were extremely rare. Nonetheless, the restaurants found ways to serve their regular clients. The historian René Héron de Villefosse, who lived in Paris throughout the war, described his experience: "The great restaurants were only allowed to serve, under the fierce eye of a frequent control, noodles with water, turnips and beets, in exchange for certain number of tickets, but the hunt for a good meal continued for many food-lovers. For five hundred francs one could conquer a good pork chop, hidden under cabbage and served without the necessary tickets, along with a liter of Beaujolais and a real coffee; sometimes it was on the first floor at rue Dauphine, where you could listen to the BBC while sitting next to Picasso." [16]

The restrictions and shortage of goods led to the existence of a thriving black market. Producers and distributors of food and other scarce products set aside a portion of their goods for the black market, and used middle-men to sell them to customers. The bars of the Champs-Élysées, and other parts of Paris, became common meeting places between the middle-men and clients. Parisians bought cigarettes, meat, coffee, wine and other products which frequently neither the middle-man nor the customer had ever seen.


Due to the shortage of fuel, the number of automobiles on the Paris streets dropped from 350,000 before the war to just under 4,500. One customer, sitting on the terrace of a café on the Place de la Bourse, counted the number of cars which passed between noon and twelve-thirty: only three came by. Older means of transportation, such as the horse-drawn fiacre came back into service. Trucks and automobiles that did circulate often used gazogene, a poor-quality fuel carried in a tank on the roof, or coal gas or methane, extracted from the Paris sewers. [17]

The metro ran, but service was frequently interrupted and the cars were overcrowded. Three thousand five hundred buses had run on the Paris streets in 1939, but only five hundred were still running in the autumn of 1940. Bicycle-taxis became popular, and their drivers charged a high tariff. Bicycles became the means of transport for many Parisians, and their price soared; a used bicycle cost a month's salary. [17]

The transportation problems did not end with the liberation of Paris; the shortage of gasoline and lack of transport continued until well after the war.

Culture and the arts

One of the greatest art thefts in history took place in Paris during the Occupation, as the Nazis looted the art of Jewish collectors on a grand scale. Great masterpieces in the Louvre had already been evacuated to the châteaux of the Loire Valley and the unoccupied zone, and were safe. The German Army was respectful of the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907 and refused to transfer the works in French museums out of the country, but the Nazi leaders were not so scrupulous. On 30 June 1940, Hitler ordered that all art works in France, public and private, should be "safeguarded". Many of the French wealthy Jewish families had sent their art works out of France before leaving the country, but others had left their art collections behind. A new law decreed that those who had left France just before the war were no longer French citizens, and their property could be seized. The Gestapo began visiting bank vaults and empty residences, and collecting the works of art. The pieces left behind in the fifteen largest Jewish-owned art galleries in Paris were also collected, and transported in French police vans. In September, a new organization, the Reichsleiter Rosenberg Taskforce (Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg) was created to catalog and store the art. It was moved to the Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume, a building in the Tuileries Gardens used by the Louvre for temporary exhibits. More than four hundred crates of art works were brought to the Jeu de Paume by Luftwaffe personnel, unpacked and cataloged. Hermann Göring, the head of the Luftwaffe, visited the Jeu de Paume on November 3 and returned on the 5th, spending the entire day there, picking out works for his private collection. He selected twenty-seven paintings, including works by Rembrandt and Van Dyck owned by Edouard de Rothschild, as well as stained glass windows and furniture intended for Carinhall, the luxurious hunting lodge he had built in the Schorfheide Forest, in Germany. Another Rothschild-owned painting, The Astronomer by Vermeer, was reserved for Hitler himself. Fifteen railroad boxcars full of artworks were sent to Germany with Göring's personal train.[18] Göring visited the Jeu de Paume twelve more times in 1941, and five times in 1942, adding to his collection.[19]

Confiscations continued at banks, warehouses and private residences, with paintings, furniture, statues, clocks and jewelry accumulating at the Jeu de Paume, and filling the whole ground floor. The staff at the Jeu de Paume cataloged 218 major collections. Between April 1941 and July 1944, 4,174 cases of art works filling 138 boxcars, were shipped from Paris to Germany.[20] Much of the art, but not all, was recovered after the war.


While some painters left Paris, many remained and continued working. Georges Braque returned to Paris in autumn 1940 and quietly continued working. Pablo Picasso spent most of 1939 in a villa in Royan, north of Bordeaux. He returned to Paris and resumed working in his studio on rue des Grands Augustins. He frequently received visitors at his studio, including Germans, some admiring and some suspicious. He had postcards made of his famous anti-fascist work, Guernica, to hand out as souvenirs to visitors, and had serious discussions of art and politics with visiting Germans, including writer Ernst Jünger. While his work was officially condemned as "degenerate", his paintings continued to be sold at the Hôtel Drouot auction house and at the Galerie Louise Leiris, formerly Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler's. German treasurer officials opened Picasso's bank vault, where he stored his private art collection, searching for Jewish-owned art they could seize. Picasso so confused them with his descriptions of ownership of the paintings that they left without taking anything. He also persuaded them that the paintings in the adjoining vault, owned by Braque, were actually his own. Other "degenerate" artists, including Kandinsky and Henri Matisse, who sent drawings up to Paris from his residence in Nice, were officially condemned but continued to sell their works in the back rooms of Paris galleries. [21]

A few actors, such as Jean Gabin and film director Jean Renoir chose, for political or personal reasons, to leave Paris, but many others remained, avoided politics and focused on their art. These included the actor Fernandel, the film director and playwright Sacha Guitry, and the singers Édith Piaf, Tino Rossi, Charles Trenet and Yves Montand. The jazz musician Django Reinhardt played with the Quintette du Hot Club de France for German and French fans. In 1941, Maurice Chevalier performed a new revue in the Casino de Paris: Bonjour Paris. The songs Ça sent si bon la France and La Chanson du maçon became hits. The Nazis asked Chevalier to perform in Berlin and sing for Radio Paris. He refused but did perform for French prisoners of war in Germany, and succeeded in obtaining the liberation of ten prisoners in exchange.[22]

The writer Colette, who was 67 when the war began, worked quietly on her mémoires in her apartment at 9 rue du Beaujolais, next to the gardens of the Palais-Royal. Her husband, Maurice Goudeket, a Jew, was arrested by the Gestapo in December 1941, and although he was released after a few months through the intervention of the French wife of the German ambassador Otto Abetz, Colette lived through the rest of the war years with the anxiety of a possible second arrest. In 1944, she published one of her most famous works, Gigi. [23][24]

The philosopher and novelist Jean-Paul Sartre continued to write and publish; Simone de Beauvoir produced a broadcast on the history of the music hall for Radio Paris; and Marguerite Duras worked at a publishing house. The actress Danielle Darrieux made a tour to Berlin, in exchange for the liberation of her husband, Porfirio Rubirosa, a Dominican diplomat suspected of espionage. The actress Arletty, the star of Les Enfants du Paradis and Hôtel du Nord, had a relationship with Hans Jürgen Soehring, a Luftwaffe officer, and gave the famous riposte to a member of the FFI interrogating her after the Liberation: "My heart is French, but my a-- is international." '[25]

Jewish actors were not allowed to perform.

Some places in Paris were frequented by homosexual actors and artists; notably the swimming pool in the Bois de Boulogne. The actor Jean Marais was officially harassed for his homosexuality, and the actor Robert-Hugues Lambert was arrested and deported, most likely because of his relationship with a German officer whom he did not want to name. He died at the Flossenbürg concentration camp on 7 March 1945.

The Germans made a continual effort to seduce the Parisians through culture: in 1941, they organized a festival of German music by the Berlin Philharmonic at the Paris Opera, a play from the Schiller Theater in Berlin at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, and an exhibit by the German sculptor Arno Breker.

The French film industry, based in suburbs of Paris, had a very difficult existence due to shortages of personnel, film and food, but it produced several genuine masterpieces, among which: Marcel Carné's Les Enfants du Paradis ("Children of Paradise") which was filmed during the Occupation but not released until 1945.


From the very beginning of the Occupation, Jews in Paris were treated with particular harshness. On October 18, 1940, the German occupation authorities decreed, in what is known as the Ordonnance d'Aryanisation, that Jews would have a special status and be barred from liberal professions, such as commerce, industry, thus affecting lawyers, doctors, professors, shop owners, and also be barred from certain restaurants and public places, and that their property was seized. On May 23, 1942, the head of the Anti-Jewish section of the Gestapo, Adolf Eichmann, gave secret orders for the deportation of French Jews to the concentration camp of Auschwitz. On May 29, 1942, all Jews in the Occupied Zone over the age of six were required to wear the yellow Star of David badge. In July, Jews were banned from all main streets, movie theaters, libraries, parks, gardens, restaurants, cafés and other public places, and were required to ride on the last car of metro trains. [26] On 16–17 July 1942, on Germans' orders, 13,152 Jews (4,115 children, 5.919 women and 3,118 men) were rounded up by the French police. Unmarried persons and couples without children were taken to Drancy, some 20 kilometers north of Paris, while 8,160 men, women and children comprising families went to the Vélodrome d’Hiver ("Vel' d'Hiv'") stadium, on rue Nelaton in the 15th arrondissement, where they were crowded together in the heat of summer, with hardly any food, water and no hygienic facilities for five days before being sent to Drancy, Compiègne, Pithiviers and Beaune-la-Rolande internment camps, preludes to the Auschwitz extermination camp.[27] The roundup was considered a failure by the Germans, since they had prepared trains for 32,000 persons. Arrests continued in 1943 and 1944. By the time of the Liberation, it was estimated that 43,000 Jews from the Paris region, or about half the total population of the community, had been sent to the concentration camps, and that 34,000 died there.[28]


Many Parisians collaborated with the Government of Marshal Pétain and with the Germans, assisting them with the city administration, the police, and other government functions. French government officials were given the choice of collaborating or losing their jobs. On September 2, 1941, all Paris magistrates were asked to take an oath of allegiance to Marshal Petain. Only one, , refused. Unlike the territory of Vichy France, governed by Marshal Pétain and his ministers, the document of surrender placed Paris in the occupied zone, directly under German authority, the Militärbefehlshabers in Frankreich (MBF). It stated: "The government of France will immediately invite all the French authorities and administrative services in the occupied territories to conform with the regulations of the German military authorities, and to collaborate with those in a correct manner." The prefect of the police and prefect of the Seine, reported to him, and only secondarily to the government of the French State in Vichy.[29]

The Germans supported the creation by Vichy France, on 28 February 1943, of a fascist paramilitary organization, the Front révolutionnaire national, whose active police branch was called Milice. Its particular function was to help the Germans in their battle against the Resistance, which they qualified as being a "terrorist" organization. It established its headquarters in the former Communist Party building at 44 rue Le Peletier and at 61 rue de Monceau. The Lycée Louis-Le-Grand was occupied as barracks, and an officer candidate school was established in the Auteuil synagogue. The Front révolutionnaire national held a large rally on 11 April 1943 at the Vél d'Hiv. At the time of the Liberation of Paris in August 1944, most of its members chose to fight alongside the Germans and many of them made their way to Germany (Sigmaringen) when Paris fell to the Allies. Those who did not leave were the target of the purge (épuration) that followed.


Doctor Marcel Petiot pretended to run a Resistance network, and killed, for their treasure, Jews and others trying to escape to Argentina. (Unknown)

The most notorious criminal of the period was Doctor Marcel Petiot. Petiot purchased a house at 21 rue Le Sueur in the 16th arrondissement, and under the name of Docteur Eugène, pretended to be the head of a Resistance network that smuggled Jews from France to Argentina. He collected a large advance from his clients and then instructed them to come to his house, bringing their gold, silver and other valuables with them. After they arrived, he brought them to his consulting room, and, convincing them vaccination was required in order to enter Argentina, gave them a lethal intravenous injection, then watched their slow death in an adjacent room through a spyhole in the door. Afterwards, he cut up their bodies, put the pieces in the well, and dissolved them with quicklime. His activities attracted the attention of the Gestapo, which arrested him in 1943, thus allowing him to claim later that he had been a real member of the Resistance. His crimes were discovered after the Liberation in 1944, and he was charged with the murders of twenty-seven persons, tried in 1946, and sentenced to death. He went to the guillotine on May 25, 1946. The gold, silver and other valuables were not found when he was arrested. In search of the treasure, the house was carefully demolished in 1966, but no trace of it was ever found.[30][31]

The Resistance

On June 18, 1940, Parisians listening to the BBC heard an obscure French brigadier General, Charles de Gaulle, in London, make an appeal (Appel du 18 juin) to continue the resistance against the Germans. Very few heard the broadcast at the time, but it was widely printed and circulated afterwards. On June 23, the German occupation authorities ordered all French persons to turn in any weapons and short-wave receivers they possessed, or face severe measures. Within Paris, opposition was isolated and slow to build. On August 2, de Gaulle was condemned to death for treason, in absentia, by Marshal Pétain's new government. [32]

The first illegal demonstration in Paris against the Occupation took place on November 11, 1940, the anniversary of the end of the First World War, a day that usually featured patriotic ceremonies of remembrance. Anticipating trouble, the German authorities banned any commemoration and made it a regular school and work day. Nonetheless the students of Paris lycées (high schools) circulated handbills and leaflets calling for students to boycott classes and meet at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier beneath the Arc de Triomphe. The event was also announced on the 10th on the BBC. The day began quietly, as some 20,000 students laid wreaths and bouquets at the tomb and at the statue of Georges Clemenceau, on Place Clemenceau, by the Champs Élysées. This part of the day was tolerated by the French and German authorities. At midday, the demonstration became more provocative; some students carried a floral Cross of Lorraine, the symbol of de Gaulle's Free France. They were chased away by the police. At nightfall, the event became more provocative; some three thousand students gathered, chanting "Vive La France" and "Vive l'Angleterre", and invading Le Tyrol, a bar popular with the Jeune Front, a fascist youth group, and scuffling with police. At 6:00 pm, German soldiers arrived, surrounded the students, and closed the entrance of the metro stations. They charged the students with fixed bayonets, firing shots in the air. The Vichy government announced 123 arrests and one student wounded. The students arrested were taken to the prisons of La Santé, Cherche-Midi and Fresnes, where they were beaten, slapped, stripped, and made to stand all night in the pouring rain. Some students were threatened by soldiers pretending to be a firing squad. As a consequence of the demonstration, the Sorbonne University was closed, students were required to regularly report to the police, and the Latin Quarter was closely watched.[33][32]

Another incident took place on November 10; a 28-year-old French engineer named Jacques Bonsergent and his friends, coming home from a wedding, ran into a group of German soldiers in the blackout and got into a brawl. A German soldier was punched. Bonsergent's friends escaped, but he was arrested and refused to give the names of his friends to the Germans. He was held in jail for nineteen days, taken to court, charged with "an act of violence against a member of the German Army", and sentenced to death. Bonsergent was executed by firing squad on December 23, the first civilian in France executed for resistance against the Occupation. [34] In 1946, the metro station Jacques Bonsergent was named after him.

The first significant Resistance organization in Paris was formed in September 1940 by a group of scholars connected with the Musée de l'Homme, the ethnology museum located at the Palais de Chaillot. On 15 December, using the museum mimeograph machine, they published Résistance, a four-page newspaper which gave its name to the movement that followed. The group was led by the Russian-born (French naturalized) anthropologist Boris Vildé. The first issue of the newspaper, proclaimed: "We are independent, simply French, chosen for the action we wish to carry out. We have only one ambition, one passion, one desire: to recreate France, pure and free." They collected information and established a network to help escaped French POWs to flee the country. They were not experienced conspirators, and they were discovered and arrested in January 1941. Vildé and the six other leaders were sentenced to death and executed by firing squad at Fort Mont Valérien, in the western suburbs of the city, on February 22, 1942.[34]

Most of the resistance by ordinary Parisians was symbolic: encouraged by the BBC, students scribbled the letter V for Victory on walls, blackboards, tables, and on the side of cars. The Germans tried to co-opt the 'V' campaign, placing huge Vs. symbolizing their own victories, on the Eiffel Tower and the National Assembly, but with little effect.[34]

From the signing of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact in August 1939, until June 1941, the Communists played no active part in the Resistance. The Vichy government and Germans allowed their newspapers to publish, and they made no mention of the patriotic demonstrations on November 11. But after Operation Barbarossa, the German attack on the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, they became among the most active and best-organized forces against the Germans. They remained hostile to de Gaulle, whom they denounced as a reactionary British puppet. On August 21, 1941, a 21-year-old veteran communist named Pierre Georges, who used the clandestine name "Fabien", shot a German naval officer, Alfons Moser, in the back, as he was boarding the metro at the Barbés-Rochecouart station. The Germans had routinely taken hostages among the French civilian population to deter attacks. They responded to the Barbés-Rochechouart metro attack by executing three hostages in Paris, and another twenty the following month. Hitler was furious at the leniency of the German commander, and demanded that in case of future assassinations, there must be one hundred hostages executed for every German killed. [34] After the next killing of a German, forty-eight hostages were immediately shot by firing squad.[35] From London, General de Gaulle condemned the Communist policy of random assassinations, saying the cost in innocent civilian lives was too high, and it had no impact on the war, but the random shooting of Germans continued. In retaliation, an estimated 1,400 hostages from the Paris region were taken and 981 executed by the German military at Fort Mont Valérien.[36]

Acts of resistance in Paris became more dangerous. In the spring of 1942, five students of the Lycée Buffon decided to protest the arrest of one of their teachers. About one hundred students took part, chanting the teacher's name and throwing leaflets. The demonstrators escaped, but the police tracked down and arrested the five student leaders, who were tried and executed on February 8, 1943.[37]

As the war continued, the Resistance was divided largely between the groups, followers of General de Gaulle in London, and those organized by the Communists.[12] Thanks to pressure from the British, who supplied the weapons, and the diplomacy of one Resistance leader, Jean Moulin, who created the National Council of the Resistance (Conseil National de la Résistance (CNR)), the different factions began to coordinate their actions. In early 1944, as the Normandy invasion approached, the Communists and their allies controlled the largest and best-armed resistance groups in Paris: the Francs-Tireurs et Partisans (FTP). In February 1944, the FTP became part of a larger umbrella organization, the Forces françaises de l'intérieur (FFI). Following the Normandy invasion on June 6 (D-Day), the FFI prepared to launch an uprising to liberate the city before the Allied Armies and General de Gaulle arrived.[38][39]


The Allies landed at Normandy on June 6, 1944, and two months later broke the German lines and began to advance toward and around Paris. German control over Paris was already breaking down. One hundred thousand Parisians had turned out on July 14 for a prohibited celebration of Bastille Day. German soldiers fired into the air, but the French police did nothing. On August 10, half of the eighty thousand railroad workers in the Paris region went on strike, stopping all railroad traffic. On August 15, the new German commander of Paris, General Dietrich von Choltitz, ordered that three thousand resistance members held in Paris jails be transferred out of the city. They were loaded into trains, 170 persons in each cattle car, and sent to the concentration camps of Buchenwald and Ravensbrück. Only twenty-seven returned. On the same day, the Paris police learned that policemen in the suburbs were being disarmed by the Germans; they immediately went on strike. In Paris, most of the electricity and gas were cut off, there was little food available, and the metro had stopped running.[40]

On August 19, against the opposition of de Gaulle's representative in Paris, Jacques Chaban-Delmas, the National Council of the Resistance and the Parisian Committee on Liberation jointly called for an immediate uprising. It was commanded by the regional leader of the Communist-led FFI, Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy. Chaban-Delmas reluctantly agreed to participate. Liberation Committees in each neighborhood occupied the government buildings and headquarters of collaborationist newspapers, and put up barricades in the northern and eastern neighborhoods, where the Resistance was the strongest. To the surprise of Henri Rol-Tanguy, the Paris police also joined in the uprising; a thousand policemen occupied the Prefecture of Police, the police headquarters on the Île de la Cité. [41]

At the time of the uprising, most of elite German units had left the city, but twenty-thousand German soldiers remained, armed with about eighty tanks and sixty artillery pieces. While the Resistance had about twenty-thousand fighters, they had only sixty hand guns, a few machine guns, and no heavy weapons. Nonetheless, on the morning of August 20, a small group of Resistance fighters, led by Marcel Flouret, walked into the City Hall of Paris and demanded a transfer of operations. The building was then occupied by the resistance.[42] Rol-Tanguy commanded the uprising from a bunker twenty-six meters beneath the statue of the Lion de Belfort, Place Denfert-Rochereau, which communicated with the catacombs. Parisians cut down trees and tore up paving stones to build barricades. Scattered sniping and street fighting broke out between the Germans, the Milice and the Resistance; prisoners were executed on both sides. The Resistance took weapons from fallen Germans, and even captured trucks and even tanks, but neither side had enough military power to defeat the other.[43]

Memorial to those fallen during the liberation

The Allies had originally planned to bypass Paris, to avoid street fighting and the necessity of feeding a huge population. However, when news of the uprising in Paris reached them, Generals Eisenhower and Bradley agreed to send the French 2nd Armored Division of General Leclerc to Paris, and sent the American 4th Armored Division to support them. The 2nd Armored Division set out early in the morning of August 23 with 16,000 men, 4,200 vehicles and 200 tanks. By the afternoon of the 24th, they were in the western and southern Paris suburbs. On 23 August, Leclerc had sent a small column of three tanks and eleven halftracks, commanded by Captain Dronne, to enter the heart of the city. By 9:00 pm. Dronne had reached the Hôtel de Ville, where he was greeted by Georges Bidault, the head of the National Council of the Resistance (Conseil national de la Résistance), and André Tollet, commander of the Paris committee of liberation (Comité parisien de la Libération). Then he went to the Prefecture of Police for a meeting with de Gaulle's representative, Chaban-Delmas. The main force of Leclerc's 2nd Armored Division and the U.S. 4th Infantry Division entered the city on the morning of the 25th. There was fierce resistance near the Invalides and the École Militaire, in which some French soldiers were killed and tanks destroyed. By the end of the morning, the Germans had been overcome and a large French tricolor flag was hoisted on the Eiffel Tower.

General von Choltitz was an unrepentant Nazi, and had been ordered by Hitler to leave the city a "heap of burning ruins", but he also realized the battle was lost, and he did not want to be captured by the Resistance. Through the offices of the Swedish Consul-General, Raoul Nordling, he ignored Hitler's orders and arranged a truce. In the afternoon of the 25th he traveled from his headquarters in the Hôtel Meurice to the Montparnasse train station, the headquarters of General Leclerc, where, at about 3:00 in the billiards room of the station staff, he and Leclerc signed a surrender. Chaban-Dalmas and Rol-Tanguy, leader of the FFI, were also present, and it was suggested that Rol-Tanguy should also sign the surrender. Leclerc dictated a new version, and put the name of the FFI leader ahead of his own. The occupation of Paris was officially over.[44]

De Gaulle arrived in Paris two hours later. He met first with Leclerc, complaining to him that Rol-Tanguy had signed the surrender. He then went to the Ministry of War, and insisted that the FFI leaders come to him, but in the end he went to the Hôtel de Ville, where he gave a memorable speech to a huge crowd of Parisians, concluding:

"Paris! Paris humiliated! Paris broken! Paris martyred! But now Paris liberated! Liberated by herself, by her own people with the help of the armies of France, with the support and aid of France as a whole, of fighting France, of the only France, of the true France, of eternal France."

The following day, de Gaulle, on foot, towering over everyone in the crowd, led a triumphal march from the Arc de Triomphe, down the Champs-Élysées, to the Place de la Concorde, then to the cathedral of Notre-Dame, where he took part in a Te Deum.

About 2,000 Parisians were killed in the liberation of their capital, along with about 800 Resistance fighters from the FFI and policemen, and over 100 soldiers from the Free France and U.S. forces.[45][46]

Food Crisis

During the liberation food in Paris was getting scarcer by the day. The French rail network had largely been destroyed by allied bombing so getting food into Paris had become a problem, especially since the Germans had stripped the capital of its resources for themselves. Many Parisians were desperate, and allied soldiers even used their own meagre rations to help. The allies realised the necessity to get Paris back on its feet, and pushed a plan for food convoys to get through to the capital as soon as possible. In addition, surrounding towns and villages were requested to supply as much of Paris as possible. The Civil Affairs of SHAEF authorised the import of up to 2,400 tons of food per day at the expense of the military effort. A British food convoy labelled 'Vivres Pour Paris' entered on August 29, and US supplies were flown in via Orléans Airport before being convoyed in. At least 500 tons were delivered a day by the British and another 500 tons by the Americans. Along with French civilians outside Paris bringing in indigenous resources, within ten days the food crisis was overcome.[47]

Vengeance and renewal

Immediately following the liberation of the city, Parisians who had collaborated with the Germans were punished. Women who had been accused of allegedly sleeping with German soldiers had their heads shaved and were humiliated.[48] Most of the accusers were men, and many of these women were targets of revenge, or a way that actual collaborators could take the focus off themselves. Some Parisians, including Coco Chanel, who had been living with a German officer, quietly left the country, and did not return for many years. 9,969 persons were arrested. A military tribunal was established for those who had collaborated with the German army and police, and a separate judicial tribunal was set up for economic and political collaborators. Of those arrested, 1,616 were acquitted, and 8,335 were found guilty. In the Seine department, the two tribunals sentenced 598 collaborators to death, of whom 116 were executed; the others, who had escaped from France, were condemned in absentia.[49]

The Liberation did not immediately bring peace to Paris; a thousand persons were killed and injured by a German bombing raid on August 26, the city and region suffered from attacks by German V-1 rockets beginning on September 3; food rationing and other restrictions remained in force through the end of the war, but the climate of fear had disappeared.

The political life of the city was gradually renewed, under the close watch of General de Gaulle. On August 27, the Council of Ministers held its first meeting at the Hôtel Matignon since 1940. In October, a provisional municipal council was established, but it did not formally meet until March and April 1945. The first issue of a new newspaper, Le Monde, was published on December 18, 1944. On April 13, 1945, just before the end of war, a new ordinance set the date for the first municipal elections since the war began. They were held on 29 April, and for the first time French women were allowed to vote.[50]

See also


Notes and citations

  1. ^ Fierro 1996, p. 234.
  2. ^ Nicholas 1994, pp. 55-56.
  3. ^ a b Combeau 2013, pp. 99-100.
  4. ^ a b Cobb 2009, p. 18.
  5. ^ a b Fierro 1996, p. 236.
  6. ^ Chastenet, Jacques, Cent Ans de la République (1970), J. Tallandier, volume VII, pp. 260-265
  7. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tbzhAC3aE-w
  8. ^ Dictionnaire historique de Paris, p. 536.
  9. ^ Hetch, Emmanuel (October 2013). "Le Guide du soldat allemand à Paris, ou comment occuper Fritz". L'Express (in French). Retrieved 23 October 2013.
  10. ^ Langeron, R. Paris, juin 1940, pg. 64
  11. ^ Fierro 1996, p. 277.
  12. ^ a b Combeau 2013, p. 102.
  13. ^ http://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/affichTexte.do?cidTexte=JORFTEXT000000846943&categorieLien=id
  14. ^ a b Fierro 1996, p. 238-239.
  15. ^ Fierro 1996, p. 238.
  16. ^ Héron de Villefosse 1959, p. 411.
  17. ^ a b Fierro 1996, p. 239.
  18. ^ Nicholas 1994, p. 128.
  19. ^ Nicholas 1994, pp. 128-133.
  20. ^ Nicholas 1994, pp. 134-135.
  21. ^ Nicholas 1994, pp. 180-181.
  22. ^ With Love, the Autobiography of Maurice Chevalier, (Cassell, 1960), Chapter 22.
  23. ^ Portuges & Jouve 1994, p. 80-81.
  24. ^ Rosbottom 2014, p. unpaginated.
  25. ^ The Oxford History of World Cinema, p. 347. See also Arletty, allocine.fr: "mon cœur est français mais mon cul est international !"
  26. ^ Cobb 2009, p. 135.
  27. ^ ’’Dictionnaire historique de Paris’’ (2013), p. 637.
  28. ^ Michel, Henri, Paris Allemand, Éditeur Albin Michel (1981), pp. 310-313
  29. ^ Fierro 1996, p. 237.
  30. ^ Paris dans les pas des grands hommes, L'Express Thema, October–November 2015, p. 78
  31. ^ http://tueursenserie.wifeo.com/marcel-petiot.php
  32. ^ a b Belot 2006, pp. 15-30.
  33. ^ Cobb 2009, p. 46.
  34. ^ a b c d Cobb 2009, p. 47.
  35. ^ Cobb 2009, pp. 77–80.
  36. ^ Fierro 1996, p. 241.
  37. ^ Cobb 2009, p. 121.
  38. ^ Cobb 2009, p. 234.
  39. ^ Fierro 1996, p. 242.
  40. ^ Cobb 2009, p. 258.
  41. ^ Cobb 2009, pp. 258-60.
  42. ^ "Flouret Marcel Pierre". ccomptes.fr. Cour des Comptes. Retrieved December 16, 2018.
  43. ^ Cobb 2009, p. 261.
  44. ^ Cobb 2009, pp. 266-267.
  45. ^ Cobb 2009, pp. 268–270.
  46. ^ Combeau 2013, p. 103.
  47. ^ Coles, Harry Lewis; Weinberg, Albert Katz (1964). Civil Affairs: Soldiers Become Governors (PDF). United States Army in World War II: Special Studies. Office of the Chief of Military History, Department of the Army. pp. 774–75. Retrieved 22 May 2019.
  48. ^ "Writer: "This Picture Tells a Tragic Story of What Happened to Women After D-Day"". Time. Retrieved 2021-03-11.
  49. ^ Fierro 1996, p. 243.
  50. ^ Fierro 1996, p. 645.



  • Cobb, Matthew (2009). The Resistance - the French fight against the Nazis. Pocket Books. ISBN 978-1-84739-156-8.
  • Drake, David. Paris at War: 1939–1944 (2015), examines lives of ordinary Parisians as well as collaborationists and the Resistance.
  • Portuges, Catherine; Jouve, Nicole Ward (1994). "Colette". In Sartori, Eva Martin; Zimmerman, Dorothy Wynne (eds.). French Women Writers. University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 0803292244.
  • Rosbottom, Ronald (2014). When Paris Went Dark. Hachette. ISBN 9781848547384.
  • Nicholas, Lynn (1994). The Rape of Europa - the fate of Europe's Treasures in the Third Reich and the Second World War. Paperpac. ISBN 0-333-63951-0.


  • Belot, Robert (2006). Les Resistants. Larousse. ISBN 978-2-03-582642-8.
  • Combeau, Yvan (2013). Histoire de Paris. Presses Universitaires de France. ISBN 978-2-13-060852-3.
  • Fierro, Alfred (1996). Histoire et dictionnaire de Paris. Robert Laffont. ISBN 2-221--07862-4.
  • Héron de Villefosse, René (1959). HIstoire de Paris. Bernard Grasset.
  • Sarmant, Thierry (2012). Histoire de Paris: Politique, urbanisme, civilisation. Editions Jean-Paul Gisserot. ISBN 978-2-755-803303.
  • Dictionnaire Historique de Paris. Le Livre de Poche. 2013. ISBN 978-2-253-13140-3.

External links

25 August 1940

The first Bombing of Berlin by the British Royal Air Force.

Bombing of Berlin in World War II
Part of Strategic bombing in World War II
Berlin Eiermann Memorial Church.JPG
The ruins of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin, heavily damaged in an Allied bombing and preserved as a monument
Date25 August 1940 – 21 April 1945

 United Kingdom

 United States

 Soviet Union

France France


Berlin, then the capital of Nazi Germany, was subject to 363 air raids during the Second World War.[1] It was bombed by the RAF Bomber Command between 1940 and 1945, by the USAAF Eighth Air Force between 1943 and 1945, and the French Air Force between 1944 and 1945, as part of the Allied campaign of strategic bombing of Germany. It was also attacked by aircraft of the Red Air Force, in 1941 and particularly in 1945 as Soviet forces closed on the city. British bombers dropped 45,517 tons of bombs,[2] while American aircraft dropped 23,000 tons. As the bombings continued, more and more people fled the city. By May 1945, 1.7 million people (40% of the population) had fled.[3]


When the Second World War began in 1939, the President of the United States (then a neutral power), Franklin D. Roosevelt, issued a request to the major belligerents to confine their air raids to military targets.[4] The French and the British agreed to abide by the request, with the provision that this was "upon the understanding that these same rules of warfare will be scrupulously observed by all of their opponents".[5]

The UK had a policy of using aerial bombing only against military targets and against infrastructure such as ports and railways of direct military importance. While it was acknowledged that the aerial bombing of Germany would cause civilian casualties, the British government renounced the deliberate bombing of civilian property, outside combat zones, as a military tactic.[6] This policy was abandoned on 15 May 1940, two days after the German air attack on Rotterdam, when the RAF was given permission to attack targets in the Ruhr, including oil plants and other civilian industrial targets that aided the German war effort, such as blast furnaces that at night were self illuminating. The first RAF raid on the interior of Germany took place on the night of 10 – 11 May (on Dortmund).[7] The Jules Verne, a variant of the Farman F.220 of the French Naval Aviation, was the first Allied bomber to raid Berlin: on the night of 7 June 1940 it dropped eight bombs of 250 kg and 80 of 10 kg weight on the German capital.[8]

Between 1939 and 1942, the policy of bombing only targets of direct military significance was gradually abandoned in favour of "area bombing" — large-scale bombing of German cities to destroy housing and civilian infrastructure. Although killing German civilians was never an explicit policy, it was obvious that area bombing would cause large-scale civilian casualties.[9] With the technology available at the time, the precision bombing of military targets was possible only by daylight (and it was difficult even then). Daylight bombing raids conducted by Bomber Command involved unacceptably high losses of British aircraft, and bombing by night led to far lower British losses, but was of necessity indiscriminate due to the difficulties of nocturnal navigation and bomb aiming.[10]

1940 to 1943

People in London look at a map illustrating how the RAF is striking back at Germany during 1940
A work party clears rubble from an air raid on Berlin, 13 October 1940

Before 1941, Berlin, at 950 kilometres (590 miles) from London, was at the extreme range attainable by the British bombers then available to the Allied forces. It could be bombed only at night in summer when the days were longer and skies clear—which increased the risk to Allied bombers. The first RAF raid on Berlin took place on the night of 25 August 1940; 95 aircraft were dispatched to bomb Tempelhof Airport near the center of Berlin and Siemensstadt, of which 81 dropped their bombs in and around Berlin,[11][12] and while the damage was slight, the psychological effect on Hitler was greater. The bombing raids on Berlin prompted Hitler to order the shift of the Luftwaffe's target from British airfields and air defenses to British cities, at a time during the Battle of Britain when the British air defenses were becoming exhausted and overstretched.

In the following two weeks there were a further five raids of a similar size, all nominally precision raids at specific targets,[12] but with the difficulties of navigating at night the bombs that were dropped were widely dispersed.[13] During 1940 there were more raids on Berlin, all of which did little damage. The raids grew more frequent in 1941, but were ineffective in hitting important targets. The head of the Air Staff of the RAF, Sir Charles Portal, justified these raids by saying that to "get four million people out of bed and into the shelters" was worth the losses involved.[14][15]

The Soviet Union started a on Berlin on 8 August 1941 that extended into early September. Medium Navy bombers, accompanied from 12 August by Army bombers, conducted ten raids from Saaremaa island to Berlin with 3–12 aircraft in each raid, fifty in total reaching Berlin.[16] Heavy Army bombers, operating from near Leningrad, executed one raid to Berlin on 11 August, with only few machines reaching the target.[17] In total in 1941, Soviet aircraft dropped 36,000 kilograms (79,000 pounds) of bombs on Berlin. Combat and operational losses for the Soviets tallied 17 aircraft destroyed and 70 crewmen killed.[18]

On 7 November 1941, Sir Richard Peirse, head of RAF Bomber Command, launched a large raid on Berlin, sending over 160 bombers to the capital. 21 were shot down or crashed, and again little damage was done due to bad weather.[19] This failure led to the dismissal of Peirse and his replacement (in February 1942) by Sir Arthur Travers Harris, who believed in both the efficacy and necessity of area bombing. Harris said: "The Nazis entered this war under the rather childish delusion that they were going to bomb everyone else, and nobody was going to bomb them. At Rotterdam, London, Warsaw, and half a hundred other places, they put their rather naïve theory into operation. They sowed the wind, and now they are going to reap the whirlwind."[20]

At the same time, new bombers with longer ranges were coming into service, particularly the Avro Lancaster, which became available in large numbers during 1942. During most of 1942, however, Bomber Command's priority was attacking Germany's U-boat ports as part of Britain's effort to win the Battle of the Atlantic. During the whole of 1942 there were only nine air alerts in Berlin, none of them serious.[21] Only in 1943 did Harris have both the means and the opportunity to put his belief in area bombing into practice.

The Battle of Berlin

The Battle of Berlin was launched by Harris in November 1943, a concerted air campaign against the German capital, although other cities continued to be attacked to prevent the Germans concentrating their defences in Berlin. Harris believed this could be the blow that would break German resistance. "It will cost us between 400 and 500 aircraft," he said. "It will cost Germany the war."[22] By this time he could deploy over 800 long-range bombers on any given night, equipped with new and more sophisticated navigational devices such as H2S radar. Between November 1943 and March 1944, Bomber Command made 16 massed attacks on Berlin.

A prelude to the 1943 raids came from the De Havilland Mosquito, which hit the capital on January 30 1943, the tenth anniversary of the Nazis' Machtergreifung. That same day, both Göring and Goebbels were known to be giving big speeches that were to be broadcast live by radio. At precisely 11.00 am, Mosquitoes of No. 105 Squadron arrived over Berlin exactly on time to disrupt Göring's speech. Later that day, No. 139 Squadron repeated the trick for Goebbels. These were great propaganda raids which—much as the Doolittle Raid on the Japanese home islands had done for boosting American morale in April 1942—were a severe embarrassment for the German leadership. April 20 1943 was Hitler's 54th birthday. Bomber Command decided that they had to mark the occasion with a raid on Berlin, and it was decided that the Mosquito was the right aircraft for the job. Accordingly, No. 105 Squadron was dispatched to the German capital, successfully reaching the city with the loss of only one aircraft.[23]

The Reformation Church in Moabit, damaged in the night of 22–23 November 1943

The first raid of the battle occurred on November 18-19 1943. Berlin was the main target, and was attacked by 440 Avro Lancasters aided by four Mosquitos. The city was under cloud and the damage was not severe. The second major raid was on the night of November 22-23 1943. This was the most effective raid by the RAF on Berlin. The raid caused extensive damage to the residential areas west of the centre, Tiergarten and Charlottenburg, Schöneberg and Spandau. Because of the dry weather conditions, several firestorms ignited. The Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church was destroyed. Several other buildings of note were either damaged or destroyed, including the British, French, Italian and Japanese embassies, Charlottenburg Palace and Berlin Zoo, as were the Ministry of Munitions, the Waffen SS Administrative College, the barracks of the Imperial Guard at Spandau and several arms factories.[24]

On December 17, extensive damage was done to the Berlin railway system. By this time cumulative effect of the bombing campaign had made more than a quarter of Berlin's total living accommodation unusable.[24] There was another major raid on January 28-29 1944, when Berlin's western and southern districts were hit in the most concentrated attack of this period. On February 15-16, important war industries were hit, including the large Siemensstadt area, with the centre and south-western districts sustaining most of the damage. This was the largest raid by the RAF on Berlin. Raids continued until March 1944.[24][25][26]

A USAAF B-17 is damaged by a mis-timed bomb release over Museum Island, Berlin in May 1944. All 11 airmen were killed.

These raids caused immense devastation and loss of life in Berlin. The November 22 1943 raid killed 2,000 Berliners and rendered 175,000 homeless. The following night, 1,000 were killed and 100,000 made homeless. During December and January regular raids killed hundreds of people each night and rendered between 20,000 and 80,000 homeless each time.[27] Overall nearly 4,000 were killed, 10,000 injured and 450,000 made homeless.[28]

The 16 raids on Berlin cost Bomber Command more than 500 aircraft, with their crews killed or captured. This was a loss rate of 5.8%, which was above the 5% threshold that was considered the maximum sustainable operational loss rate by the RAF.[29] In December 1943, for example, 11 crews from No. 460 Squadron RAAF alone were lost in operations against Berlin; and in January and February, another 14 crews were killed. Having 25 aircraft destroyed meant that the fighting force of the squadron had to be replaced in three months. At these rates Bomber Command would have been wiped out before Berlin."[30] It has been largely acknowledged that the Battle of Berlin was a failure; for the RAF,[30] British official historians have stated that "in an operational sense the Battle of Berlin was more than a failure, it was a defeat". [31]

March 1944 to April 1945

Bombing victims laid out in an exhibition hall, autumn 1944

In 1943, the U.S. Army and the Standard Oil company built a set of replicas in western Utah, of typical German working class housing estates, "German Village", which would be of key importance in acquiring the know-how and experience necessary to carry out the firebombings on Berlin. It was done with the assistance of Erich Mendelsohn, a Jewish architect of structures in Berlin who fled the Nazis in 1933.[32]

The Big Week (Sunday, 20–Friday, 25 February 1944) heavy bomber offensive began shortly after the Eighth Air Force commander, Maj. Gen. Jimmy Doolittle, had implemented a major change in fighter defense of USAAF strategic bomber formations that had bolstered the confidence of U.S. strategic bombing crews. Until that time, Allied bombers avoided contact with the Luftwaffe; now, the Americans used any method that would force the Luftwaffe into combat. Implementing this policy, the United States looked toward Berlin. Raiding the German capital, the USAAF reasoned, would force the Luftwaffe into battle. Consequently, on 4 March, the USSTAF launched the first of several attacks against Berlin.[33] Fierce battles raged and resulted in heavy losses for both sides; 69 B-17s were lost on 6 March but the Luftwaffe lost 160 aircraft. The Allies replaced their losses; the Luftwaffe could not.[34]

At the tail end of the Battle of Berlin the RAF made one last large raid on the city on the night of 24–25 March, losing 8.9% of the attacking force,[35] but due to the failure of the Battle of Berlin, and the switch to the tactical bombing of France during the summer months in support of the Allied invasion of France, RAF Bomber Command left Berlin alone for most of 1944. Nevertheless, regular nuisance raids by both the RAF and USAAF continued, including the Operation Whitebait diversion for the bombing of the Peenemünde Army Research Center. In 1945, the Eighth Air Force launched a number of very large daytime raids on Berlin, the last of them being on 18 March (there were bombing raids to Falkensee and Spandau, near Berlin, in 28th March),[36] the 15th Air Force launched its only bombing mission to Berlin on 24 March,[37] and for 36 nights in succession scores of RAF Mosquitos bombed the German capital, ending on the night of 20/21 April 1945 just before the Soviets entered the city.[38]

The largest American raid on Berlin

1,500 bombers of the Eighth Air Force, protected by some 1,000 fighters attacked the Berlin railway system on the forenoon of 3 February 1945 in the belief that the German Sixth Panzer Army was moving through Berlin by train on its way to the Eastern Front,[39] thinking the Sixth Panzer Army would use the Tempelhof railyards for the move.[40] This was one of the few occasions on which the USAAF undertook a mass attack on a city centre. Lt-General James Doolittle, commander of the USAAF Eighth Air Force, objected to this tactic, but he was overruled by the USAAF commander, General Carl Spaatz, who was supported by the Allied commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower. Eisenhower and Spaatz made it clear that the attack on Berlin was of great political importance in that it was designed to assist the Soviet offensive on the Oder east of Berlin, and was essential for Allied unity.[41][42]

Bombing of Berlin in July 1944

In the raid, led by Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Rosenthal of the 100th Bombardment Group flying in a pathfinder B-17G, s/n 44-8379 — commanding the entire First Air Division's bomber force on this raid[43]Friedrichstadt (the newspaper district), and Luisenstadt (both divided between the boroughs of Kreuzberg and Mitte, the central area) and some other areas, such as Friedrichshain, were severely damaged. The bombs used in this raid consisted mostly of high explosive ordnance and not incendiary munitions. The area that suffered the greatest damage did not include railway main lines, which were more northern (Stadtbahn) and southern (Ringbahn), but did include two terminal stations of Berlin (Anhalter and Potsdamer Bahnhof, the latter of which had already been out of service since 1944 due to bomb destruction).[citation needed]

The bombing was so dense that it caused a city fire spreading eastwards, driven by the wind, over the south of Friedrichstadt and the northwest of neighboured Luisenstadt. The fire lasted for four days until it had burnt everything combustible in its range to ashes and after it had reached waterways, large thoroughfares, and parks that the fire could not jump over. Due to the exhaustion of German supplies the German anti-aircraft defense was under-equipped and weak so that out of the 1,600 US aircraft committed, only 36 were shot down and their crews taken as prisoners-of-war.[44] First Air Division commander Lt. Col. Rosenthal was among those shot down and survived, but was rescued by the Soviet armed forces and eventually returned to England.[45]

A number of monuments, such as French Luisenstadt Church, St. James Church, Jerusalem's Church, Luisenstadt Church, St. Michael's Church, St. Simeon Church, and the Marcher Protestant Consistory (today's entrance of Jewish Museum Berlin) as well as government and Nazi Party buildings were also hit, including the Reich Chancellery, the Party Chancellery, the Gestapo headquarters, and the People's Court.[42] The Unter den Linden, Wilhelmstrasse and Friedrichstrasse areas were turned into seas of ruins. Among the dead was Roland Freisler, the infamous head justice of the People's Court. The death toll amounted to 2,894, fewer than might have been expected because the raid took place in daytime with relatively few incendiary bombs. The number of wounded amounted to 20,000, and 120,000 were left homeless or "dehoused".[44]

A film shot by the US Air Force in July 1945, showing the destruction in central Berlin

Another raid on 26 February 1945[46] left another 80,000 people homeless. Raids continued until April, when the Red Army was outside the city. In the last days of the war the Red Air Force also bombed Berlin, as well as using Ilyushin Il-2 and similar aircraft for low-level attacks from 28 March onwards. By this time Berlin's civil defences and infrastructure were close to collapsing but civilian morale held. After the capture of Berlin, Soviet General Nikolai Bersarin said, referring to the Red Army's artillery and rocket bombardment, that:

"the Western Allies had dropped 65,000 tons of explosives on the city in the course of more than two years; whereas the Red Army had expended 40,000 tons in merely two weeks". Later, statisticians calculated that for every inhabitant of Berlin there were nearly 30 cubic meters (39 cubic yards) of rubble.[47]

Up to the end of March 1945 there had been a total of 314 air raids on Berlin, with 85 of those coming in the last twelve months[48] Half of all houses were damaged and around a third uninhabitable, as much as 16 km² of the city was simply rubble. Estimates of the total number of dead in Berlin from air raids range from 20,000 to 50,000; current German studies suggest that a figure in the lower part of this range is more likely.[49] This compares to death tolls of between 25,000 and 35,000 in the single attack on Dresden on 14 February 1945, and the 42,000 killed at Hamburg in a single raid in 1943, with both the Hamburg and Dresden raids each having lower casualty totals than the 9/10 March 1945 Operation Meetinghouse single firebombing raid on Tokyo, devastating some 15.8 square miles (40.9 km²) causing the loss of at least 100,000 lives in the Japanese capital.[50] The relatively low casualty figure in Berlin is partly the result of the city's distance from airfields in Britain, which made large raids difficult before the liberation of France in late 1944, but also due to the city's superior air defences and shelters.[citation needed]

Berlin's defences

The Zoo flak tower, April 1942

The Nazi regime was acutely aware of the political necessity of protecting the Reich capital against devastation from the air. Even before the war, work had begun on an extensive system of public air raid shelters, but by 1939 only 15% of the planned 2,000 shelters had been built. By 1941, however, the five huge public shelters (Zoo, Anhalt Station, Humboldthain, Friedrichshain and Kleistpark) were complete, offering shelter to 65,000 people. Other shelters were built under government buildings, the best-known being the so-called Führerbunker under the Reich Chancellery building. In addition, many U-Bahn stations were converted into shelters. The rest of the population had to make do with their own cellars.[51]

In 1943, the Germans decided to evacuate non-essential people from Berlin. By 1944 1.2 million people, 790,000 of them women and children, about a quarter of the city's population, had been evacuated to rural areas. An effort was made to evacuate all children from Berlin, but this was resisted by parents, and many evacuees soon made their way back to the city (as was also the case in London in 1940–41). The increasing shortage of manpower as the war dragged on meant that female labour was essential to keep Berlin's war industries going, so the evacuation of all women with children was not possible. At the end of 1944 the city's population began to grow again as refugees fleeing the Red Army's advance in the east began to pour into Berlin. The Ostvertriebenen ("refugees from the East") were officially denied permission to remain in Berlin for longer than two days and were housed in camps near the city before being moved on westwards; it is estimated less than 50,000 managed to remain in Berlin. By January 1945 the population was around 2.9 million, although the demands of the German military were such that only 100,000 of these were males aged 18–30. Another 100,000 or so were forced labor, mainly French Fremdarbeiter, "foreign workers", and Russian Ostarbeiter ("eastern workers"). The key to the Flak area were three huge Flak towers (Flaktürme), which provided enormously tough platforms for both searchlights and 128 mm anti-aircraft guns as well as shelters (Hochbunker) for civilians. These towers were at the Berlin Zoo in the Tiergarten, Humboldthain and Friedrichshain. The Flak guns were increasingly manned by the teenagers of the Hitler Youth as older men were drafted to the front. By 1945 the girls of the League of German Girls (BDM) were also operating Flak guns. After 1944 there was little fighter protection from the Luftwaffe, and the Flak defences were increasingly overwhelmed by the scale of the attacks.


Bombing of Berlin during World War II
Date Bomber Command Notes
1940-6-77–8 June 1940 French Navy One Farman N.C.223.4 Jules Verne converted long-range transport. Flew from Bordeaux via Baltic Sea, approaching Berlin from the north (First bombing of Berlin).[52]
1940-8-2525–26 August 1940 RAF 95 aircraft.[11][12]
1940-9-077 September 1940 RAF Bombed Christuskirche church in Neukölln.[7]
1940-9-1010 September 1940 RAF Damaged Brandenburg Gate.[7]
1941-3-2424 March 1941 RAF 130 bombers.[7] For the first time Polish Air Forces took part (No. 300 Squadron).[19]
1941-4-1717–18 April 1941 RAF [19]
1941-8-87–8 August 1941 Soviet Navy 10 DB-3 bombers of the Baltic Fleet, operating from Kuressaare airfield (Kagul) on Saaremaa island (5 reached Berlin, dropping 3 tons of bombs).[16]
1941-8-98–9 August 1941 Soviet Navy 9 DB-3 bombers of the Baltic Fleet, operating from Kuressaare airfield on Saaremaa island (9 reached Berlin, dropping 5.4 tons of bombs).[16]
1941-8-1110–11 August 1941 Soviet Air Force 8 TB-7 (Pe-8) heavy bombers and 3 Yer-2 from Pushkin, of these 3 TB-7 and 2 Yer-2 reached Berlin.[17]
1941-8-1211–12 August 1941 Soviet Navy, Soviet Air Force 3 DB-3 bombers of the Baltic Fleet, operating from Kuressaare and 9 DB-3F (Il-4) from Long Range Aviation operating from Aste on Saaremaa island (8 reached Berlin).[16]
1941-8-1313 August 1941 RAF 82 tons of bombs[7]
1941-8-1615-16 August 1941 Soviet Navy, Soviet Air Force 13 DB-3 bombers of the Baltic Fleet and 9 DB-3F (Il-4) from Long Range Aviation, operating from Saaremaa island (17 reached Berlin, dropping 10.5 tons of bombs).[16]
1941-8-1918–19 August 1941 Soviet Air Force 5 DB-3F (Il-4) bombers from Long Range Aviation, operating from Saaremaa island (2 reached Berlin).[16]
1941-8-2120–21 August 1941 Soviet Navy, Soviet Air Force 8 DB-3 bombers of the Baltic Fleet and 4 DB-3F (Il-4) from Long Range Aviation, operating from Saaremaa island (3 reached Berlin, 4 lost).[16]
1941-9-0131 August–1 September 1941 Soviet Navy 6 DB-3 bombers of the Baltic Fleet, operating from Saaremaa island (2-3 reached Berlin).[16]
1941-9-032–3 September 1941 Soviet Navy 2 DB-3 bombers of the Baltic Fleet, operating from Saaremaa island (1 reached Berlin).[16]
1941-9-033 September 1941 RAF [7]
1941-9-044 September 1941 RAF [7]
1941-9-054–5 September 1941 Soviet Navy 6 DB-3 bombers of the Baltic Fleet (3 reached Berlin). In total 57 naval and 27 army DB-3/DB-3F aircraft performed ten raids from 7 August to 5 September, of these 50 reached Berlin,[16] dropping some 30 tons of bombs[53])
1941-9-088 September 1941 RAF Burned Potsdamer Bahnhof, over 100 civilians killed in a house at Pariser Platz[7]
1941-11-77–8 November 1941 RAF 160 aircraft. 20 aircraft (12.5%) lost[20] (other information: 21 lost out of 169)[7] Only around 30% of aircraft reached main target, and cloud cover resulted in blind bombing.[19]
1942-8-2626 August 1942 Soviet Air Force Il-4 bombers.[54]
1943-3-022 March 1943 RAF 251 bombers, 17 lost, dropped 610 tons of bombs, 711 killed on earth[7]
1943-8-2323–24 August 1943 RAF 727 Lancasters, Halifaxes, Stirlings and Mosquitos set out, with 70 turning back before reaching target. 57 aircraft (7.8%) lost.[55]
1943-8-3131 August–1 September 1943 RAF 613 heavy bombers and 9 Mosquitos. 47 aircraft (7.6%) lost.[56]
1943-9-33–4 September 1943 RAF 316 Lancasters dispatched with four Mosquitos carrying out diversionary laying of flares to distract defences.[57] 22 aircraft (6.9%) lost.[58]
1943-11-1818–19 November 1943 RAF Berlin, the main target, was attacked by 440 Avro Lancasters and 4 de Havilland Mosquitos. They bombed the city, which was under cloud. Diversionary raids on Mannheim and Ludwigshafen by 395 other aircraft. Mosquitos attacked several other towns. In all 884 sorties. 32 aircraft (3.6%) lost.[59]
1943-11-2222–23 November 1943 RAF Berlin the main target. 469 Lancasters, 234 Handley Page Halifaxes, 50 Short Stirlings, 11 Mosquitos. Total 764 aircraft. This was the most effective raid on Berlin of the war. Most of the damage was to the residential areas west of the centre, Tiergarten and Charlottenburg, Schöneberg and Spandau. Because of the dry weather conditions, several 'firestorms' ignited. 175,000 people were left homeless and the ruins of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church (Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche) are now a monument in Berlin. Several other buildings of note were either damaged or destroyed, including the British, French, Italian and Japanese embassies, Charlottenburg Castle and Berlin Zoo, as well as the , the Waffen SS Administrative College, the barracks of the Imperial Guard at Spandau. Several factories employed in the manufacture of material for the armed forces and 26 aircraft (3.4%) were also lost.[59]
1943-11-2323–24 November 1943 RAF Berlin, the main target, was attacked by 365 Lancasters, 10 Halifaxes, 8 Mosquitos (383 aircraft).[59]
1943-11-2424–25 November 1943 RAF Berlin, in a small raid, was attacked by 6 Mosquitos, 1 Mosquito lost
1943-11-2525–26 November 1943 RAF 3 Mosquitos to Berlin.[59]
1943-11-2626–27 November 1943 RAF Berlin, the main target, was attacked by 443 Lancasters and 7 Mosquitos. Most of the damage in Berlin was in the semi-industrial suburb of Reinickendorf. Stuttgart was a diversion, attacked by 84 aircraft. The total sorties for the night was 666. 34 aircraft (5.1%) lost.[59]
1943-12-022–3 December 1943 RAF Berlin, the main target, was attacked by 425 Lancasters, 18 Mosquitos, 15 Halifaxes. The Germans correctly identified that Berlin was the target. Unexpected cross winds had scattered the bomber formations and so German fighters found the bombers easier targets. 37 Lancasters, 2 Halifaxes, 1 Mosquito (8.7% of the force). Due to the cross winds the bombing was inaccurate and to the south of the city, but two more of the Siemens factories, a ball-bearing factory and several railway installations were damaged.[24]
1943-12-1616–17 December 1943 RAF Berlin was the main target. It was attacked by 483 Lancasters and 15 Mosquitos. German night fighters were successfully directed to intercept the bombers. The damage to the Berlin railway system was extensive. 1,000 wagon-loads of war material destined for the Eastern Front were held up for 6 days. The National Theatre and the building housing Germany's military and political archives were both destroyed. The cumulative effect of the bombing campaign had now made more than a quarter of Berlin's total living accommodation unusable. Two Bristol Beaufighters and 2 Mosquitos of No. 100 Group equipped with Serrate radar detector patrolled the route for German nightfighters. A Bf 110 was damaged, the first time these hunter killers had been on a successful Serrate patrol. 25 Lancasters, 5.2% of the Lancaster force, were lost over enemy occupied territory, with a further 29 aircraft lost on landing in England due to very low cloud.[24]
1943-12-2323–24 December 1943 RAF Berlin was attacked by 364 Lancasters, 8 Mosquitos and 7 Halifaxes. German fighters encountered difficulty with the weather and were able to shoot down only 16 Lancasters, 4.2% of the force. Damage to Berlin was relatively small.[24]
1943-12-2829–30 December 1943 RAF Berlin was the main target. 457 Lancasters, 252 Halifaxes and 3 Mosquitos (712 aircraft), RAF losses were light, at 2.8% of the force. Heavy cloud cover frustrated the RAF and damage was light.[24]
1944-01-101–2 January 1944 RAF Berlin was the main target. 421 Lancasters dispatched to Berlin. German night fighters were effective and 6.7% of the bombers were shot down. A small raid on Hamburg by 15 Mosquitos and smaller raids on other towns did not divert the night fighrers.[25]
1944-01-022–3 January 1944 RAF Berlin was the main target. 362 Lancasters, 12 Mosquitos, 9 Halifaxes (383 aircraft). The night fighters did not catch up to the bombers until they were over Berlin and managed to shoot down 27 Lancasters, 10% of the force.
1944-01-055–6 January 1944 RAF A diversionary raid by 13 Mosquitos on Berlin.[25]
1944-01-1010–11 January 1944 RAF Small raids on Berlin, Solingen, Koblenz and Krefeld by 20 Mosquitos. No aircraft were lost.[25]
1944-01-1414–15 January 1944 RAF 17 Mosquitos launched small raids on Magdeburg and Berlin.[25]
1944-01-2020–21 January 1944 RAF Berlin was the main target. 495 Lancasters, 264 Halifaxes, 10 Mosquitos (769 aircraft) despatched to Berlin. Night fighter attacks were pressed home successfully; 22 Halifaxes and 13 Lancasters were lost, 4.6% of the force. The damage could not be assessed due to low cloud cover the next day.[25]
1944-01-2727–28 January 1944 RAF Berlin was the main target. 515 Lancasters and 15 Mosquitos (530 aircraft) despatched to Berlin. The RAF records state that the bombing appeared to have been spread well up- and down-wind. The diversionary raids were only partially successful in diverting German night fighters. 33 Lancasters were lost, which was 6.4 per cent of the heavy force. A further 167 sorties were flown against other targets, with one aircraft lost.[25]
1944-01-2828–29 January 1944 RAF Berlin was the main target. 432 Lancasters, 241 Halifaxes, 4 Mosquitos (677 aircraft) despatched to Berlin. Western and Southern districts, covered by partial cloud, were hit in what the RAF records state was the most concentrated attack of this period. German records do not fully support this mentioning that were 77 places outside the city were hit. Deception raids and routing over Northern Denmark did not prevent the German air defences from reacting. 46 aircraft, 6.8 per cent of the force. Just over 100 other aircraft attacked a number of other targets.[25]
1944-01-3030–31 January 1944 RAF Berlin was the main target. 440 Lancasters, 82 Halifaxes, 12 Mosquitos (534 aircraft), despatched to Berlin. RAF losses were 33 aircraft, 6.2% of the total.[25]
1944-02-1515–16 February 1944 RAF Berlin main target. 561 Lancasters, 314 Halifaxes, 16 Mosquitos (891 aircraft), despatched to Berlin. Despite cloud cover most important war industries were hit, including the large Siemensstadt area, with the centre and southwestern districts sustaining most of the damage. This was the largest raid by the RAF on Berlin. A diversionary raid by 24 Lancasters of No. 8 Group on Frankfurt-on-the-Oder failed to confuse the Germans. RAF lost 43 aircraft – 26 Lancasters, 17 Halifaxes, which was 4.8 per cent of the force. A further 155 sorties were flown against other targets.[26]
1944-03-044 March 1944 VIII Target: Berlin. Attempted raids had been halted by bad weather on 3 March. A maximum effort raid by 730 (504 B-17s and 226 B-24s) bombers and 644 fighters of the Eighth Air Force. Resulted in 37 losses.[60][61]
1944-03-066 March 1944 US VIII, IX 69 US bombers were lost. 11 North American P-51 Mustangs were also lost. The Bomber loss rate stood at 10.2 percent. The Luftwaffe lost 64 fighters, including 16 Bf 110 and Me 410 heavy fighters.[62]
1944-03-088 March 1944 US VIII Raid against Berlin by 623 bombers. 37 US bombers were lost and 18 fighters were also lost. The Luftwaffe lost 42 fighters, with 3 killed, 26 missing and 9 wounded (includes the Me 410 and Bf 110 multiple manned aircraft)[63]
1944-03-2424–25 March 1944 RAF Berlin main target. The bomber stream was scattered and those that reached Berlin bombed well out to the south-west of the city. The RAF lost 72 aircraft, 8.9% of the attacking force.[35]


  1. ^ Taylor, Chapter "Thunderclap and Yalta" Page 216
  2. ^ http://www.flightglobal.com/pdfarchive/view/1945/1945%20-%201571.html
  3. ^ Richard Overy, The Bombers and the Bombed: Allied Air War Over Europe 1940–1945 (2014), pp 301, 304
  4. ^ President Franklin D. Roosevelt Appeal against aerial bombardment of civilian populations, 1 September 1939.
  5. ^ Taylor, Chapter "Call Me Meier", Page 105
  6. ^ A.C. Grayling, Among the Dead Cities (Bloomsbury 2006), p. 24.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Marek J. Murawski (1999). Obrona powietrzna III Rzeszy. Cz.3. Działania nocne wrzesień 1939 – czerwiec 1943 [Air defence of the 3rd Reich. Night operations September 1939 – June 1943] (in Polish). AJ-Press. ISBN 83-7237-016-8.
  8. ^ Donald A. Bertke, Don Kindell, Gordon Smith, "World War II sea war: France falls, Britain stand alone: Day-to-Day Naval Actions April 1940 through September 1940.", p.205 [1]
  9. ^ Hastings 1981, p. 114.
  10. ^ Hastings 1981, pp. 111–15.
  11. ^ a b Moss, p. 295
  12. ^ a b c Quester p. 115
  13. ^ Quester p. 116.
  14. ^ Grayling, 47
  15. ^ Taylor, Chapter "Call Me Meier", p. 114.
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Miroslav Morozov (2011). Torpedonoscy Velikoi otechestvennoi. Ih zvali "smertnikami" [Torpedo aircraft of Great patriotic war. They were called "deathbound"] (in Russian). pp. 63–65. ISBN 978-5-699-46226-1.
  17. ^ a b Mikhail Maslov (2009). "Letayushchiye kreposti" Stalina. Bombardirovshchik Pe-8 [Stalin's "Flying fortresses". Pe-8 bomber] (in Russian). pp. 53–56. ISBN 978-5-699-36247-9.
  18. ^ Kamenir, Victor, "Soviet Navy Over Berlin", WWII History Magazine, August 2013, pp. 60–65, 74.
  19. ^ a b c d Hodyra, Piotr (2016). 301 Dywizjon Bombowy 1940–1943 (in Polish). Warsaw: Oficyna Wydawnicza Alma-Press. pp. 28, 42–43. ISBN 978-83-7020-664-2.
  20. ^ a b Robin Cross, Fallen Eagle (London, John Wiley and Sons 1995), p. 78.
  21. ^ Reinhard Rürup, Berlin 1945: A Documentation (Verlag Willmuth Arenhövel 1995), p. 11
  22. ^ Grayling, p. 62
  23. ^ "Bomber Command War Diary April 1943", Bomber Command 60th Anniversary, retrieved 30 October 2015
  24. ^ a b c d e f g Campaign Diary December 1943
  25. ^ a b c d e f g h i Campaign Diary January 1944
  26. ^ a b Campaign Diary February 1944.
  27. ^ Grayling, pp. 309–10
  28. ^ Rürup, p. 11
  29. ^ Grayling, p. 332, footnote 58.
  30. ^ a b Daniel Oakman, Wartime Magazine: "The Battle of Berlin", Australian War Memorial website. Retrieved 8 December 2014.
  31. ^ Webster & Frankland 1961, p. 193.
  32. ^ Quoted by Mike Davis in Chapter 3 of his work Dead Cities, books.guardian.co.uk. Retrieved 8 December 2014; see "Design and Construction of Typical German and Japanese Test Structures at Dugway Proving Grounds, Utah", 27 May 1943 Archived 28 May 2020 at the Wayback Machine, by the Standard Oil Development Company. Retrieved 8 December 2014.
  33. ^ Video: Blast Berlin By Daylight, 1944/03/20 (1944). Universal Newsreel. 1944. Retrieved 20 February 2012.
  34. ^ *Russell, Edward T. (1999). The U.S. Army Air Forces in World War II: Leaping the Atlantic Wall Army Air Forces Campaigns in Western Europe, 1942–1945, Big Week Air Force history and museums program 1999, Federal Depository Library Program Electronic Collection (backup site Archived 24 October 2005 at the Wayback Machine)
  35. ^ a b Campaign Diary March 1944
  36. ^ "Army Air Forces in World War II". 31 May 2012. Archived from the original on 31 May 2012. Retrieved 30 December 2019.
  37. ^ "Army Air Forces in World War II". 31 May 2012. Archived from the original on 31 May 2012. Retrieved 30 December 2019.
  38. ^ McInnis 1946, p. 115.
  39. ^ Taylor, p. 215
  40. ^ Staff. "Combat Chronology of the US Army Air Forces: February 1945". usaaf.net. usaaf.net. Archived from the original on 29 September 2013. Retrieved 28 August 2013.
  41. ^ Addison p. 102, gives the political background to the raid
  42. ^ a b Beevor, p. 74. claims 3,000
  43. ^ "100th Bomb Group Foundation – Personnel – LT COL Robert ROSENTHAL". 100thbg.com. 100th Bomb Group Foundation. Retrieved 5 December 2016. Dec 1, 1944 – Feb 3, 1945 – 418th BS, 100th BG (H) ETOUSAAF (8AF) Squadron Commander, 55 hours, B-17 Air Leader 5 c/m (combat missions) 45 c/hrs (combat hours) 1 Division Lead (Berlin Feb 3, 1945, shot down, picked up by Russians and returned to England) Acting Command 4 Wing Leads, Pilot Feb 3, 1945 – BERLIN – MACR #12046, – A/C#44 8379
  44. ^ a b Smit, Erik/Evthalia Staikos/Dirk Thormann, 3. Februar 1945: Die Zerstörung Kreuzbergs aus der Luft, Martin Düspohl (ed.) on behalf of the Kunstamt Kreuzberg/Kreuzberg-Museum für Stadtentwicklung und Sozialgeschichte in co-operation with the Verein zur Erforschung und Darstellung der Geschichte Kreuzbergs e.V., Berlin: Kunstamt Kreuzberg, 1995, pp. 12seq; ISBN 3-9804686-0-7.
  45. ^ "100th Bomb Group Foundation – Personnel – LT COL Robert ROSENTHAL". 100thbg.com. 100th Bomb Group Foundation. Retrieved 5 December 2016. 1 Division Lead (Berlin Feb 3, 1945, shot down, picked up by Russians and returned to England)
  46. ^ Davis, p. 511
  47. ^ Joachim Fest (2004). Inside Hitler's Bunker. Picador, New York. p. 88. ISBN 0-312-42392-6.
  48. ^ Bahm, Karl. Berlin 1945: The Final Reckoning, MBI Publishing/Amber Books (2001); ISBN 0-7603-1240-0, p. 47.
  49. ^ Rürup, p. 13
  50. ^ Selden, Mark (2 May 2007). "A Forgotten Holocaust: US Bombing Strategy, the Destruction of Japanese Cities & the American Way of War from World War II to Iraq". Japan Focus. With an average of 103,000 inhabitants per square mile and peak levels as high as 135,000 per square mile, the highest density of any industrial city in the world, and with firefighting measures ludicrously inadequate to the task, 15.8 square miles of Tokyo were destroyed on a night when fierce winds whipped the flames and walls of fire blocked tens of thousands fleeing for their lives.
  51. ^ This section is based on Rürup, chapter 1
  52. ^ Green 1968, p. 19.
  53. ^ Robert Bock (1996). Sowieckie lotnictwo morskie 1941-45 (in Polish). AJ-Press. pp. 15–17. ISBN 83-86208-44-9.
  54. ^ Vladimir Koielnikov (2009). Il-4. "Vozdushnye kreysera" Stalina [Il-4. Stalin's "Flying cruisers"] (in Russian). pp. 87, 102. ISBN 978-5-699-38276-7.
  55. ^ Richards 1994, pp. 268–69.
  56. ^ Richards 1994, p. 269.
  57. ^ Richards 1994, p. 270.
  58. ^ RAF Campaign Diary September 1943 Archived 29 September 2004 at the Wayback Machine. Royal Air Force. 6 April 2005. Retrieved 17 June 2009.
  59. ^ a b c d e RAF Campaign Diary November 1943 Archived 11 June 2007 at the Wayback Machine. Royal Air Force. 6 April 2005. Retrieved 17 June 2009.
  60. ^ Hess 1994, pp. 80–84.[verification needed]
  61. ^ Caldwell & Muller 2007, p. 168.
  62. ^ Caldwell & Muller 2007, pp. 172–73.
  63. ^ Caldwell & Muller 2007, pp. 173–74.


  • Addison, Paul; Crang, Jeremy A. (2006), Firestorm, Pimlico, ISBN 1-84413-928-X
  • Beevor, Antony (2002), Berlin: The Downfall 1945, Penguin Books, ISBN 0-670-88695-5
  • Caldwell, Donald; Muller, Richard (2007), The Luftwaffe over Germany: Defense of the Reich, London: Greenhill Books, ISBN 978-1-85367-712-0
  • Craven, Weslet; Cate, James (1951), Army Air Forces in World War Two: Europe:Argument to VE-Day, III, University of Chicago Press
  • Davis, Richard B. (2006), Bombing the European Axis Powers. A Historical Digest of the Combined Bomber Offensive 1939–1945: Part V 1945 (PDF), Alabama: Air University Press, archived from the original (PDF) on 23 July 2011, retrieved 13 September 2010
  • Grayling, A.C. (2006), Among the Dead Cities, London, UK: Bloomsbury, ISBN 978-0-7475-7671-6
  • Green, William (1967). War Planes of the First World War:Volume Eight Bombers and Reconnaissance Aircraft. London, UK: Macdonald.
  • Hastings, Max (1981), Bomber Command, London, UK: Michael Joseph, ISBN 0-330-26236-X
  • Moss, Norman (2004), Nineteen Weeks: America, Britain and the Fateful Summer of 1940, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, ISBN 978-0-618-49220-6
  • McInnis, Edgar (1946), The war, 6, Oxford University Press
  • Quester, George H. (1986). Deterrence before Hiroshima: the airpower background of modern strategy, Transaction Publishers; ISBN 978-0-88738-087-7
  • Richards, Denis (1994), The Hardest Victory:RAF Bomber Command in the Second World War, London, UK: Coronet, ISBN 0-340-61720-9
  • Rürup, Reinhard (2003) [1995], Berlin 1945: A Documentation (3rd. revised ed.), Berlin: Verlag Willmuth Arenhövel, ISBN 3-922912-33-8
  • "Campaign Diary November 1943", Royal Air Force Bomber Command 60th Anniversary, RAF, 24 August 2004, archived from the original on 12 November 2007
  • "Campaign Diary December 1943", Royal Air Force Bomber Command 60th Anniversary, RAF, 24 August 2004, archived from the original on 2 November 2008
  • "Campaign Diary January 1944", Royal Air Force Bomber Command 60th Anniversary, RAF, 6 April 2005, archived from the original on 11 June 2007
  • "Campaign Diary February 1944", Royal Air Force Bomber Command 60th Anniversary, RAF, 6 April 2005, archived from the original on 6 July 2007
  • "Campaign Diary March 1944", Royal Air Force Bomber Command 60th Anniversary, RAF, 6 April 2005, archived from the original on 6 July 2007
  • Royal Air Force World War II Battle Honours, RAF, 12 January 2004, archived from the original on 31 October 2006, retrieved 31 October 2006 – via waybackmachine
  • Taylor, Frederick (2005), Dresden: Tuesday 13 February 1945 (Paperback ed.), London, UK: Bloomsbury, ISBN 0-7475-7084-1
  • Webster, Sir Charles Kingsley; Frankland, Noble (1961), The Strategic Air Offensive Against Germany: 1939–1945, History of the Second World War, Volume 2: Endeavour, H. M. Stationery Office |volume= has extra text (help)
  • Yonnet, Henri (1957), Le 'Jules Verne', avion corsaire, Paris: France-Empire

20 May 1940

The first prisoners arrive at a newly built concentration camp at Auschwitz.

Auschwitz, also known as Auschwitz-Birkenau, opened in 1940 and was the largest of the Nazi concentration and death camps. Located in southern Poland, Auschwitz initially served as a detention center for political prisoners. However, it evolved into a network of camps where Jewish people and other perceived enemies of the Nazi state were exterminated, often in gas chambers, or used as slave labor. Some prisoners were also subjected to barbaric medical experiments led by Josef Mengele. During World War II, more than 1 million people, by some accounts, lost their lives at Auschwitz. In January 1945, with the Soviet army approaching, Nazi officials ordered the camp abandoned and sent an estimated 60,000 prisoners on a forced march to other locations. When the Soviets entered Auschwitz, they found thousands of emaciated detainees and piles of corpses left behind.

After the start of World War II, Adolf Hitler, the chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, implemented a policy that came to be known as the “Final Solution.” Hitler was determined not just to isolate Jews in Germany and countries annexed by the Nazis, subjecting them to dehumanizing regulations and random acts of violence. Instead, he became convinced that his “Jewish problem” would be solved only with the elimination of every Jew in his domain, along with artists, educators, Romas, communists, homosexuals, the mentally and physically handicapped and others deemed unfit for survival in Nazi Germany.

10 May 1940

The United Kingdom invades Iceland.

The invasion of Iceland by the Royal Navy and Royal Marines occurred on 10 May 1940, during World War II. The invasion was performed because the British government feared that the island would be used by the Germans, who had recently overrun Denmark, Iceland’s possessing country. The Government of Iceland issued a protest, charging that its neutrality had been “flagrantly violated” and “its independence infringed”.

At the start of the war, the UK imposed strict export controls on Icelandic goods, preventing profitable shipments to Germany, as part of its naval blockade. The UK offered assistance to Iceland, seeking co-operation “as a belligerent and an ally”, but Reykjavík refused and reaffirmed its neutrality. The German diplomatic presence in Iceland, along with the island’s strategic importance, alarmed the UK government.

After failing to persuade the Icelandic government to join the Allies, the UK invaded on the morning of 10 May 1940. The initial force of 746 Royal Marines commanded by Colonel Robert Sturges disembarked at the capital Reykjavík. Meeting no resistance, the troops moved quickly to disable communication networks, secure strategic locations, and arrest German citizens. Requisitioning local transport, the troops moved to Hvalfjörður, Kaldaðarnes, Sandskeið, and Akranes to secure potential landing areas against the possibility of a German counterattack.

During 1918, after a long period of Danish rule, Iceland had become an independent state in personal union with the Danish king and with common foreign affairs. The newly initiated Kingdom of Iceland declared itself a neutral country without a defence force. The treaty of union allowed for a revision to begin during 1941 and for unilateral termination three years after that, if no agreement was made. By 1928, all Icelandic political parties were in agreement that the union treaty would be terminated as soon as possible.

On 9 April 1940, German forces began Operation Weserübung, invading both Norway and Denmark. Denmark was subdued within a day and occupied. On the same day, the British government sent a message to the Icelandic government, stating that the UK was willing to assist Iceland in maintaining its independence but would require facilities in Iceland to do so. Iceland was invited to join the UK in the war “as a belligerent and an ally.” The Icelandic government rejected the offer. On the next day, 10 April, the Icelandic parliament, the Alþingi, declared Danish King Christian X unable to perform his constitutional duties and assigned them to the government of Iceland, along with all other responsibilities previously performed by Denmark on behalf of Iceland.

On 12 April, as Operation Valentine, the British occupied the Faroe Islands. After the German invasion of Denmark and Norway, the British government became increasingly concerned that Germany would soon try to establish a military presence in Iceland. They felt that this would constitute an intolerable threat to British control of the North Atlantic. Just as importantly, the British were eager to obtain bases in Iceland for themselves to strengthen their Northern Patrol.

10 February 1940

Tom and Jerry make their debut with Puss Gets the Boot.

Tom and Jerry, two of the most successful cartoon characters in film and TV history, made their debut in cinemas on this day in 1940.

The cat and mouse who fight a seemingly never-ending battle for supremacy were featured in the animated short Puss Gets the Boot, made for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer cartoons by legendary animators William Hanna and Joseph Barbera.

In the nine-minute short, Tom, a blue-grey long-haired cat, is happily toying with small brown mouse Jerry, when he is threatened with being thrown out of his owner’s house if he causes any more breakages.

Jerry then causes as much mayhem as he can to land Tom in trouble – a storyline that would provide a template for most of the duo’s adventures – and is left to celebrate when Tom is inevitably turfed out by his owner.

The cartoon was nominated for an Academy Award that year, but lost out to another MGM short. Hanna and Barbera felt they had a winning formula, which they returned to – but only after animator John Carr suggested renaming the main characters Tom and Jerry.

hey were rewarded when Yankee Doodle Mouse finally won them an Oscar for best cartoon in 1943 – the first of seven wins for their feisty cat and mouse duo.

Hanna and Barbera would write and direct a total of 114 short Tom and Jerry cartoons before MGM closed their animation department in 1957 – but the pugnacious puss and his artful mouse adversary remained popular, and would return in adventures made by other studios for many years to come.

12 September 1940

Cave paintings are discovered in Lascaux, France.

On this day in 12 September 1940, near Montignac, France, a collection of prehistoric cave paintings are discovered by four teenagers who stumbled upon the ancient artwork after following their dog down a narrow entrance into a cavern. The 15,000 to 17,000-year-old paintings, consisting mostly of animal representations, are among the finest examples of art from the Upper Paleolithic period. First studied by the French archaeologist Henri-Édouard-Prosper Breuil, the Lascaux grotto consists of a main cavern 66 feet wide and 16 feet high. The walls of the cavern are decorated with some 600 painted and drawn animals and symbols and nearly 1,500 engravings.

The pictures depict in excellent detail numerous types of animals, including horses, red deer, stags, bovines, felines, and what appear to be mythical creatures. There is only one human figure depicted in the cave: a bird-headed man with an erect phallus. Archaeologists believe that the cave was used over a long period of time as a centre for hunting and religious rites. The Lascaux grotto was opened to the public in 1948 but was closed in 1963 because artificial lights had faded the vivid colors of the paintings and caused algae to grow over some of them. A replica of the Lascaux cave was opened nearby in 1983 and receives tens of thousands of visitors annually.

25 June 1940

The French armistice with Germany comes into effect.

With Paris fallen and the German conquest of France reaching its conclusion, Marshal Henri Petain replaces Paul Reynaud as prime minister and announces his intention to sign an armistice with the Nazis. The next day, French General Charles de Gaulle, not very well known even to the French, made a broadcast to France from England, urging his countrymen to continue the fight against Germany.

A military hero during World War I, Petain was appointed vice premier of France in May 1940 to boost morale in a country crumbling under the force of the Nazi invasion. Instead, Petain arranged an armistice with the Nazis. The armistice, signed by the French on June 22, went into effect on June 25, and more than half of France was occupied by the Germans. In July, Petain took office as “chief of state” at Vichy, a city in unoccupied France. The Vichy government under Petain collaborated with the Nazis, and French citizens suffered on both sides of the divided nation. In 1942, Pierre Laval, an opportunistic French fascist and dutiful Nazi collaborator, won the trust of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, and the elderly Petain became merely a figurehead in the Vichy regime.

After the Normandy invasion in 1944, Petain and Laval were forced to flee to German protection in the east. Both were eventually captured, found guilty of high treason, and sentenced to die. Laval was executed in 1945, but provincial French leader Charles de Gaulle commuted Petain’s sentence to life imprisonment. Petain died on the Ile d’Yeu off France in 1951.