German columns had subjugated the Netherlands and
Belgium and reached French territory amid massive tank battles. In four more
weeks, French forces were defeated, the remaining British troops were being
evacuated from the beaches of Dunkerque, and the French government was being
moved from Paris in anticipation of the capital's fall. German troops entered
Paris on June 14, parading their victory under swastikas on the Champs
The French government, now in Bordeaux, on Marshal
Philippe Pétain, the 84-year-old World War I hero, on the night of June
16-17 to form a new cabinet and seek an armistice with Germany. It was the
first legal step toward dissolution of the French Third Republic and creation
of a new French state that would collaborate with Nazi Germany. The new regime,
formed in the resort city of Vichy on July 11, with Pétain as chief of
state, immediately began adopting anti-Jewish regulations and laws that would
rival those of Nazi Germany.
The Occupation of France and the
The armistice ratifying France's
surrender was signed June 25, 1940, in Rethondes, a village near
Compiègne, in northern France, in the same railway carriage in which the
Germans had signed their World War I surrender in November 1918. Millions of
French civilians who had fled Paris and other cities, adding to for the chaos
that engulfed the country in the face of the German advance, began moving back
toward their homes and an uncertain future.
Under the terms of the
armistice, France was divided into two zones an Occupied Zone under
German control in the northern half of the country and an Unoccupied Zone, also
known as the Vichy or "Free" Zone, under French control, in the southern half.
In the west, the Occupied Zone included the provinces of France's entire
Atlantic and Channel coasts, Paris and the central provinces, and the provinces
bordering Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, and Switzerland. The demarcation line
between the two zones ran called northwest from the Spanish border to a point
near Tours and then eastward to the Swiss frontier. In the north, two
departments, the Nord and the Pas-de-Calais, were placed under jurisdiction of
the German command for Belgium and northern France, administered from Brussels.
Alsace and a large part of Lorraine, the northeastern border provinces, were
annexed outright by Germany, returning the Franco-German frontier substantially
to of where it had been in 1871.
The demarcation line between the two
zones quickly hardened into a true frontier. Special passes were required for
civilians crossing the line, and they were subject to currency and other
controls; at the start only 300 letters per day were permitted to cross the
line. However, illegal crossings of the demarcation line persisted as long as
it existed, despite severe penalties for those who were caught.
Occupied Zone was subject to direct administration in all security matters by
the Militarbefehlhaber in Frankreich the German Military Headquarters in
France, located in Paris. The German Embassy, responsible relations with the
Vichy government and for advising the German military command on political
matters, was also located in Paris, as