The Army Values during French Resistance

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The Second World War involved many people all over the world of varying backgrounds. Everyone was watching or fighting this war. In Europe for people who lived in the front lines of this war had limited options on what to do. Mainly these people, especially in France, either conceded to the Germans and tried to survive, or they fought however they could. This varied for everyone, depending on their backgrounds, location, resources, etc. Some were able to physically fight and some only could do their best by doing smaller things like sabotaging train tracks. These individuals were apart of the French Resistance, whether they officially knew or not. Many parts of resisting are small things that are done on daily basis. These smaller acts are what make up the significance of the French Resistance, even though much of what is remembered are the larger scale physical attacks that were executed. Resistance members were everyday people who wanted to regain their homeland from the German army.

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Many times when people think of the French Resistance, they think of what was depicted in American World War II films that were made during and shortly after the war. In these films we see the American soldiers teaming up with the British soldiers, and while fighting they secretly meet up with French Resistance members who are sneaky and are good at navigating the area for the allies, assassinating, and sabotage. With the help of these few males and sometimes females, the British and American soldiers can reach the destination they are heading towards. This was a part of what the French Resistance looked like, but was only a small part of it. This image of the French Resistance member downplays many of the other individuals who also played vital roles in the resistance, but were just done more behind the scenes, and on a smaller scale.

In France and Its Empire Since 1870 by Alice L. Conklin, Sarah Fishman, and Robert Zaretsky, discuss what the French Resistance means. They mention its military and direct action aspect of it, but they also go over the idea that it involved so much more. It involved everyone, and wasn’t just direct action, but also smaller things like “people who collected and passed along information to the allies or to de Gaulle in London.” hey It was made up of all types of French individuals: male, female, old, young, etc. A demographic that wasn’t really represented was Jewish individuals. There were smaller resistance groups that were made up of Jewish members, but it wasn’t as common. The Resistance needed people of varying backgrounds to help accomplish the many different goals that they intended on doing. Engineers to help sabotage equipment, bookkeepers to help change books to hide individuals, kids to sneak past areas, females to seduce German soldiers and steal information or kill them, etc. Everyone had a skill that could be utilized by the movement.

Rene Carmille was an individual who had trained at the prestigious Ecole Polytechnique in Paris. This allowed him to train in engineering with other elites. Attending the Ecole Polytechnique meant he could be considered a polytechnicien, which was a prestigious title. He graduated in 1908 and began his time in the French army, where he was assigned administrative tasks. Rene Carmille’s big contribution was the idea of creating a register system with punch cards to have information on all French citizens. This was modeled after the first punch card system that was created by Herman Hollerith, who created it for the 1890 census. The punch card system using pieces of paper that has different perforations indicating different pieces of information on an individual. The cards are than run through a machine in certain orders to than keep track of the information on a group. Rene Carmille wanted to take this technology and utilize it in a way that could keep track of French citizens.

Through different trial and errors the government with the help from Rene Carmille, were able to set up a register system using the punch cards. This gave France information to track its citizens in a way that could be controlling. They knew who lived where, and what skills they may bring to the country. One question that was left off the original questions was race. This was an interesting piece to leave considering the control of the Vichy Government and the Germans controlling members of the Government. Later in the coming years these types of questions would be added.

In the beginning Rene Carmille did not want his idea to be associated with the Resistance. He worked with and for the Vichy Government. He helped set up the system in 1932 to help improve the French Army’s weapons and ammunition production. He also allowed it to keep track of conscripts. Conscripts in the French Army had to stay in the reserves for sixteen years after their basic training. To keep track of all of these soldiers they utilized the punch card system so they could easily be found for when the French Army needed to mobilize soldiers. This was a large task for Rene Carmille and the French Government. There were around 4.7 million Frenchmen who would need to be kept track of after the outbreak of WW2. The increasing anti-Semitic policies and decreasing respect of the Vichy Government and the Germans lead Rene Carmille to start a secret file. This file was to keep track of over 300,000 males who could be mobilized for the Resistance. But these files weren’t able to be utilized because after the Allies landed in Algiers on November 8th, 1942, the Germans moved to occupy France which made it risky for these files to exist. After this failure to utilize the files, Rene Carmille began to work with the French Resistance to help take back their country. In 1944 Rene Carmille was arrested for working with the French Resistance, and killed at Dachau on January 25th, 1945.

This worked by Rene Carmille is an example of how many individuals were helping the Resistance without formally knowing, and without physically fighting anyone. Many people helped in any way that they could, and sometimes without officially doing it for the Resistance. An example of helping the cause in a way that involved physical actions, but ultimately wasn’t to hurt anyone was in a small town named Ascq.

The small town of Ascq lies on a railway from Brussels to Lille. The town was home to many railway workers. During WW2 the railway was a vital piece of transporting goods and soldiers to and from the front line. This made Ascq an important little town. It had stayed relatively quiet during the the early to mid 1940s. Many German trains had come and gone into the town. With the high amount of German activity the locals and the Resistance wanted it to end. On April 1st, 1944 Resistance members had planted explosives on the train tracks in the town. The explosive had caused the tracks to be damaged, but the German train 649355 carrying soldiers and supplies for the 12th SS Panzer Division had gone barely damaged. But with the tracks being damaged they were able to slow down the Germans from bring supplies to the front lines.

The town was soon after reprimanded for the attacks until the people responsible were caught. This lead to around 86 total deaths before the killing was stopped. The Germans meant to kill these people to create order in the town, but it only lead to even more of a divide between the town and the occupying Germans. “Such good relations that existed between the French civil and ecclesiastical authorities on the one hand and the German military authorities on the other dissolved.” These types of events happened all over with the French Resistance. The Germans tried to downplay these events through ways such as propaganda or by silencing anyone involved so they would not be able to spread any word to other members of the resistance. During the Ascq events the German Army was given new instructions on how to deal with the Resistance and local townspeople during future events like this. These instructions were to help give the German Army more reason to attack the locals and anyone suspecting of being in the Resistance. “If troops are attacked in any manner, their commander is obliged to take his own countermeasures immediately. There is to be an immediate return of fire…” The instructions involve firing back at anything, burning down houses, etc. These instructions were put in place to help support the German Army’s actions, and to show local officials that when they began to kill citizens it was because of the violation of rules that they had put in place.

These differing types of resistance was seen throughout France, but for many without the means to do these types of actions, doing little things everyday helped them feel apart of the cause. “Film audiences in Paris routinely whistled, coughed and sneezed loudly during the screening of the pro-German newsreels…” These types of actions allowed many to help in their own small ways. By doing small acts of disrespect people began to start larger and larger acts of disrespect. This allowed citizens to see that people around them felt the same way, that others despised the occupation by the German Army. It also raised moral for many because it showed that they were all in it together, and if they worked together on the little things, bigger things could be accomplished.

The French Resistance had a vital role to the success of the Allies during the Second World War. They helped gain and distribute information across France, they sabotaged German supplies, killed German soldiers, and also kept morale up with citizens who were becoming defeated. Many people were involved in these acts of resistance, many risked their lives, and many also died. All of their efforts went into the larger act of regaining their homeland in France. Many of the acts that help keep the Resistance alive and going in France were the small acts, the acts that everyday people could do. Many people couldn’t shoot someone, but many could make loud noises during a French propaganda film. These were the people who helped keep morale up and assisted the allies in the Second World War.

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The Army Values During French Resistance. (2022, Sep 07). Retrieved February 6, 2023 , from
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