The defeat and the German occupation

10 May 1940: German offensive on the Western Front (blitzkrieg).


16th June: the President of the Council Paul Reynaud resigns. He is replaced by Philippe Pétain.

18 June: General Charles de Gaulle makes his appeal on the BBC.

22 June: collapse of the French army.

22nd June: signing of the Armistice.

27th June: the first German troops arrive in the Dordogne from Castillon in the Gironde and Angoulême in the Charente.

10th July: Parliament votes full powers to Philippe Pétain, by 569 votes to 80.

24th October: Philippe Pétain and Adolf Hitler meet in Montoire-sur-le-Loir (Loir-et-Cher) and formalise the Collaboration

At dawn on 10 May 1940, the German army launched a large-scale offensive on the Western Front, attacking the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and France simultaneously. The allies were completely surprised. The French army collapsed in a few weeks in the face of the strategic and material superiority of the German troops.

The debacle was general: « A commander arrived and asked us to save ourselves. We destroyed our equipment and left, » says Robert Bordes, from Bourgnac. He and his friend Clovis Longaud [the latter was shot on 11 June 1944 in Mussidan] then decided to reach the Dordogne on foot in the stream of thousands of civilians in exodus and soldiers in disarray. Both arrived in Périgueux where they were demobilised. Between 17 and 25 June 1940, two thirds of French soldiers, i.e. almost one and a half million men, were taken prisoner by the German armies. Another 100,000 were killed in the fighting.

In addition, between 6 and 10 million people fled the German air raids and headed for the south of France.

The first German troops appeared in the Dordogne on 27 June 1940, five days after the signing of the armistice between the Third Reich and the representatives of Philippe Pétain’s government. They arrived from Castillon, in Gironde, and Angoulême, in Charente.

It was from his farm at Tuilières, in Vanxains, that René Pazat saw the first German soldiers at the beginning of July. They had left Ribérac, which remained in the free zone. The soldiers occupied the town of Vanxains and requisitioned houses.

Like the rest of the country, the Dordogne department was divided by the demarcation line. Philippe Pétain, the new head of state, made his mark. His portrait was everywhere, in schools where children sang « Maréchal nous voilà ». Village squares were renamed after him.

Collaboration between the Vichy regime and Nazi Germany was established. At the same time, on 18 June 1940, General Charles de Gaulle, Under-Secretary of State for Defence in Paul Reynaud’s government, made a speech in London, where he had flown the day before, which became famous as the Appeal of 18 June. He invited those who refused to accept defeat to join him. The appeal was little heeded in France and the number of forces that rallied to England was derisory: barely 7,000 men and women at the end of July 1940. It was nevertheless the beginning of « Free France ».

The clauses of the armistice signed on 22nd June 1940

The occupation by the German army of half the country (including its Atlantic coast).

The creation of a demarcation line that cut the country in two (and the Dordogne department).

The payment of a daily allowance of 400 million francs to support the German troops.

The annexation, once again, of Alsace and Moselle to the Third Reich.

The indefinite detention of more than one and a half million soldiers as prisoners.

A propaganda poster.