The establishment of the demarcation line

1 July 1940: creation of the Free French Forces (FFL) in London.

July: establishment of the demarcation line.

3rd July: the British navy sinks the French fleet based at Mers el-Kébir (Algeria). 1,297 sailors are killed. The United Kingdom, then alone against the German and Italian enemy, feared that the armistice signed by the French government with Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy would cause the French fleet to fall into Hitler’s hands.

The 1,200 km long demarcation line set up in France by the occupying forces crossed thirteen departments, including the Dordogne. German troops occupied almost 10% of the department, i.e. 46 communes administratively attached to the Gironde and the Charente. The eastern part of the Dordogne, the most important, was integrated into the so-called free zone, directly controlled by the Vichy regime.

Along this border, the occupying forces set up sentry boxes and baffles with Nazi flags flying. Roadblocks on the secondary roads and posts in the meadows signalled the presence of the demarcation line. Signs, written in German and French, forbid the crossing of the line outside of authorised areas. Any offender risked being imprisoned for a dozen days at the Fort du Hâ in Bordeaux, or in the Libourne or Angoulême prisons. The occupier parsimoniously granted an Ausweis (identity card) or a Passierschein (pass). Once obtained, the precious document had a temporary validity.

The establishment of the demarcation line considerably disrupted the daily life of the « borderers ».

life of the « borderers ». Farmers found themselves with plots of land in both areas. Schoolchildren no longer had access to their schools because villages such as Saint-Barthélémy-de-Bellegarde or Échourgnac were cut in two.

Located very close to the demarcation line, Noëla Malard’s hotel-restaurant, the Jeanne d’Arc, in Beaupouyet, is one of the links in the Musée de l’Homme network. Founded in Paris in July 1940, the network’s action was organised around three main activities: the transport of escaped prisoners to Spain; the distribution of leaflets and newspapers; and military intelligence for the Allies. Highly sensitive secret political and military documents intended for the Allies were deposited in Noëla Malard’s establishment, which also served as a transit and reception centre. When the Musée de l’Homme network was dismantled by the German services in February 1941, Noëla Malard was not worried, probably thanks to the silence of the arrested resistance fighters.

Fernande Escudié (née Daguin) from Montpon also distinguished herself during this period. Holder of a German pass, she was active from the summer of 1940. She first did a service for friends by bringing letters to Mussidan on her bicycle. Her probity and efficiency led to her being contacted at the beginning of 1943 by Roger Girard, an important member of the resistance network Organisation civile et militaire (OCM). She became an OCM-approved courier and was active until July 1943, when she was arrested by French police officers. Deported to the Ravensbrück women’s concentration camp, then to Bergen Belsen, she was liberated in 1945.

Demarcation line.

Sign of the demarcation line found near Montpon.