German Military Administration and Occupation of France during World War II – Deutsch militärische Verwaltung und Besatzung von Frankreich während Zweiten Weltkrieg

The Military Administration in France (German: Militärverwaltung in Frankreich) was an interim occupation authority established by Nazi Germany during World War II to administer the occupied zone in areas of northern and western France. This so-called zone occupée was renamed zone nord (north zone) in November 1942, when the previously unoccupied zone in the south known as zone libre (free zone) was also occupied and renamed zone sud (south zone).

German (pink) and Italian (green) occupation zones of France: the zone occupée, the zone libre, the zone interdite, the Military Administration in Belgium and Northern France, and annexed Alsace-Lorraine.

Its role in France was partly governed by the conditions set by the Second Armistice at Compiègne after the blitzkrieg success of the Wehrmacht leading to the Fall of France; at the time both French and Germans thought the occupation would be temporary and last only until Britain came to terms, which was believed to be imminent. For instance, France agreed that its soldiers would remain prisoners of war until the cessation of all hostilities.

Replacing the French Third Republic that had dissolved during France’s defeat was the French State (État français), with its sovereignty and authority limited to the free zone. As Paris was located in the occupied zone, its government was seated in the spa town of Vichy in Auvergne, and therefore it was more commonly known as Vichy France.

While the Vichy government was nominally in charge of all of France, the military administration in the occupied zone was a de facto Nazi dictatorship. Its rule was extended to the free zone when it was invaded by Germany and Italy during Case Anton on 11 November 1942 in response to Operation Torch, the Allied landings in French North Africa on 8 November 1942. The Vichy government remained in existence, even though its authority was now severely curtailed.

The military administration in France ended with the Liberation of France after the Normandy and Provence landings. It formally existed from May 1940 to December 1944, though most of its territory had been liberated by the Allies by the end of summer 1944.

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German control post on the Demarcation Line.

Occupation Zones

Alsace-Lorraine, which had been annexed after the Franco-Prussian war in 1871 by the German Empire and returned to France after the First World War, was re-annexed by the Third Reich thus subjecting their male population to German military conscription. The departments of Nord and Pas-de-Calais were attached to the military administration in Belgium and Northern France, which was also responsible for civilian affairs in the 20-kilometre (12 mi) wide zone interdite along the Atlantic coast. Another forbidden zone were areas in north-eastern France, corresponding to Lorraine and roughly about half each of Franche-Comté, Champagne and Picardie. War refugees were prohibited from returning to their homes, and it was intended for German settlers and annexation in the coming Nazi New Order (Neue Ordnung).

The occupied zone (German: Besetztes Gebiet) consisted of the rest of northern and western France, including the two forbidden zones.

The southern part of France, except for the western half of Aquitaine along the Atlantic coast, became the zone libre (free zone), where the Vichy regime remained sovereign as an independent state, though under heavy German influence due to the restrictions of the Armistice (including a heavy tribute) and economical dependency on Germany. It constituted a land area of 246,618 square kilometres, approximately 45 percent of France, and included approximately 33 percent of the total French labor force. The demarcation line between the free zone and the occupied zone was a de facto border, necessitating special authorisation and a laissez-passer from the German authorities to cross.

 

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