For, remember this, France does not stand alone. She is not isolated. Behind her is a vast empire, and she can make common cause with the British empire, which commands the seas and is continuing the struggle. Like England, she can draw unreservedly on the immense industrial resources of the United States.
The relationship between Churchill and de Gaulle began just before the fall of France, when Churchill went over on two trips to see the French government, trying to get France to stay in the war. Then on 17 June 1940, de Gaulle flew to London and went to see Churchill in the garden at Downing Street. Churchill said: ‘Welcome to London. I will give you the facilities of the BBC.’ And the next day, on 18 June, de Gaulle made his famous call for the French to resist.
Although Germany occupied two thirds of metropolitan France in the period 1940-42, it directly controlled less than 10 per cent of French territory. The unoccupied areas of southern France and the colonies of the extensive French empire were governed by Vichy: the indigenous French cabinet headed by Marshal Philippe Pétain (1856-1951) at the spa town in central-east France where it was based.
In violation of the 1940 armistice agreement, German troops moved into southeastern-Vichy, France. From that point forward, Petain became virtually useless, and France merely a future gateway for the Allied counteroffensive in Western Europe, namely, D-Day.
After years of historical work, "we've come to an image that is a lot closer to reality: that the French state, Vichy, made decisions it wasn't forced to make. It acted with a certain independence, a certain autonomy in any case," French sociologist Michel Wieviorka said. "So let's not rewrite history in the other direction. Let's not exonerate all the people who collaborated."
But despite Vichy’s willingness to collaborate, the Nazis remained vigilant. France was viewed as a hereditary enemy unlikely suddenly to give up her traditional anti-Germanism. Indeed, perhaps the most surprising fact about German espionage against France during the Second World War is that it increased significantly after the French defeat. Archives suggest that there were possibly as many as three times the number of German intelligence agents working against France by mid-1941 than there had been in mid-1940.
The “French state” (L'État Français), as it called itself in contrast with the “French Republic”, willfully collaborated with Nazi Germany, to a high degree: raids to capture Jews and other “undesirables” were organized by the French police not only in the northern zone, occupied by the German Wehrmacht, but also in the southern “free zone”, which was occupied only after the Allies' landing in French North Africa in November 1942. Vichy's authority legally extended itself to both zones.
In May 1940, with France under attack from Germany, Pétain was appointed vice premier. In June he asked for an armistice, upon which he was appointed 'chief of state', enjoying almost absolute powers.
The roots of Vichy France can be found in the initial German invasion of France, in 1940. Within a very short period of time, the French realized that they could not combat the invading German forces, and ultimately an armistice agreement between the two nations was reached. Under the terms of the armistice, the Germans fully occupied the Northern Region of France, leaving the French government to administer the Southern region of France.
The Vichy regime was the French government from July 1940 to August 1944, which succeeded the Third Republic. It was proclaimed by Marshal Philippe Pétain following the military defeat of France and the vote by the National Assembly, on July 10, 1940, of extraordinary powers to Pétain, who held not the title of President of France but rather President of the Council.