02 法兰西的溃败 Collapse of France

May the 9th, 1940 a little French town with little French children.

A town in the Ardennes not far from Germany which is at war with France but thing's been quiet. Until now.

So the children continue to line their clogs up neatly and their school teacher says "Today we'll learn a nice song to bring peace back to us. Round. Round. Round. Go the puppets"

This will be their last class.

. . . . . .

The 10th of May 1940 at 5:35 am, the Germans unleash their offensive.

. . . . . . (Collapse of France). . . . . .

German paratroopers are dropped into Holland.

They're the vanguard. The first of three million invaders.

The Wehrmacht marches into Belgium. This is Hitler's decoy.

The Germans pretend that they're going to attack France through neutral Belgium as they did in 1914.

The French General Gamelin, commander in chief of the allied forces, is confident.

He has everything covered. He finds tuned strategies during the phoney war.

. . . . . .

Gamelin moves his best motorized divisions, the elite French Army, into Belgium along with the entire British expeditionary force.

These are fighting soldiers with true great. They will stop the German advance through Belgium.

But Hitler in his headquarters is gloating. His decoy worked.

He exclaims "I could weep for joy."

… …

He instructs Field Marshal Galin who commands the air force not to bomb the French columns to let them proceed deep into Belgium territory.

And he attacks them from the rear.

His real offensive will be through the Ardennes.

… …

According to French high command, no tank could ever get through those densely forested hills.

… …

But nothing stops them except their own traffic jams.

. . . . . .

Meanwhile, in the Netherlands and Belgium, people who own cars are among the first flee.

Everyone is suspected. A so-called fifth column is feared spies working for the Nazis.

The Germans continue their diversionary tactics, invading Belgium with specially trained airborne forces.

The sappers belt out their song from the campaign in Poland.

… …

"The girls will have to wait, comrades. It's time to go, comrades."

On the 11th of May, a daybreak, they are dropped into Belgium.

Their goal is to capture the linchpin of the Belgium defence system, Fort Eben Emael on the Albert Canal which is reputed to be impregnable.

… …

An intrepid German soldier heaves himself onto the top of the turret with loaded explosives.

The conquerors stride through the ruins of Fort Eben Emael the key to Belgium.

Images such as these will forge the Wehrmacht's reputation of invincibility.

After the fort falls, people scramble to catch the last train to Paris.

. . . . . .

In the French capital, the Red Cross is swarmed.

Belgium refugees are transferred to cattle cars heading south.

. . . . . .

As the Germans enter Liege, panic grows and spreads.

Faced with such a show of force, there are only two options: obey or flee.

. . . . . .

Many of the refugees are people from the countryside.

As in many times in history, farmers have always been the last to flee, loath to abandon their crops and their animals.

The great Belgium poet Emile Verhaeren wrote:

"The people around here have nothing at all. Nothing before them but the endlessness of the open road."

"The people who work the fields. The people around here have only endless misfortune."

… …

The Germans unleash their air offensive destroying strategic crossroad, airfields, refineries and fuel supplies.

… …

Cities in northern and eastern France are bombed.

… …

The French are now facing the reality of modern warfare.

… …

In the Netherlands, the port of Rotterdam is ablaze.

The result of German terror bombing raid like the one in Warsaw.

But these bombs were dropped after the city has surrendered. Another of Hitler's war crimes.

… …

In London, the new Prime Minister is Winston Churchill.

His first speech reveals his determination to keep fighting whatever the circumstances.

"I will say without a doubt, that the fate of Holand and Belgium, like that of Poland, Czechoslovakia and Austria, will be decided by the victory of the British Empire and the French Republic."

But things have suddenly turned very grim in France.

In just three days the Germans've swept through the Ardennes and advancing towards the French defensive line on the Meuse River.

… …

They are closing the net with their pincer movement seeking to entrap the allied troops massed in Belgium.

The German infantrymen knock over the French as if they came from a different world.

With their hand grenade, machine guns and with their sleeves rolled up, they take the town in one day.

Sedan, the key to the Ardennes which was already terribly marked by the French defeat in 1870.

But the real obstacle for the Germans is the Meuse River.

On the night of 13th of May, they bring in beams to build bridges. The French fight back.

But the Germans neutralize the French artillery, and next morning their sappers finish the bridge galvanized by their General Guderian, a 52-year-old Prussian a great armoured warfare strategist using tanks strike with force daring and speed.

The blitzkrieg or lightning war should not give the enemy time to react.

First, the tanks followed by infantry and backed by aircraft especially the Stukas.

The Stukas dive bombers equipped with sirens resisting the intense pressure of the descent.

Their highly trained pilots release their bombs at the last minute with lethal precision.

The French Prime Minister Paul Reynaud telephones Churchill in alarm:

"We have been defeated. We have lost the battle."

The French generals are at a loss. They are unable to react to the situation, with allied forces tied up in Belgium.

How can they stop the Germans from advancing?

. . . . . .

In Paris, the French authorities are trying to deal with the increasing number of refugees.

People from Belgium and northern France are pouring in the city.

Schools, hospitals and barracks are soon overflowing.

Information is sparse. Rumours abound. Has Gamelin committed suicide? No.

The French high command has just realized that the Germans are heading to the coast. And the allies are falling into a trap.

A counter attack is ordered, allowing a certain colonel De Gaulle to distinguish himself at the head of the tank brigade.

The French army possesses more tanks and they are all better quality than the German panzers.

… …

But without any reinforcements or aerial support, the French tanks become prey to the Stukas.

… …

The French competence put up a good fight, but they wonder why the air force isn't protecting them.

Poorly prepared and with fewer planes, the French pilots are heavily outnumbered by the Luftwaffe. But they fight courageously.

Dozens of German pilots are shot down and taken prisoner.

… …

Some of these pilots will be returned to Germany when their armistice is signed and will join the battle against Britain.

. . . . . .

The German tanks move swiftly through the towns and villages of northern France.

… …

Valiantly, the French try to slow the German advance.

The Germans crash any pockets of resistance.

… …

The Germans have reached the English channel. Hitler's strategy of the "Sickle Cut" has worked.

The British expeditionary force, the Belgium army and French armour force are encircled.

The Belgian King surrenders along with his army.

The British expeditionary force withdraws towards the coast leading to the final collapse of allied armies.

In Paris, the French Prime Minister Paul Reynaud dismisses Gamelin and finds a new saviour, General Weygand 72 years old, one of the artisans of the allied victory in 1918.

To boost morale, Reynaud names another World War I hero as vice premier, 84-year-old Marshal Petain.

He will soon turn his back on Reynaud's policies.

Weygand has no choice. He too is forced to order a full retreat towards Dunkirk.

Hitler lets them go. A gesture of clemency towards Great Britain? Is he still hoping for a separate peace?

Or has Goring assured him that his air force is capable of preventing an evacuation?

Four hundred thousand men cram the beach helpless and in disarray.

They have one last chance to escape over the sea.

Churchill orders any vessel that can float to go and get them.

On the outskirt of Dunkirk, the French hold back the Germans suffering heavy losses.

Goring sends out the Luftwaffe Stukas and bombers.

Two hundred and eighteen thousand British and a hundred twenty thousand French troops are successfully evacuated.

. . . . . .

The British army is saved, but they seem tatters.

… …

The French will be sent back to France in a final attempt to defend their country.

. . . . . .

The British are sent off to re-equipment centres.

All of Great Britain hails Dunkirk as an extraordinary feat.

Churchill, however, puts it into perspective with lucidity he says: "Wars are not won by evacuation."

Even so in those first days of June 1940, the Dunkirk spirit is born.

The ruthlessness of this war and the destructive power of Nazi enemy are now apparent to the British.

Light-heartedness and humour give way to frantic efforts to mobilize the nation.

On the 4th of June, Churchill who was also battling with defeats on his own side speaks out.

His tone is unforgettable.

"We shall fight on the beaches, on the landing ground, in the fields, in the streets, and on the hills."

"We shall never surrender."

. . . . . .

On the 4th of June, the Germans take Dunkirk. A fabulous bounty awaits them.

Lavishly filmed by the Wehrmacht's propaganda units.

The British forces have left behind almost all of their equipment.

. . . . . .

The soldiers of the Wehrmacht film themselves in high spirits.

They find a French gramophone with a famous record by Maurice Chevalier.

. . . . . .

The offensive continues. France collapses.

But Reynaud and De Gaulle who was undersecretary of state for defence on war want to continue fighting.

In Rome, the Italian dictator Mussolini has a big news for his people:

. . . . . .

Mussolini is hoping for he's share of spoils: the Rhone valley, Marseille as well as disarmament of Corsica and Tunisia.

The French say: "It's a stab in the back."

Mussolini's offensive is cut short by the French alpine divisions.

General Rommel's troops storm Normandy and enter Lyon.

… …

Paris is declared an open city.

In other words, it's turned over to enemy without a fight in order to spare the fate of Warsaw or Rotterdam.

The government has moved to Bordeaux. The Germans are approaching the city.

Rumours fly. They kill. They rape by the Prussians did in 1870.

The Parisian abandoned by their government flee. All of France take to the road.

A cataclysm will come to be known by a biblical name, the Exodus.

Millions of French man and women head towards the Loire, the last rampart.

But there is no rampart strong enough against the Stukas.

… …

On the 14th of June 1940 a daybreak. The Germans march into Paris.

. . . . . .

The Nazi's emblem, the Swastika, flies over Paris.

One of the first act of German occupier is to seize all the records of the abandoned ministries, list of spies, of jews, of Freemasons and even their original copy of the treaty of Versailles that so humiliated Germany in 1919.

It is immediately sent off to Hitler.

The Exodus has come to a hold. The bridges over the Loire are blown.

The only hope now is the fighting stops.

Petain in Bordeaux also wants to put an end of things.

The Germans continue their relentless advance southward.

Though once considered a formidable force, the French army is now a shambles.

And yet this put up a better fight than was thought, especially at a time.

In one month, one hundred thousand French soldiers die, more than in the same period of time during the World War I, the deadliest of wars until then.

… …

One million eight hundred and fifty thousand soldiers are taken prisoner along with thirty-six thousand officers and a hundred and seventy-six generals.

… …

Among the prisoners, there are many African soldiers from the French colonial troops.

The Wehrmacht's amateur film-makers film them with a perverse sense of self-satisfaction.

Famished, these soldiers kill a goat.

. . . . . .

German propaganda newsreels insist on showing repeated close-ups of their faces.

The official instructions art portrayed the degenerations of French, who are forced to go to war with their slaves from their colonies.

The original German commentary is revealing.

. . . . . .

Three thousand African soldiers and officers from the French army will be shot and killed after they are captured.

After 7 years of Nazi indoctrination, racism is rampant among the German soldiers.

Three days will now be decisive in determining France fate.

On the 16th of June 1940, Reynaud is outmanoeuvred by the councillor ministers in Bordeaux, and he resigns.

As his successor, Philippe Petain is appointed to head the French Government.

. . . . . .

Plaza Bastille. Those who remained in Paris listen to Marshal Petain.

The war hero of Verdun announces that he is seeking an armistice.

. . . . . .

The German radio translates this speech announcing Frances capitulation.

. . . . . .

Some French people are able to pick up the BBC.

General De Gaulle has arrived in London.

On the 18th of June, he didn't announce this armistice.

A few days later, he records a new speech.

. . . . . .

Hitler receives a telegram of congratulations from Moscow.

On June 22nd 1940, Hitler arrives in Kang Pien near Paris.

The setup is ordered as design to humiliate the losers.

He's brought the same railway car that was used for the signing of 1918 armistice that sealed the Germany's defeat.

His revenge is complete.

. . . . . .

The French delegation is led by General Huntziger.

An interpreter reads out a diatribe accusing France of declaring war without any reason.

Hitler does not utter a single word. He stands up and leaves.

… …

The French delegates have been informed the terms of the armistice.

One of its conditions is that France handover all the anti-Nazi Germans who have taken refuge in France.

Huntziger has tried to negotiate. The Germans refuse.

Huntziger calls the government in Bordeaux.

The German secret services tape his conversation with Weygand.

. . . . . .

Afterwards, Hitler has the railway car taken to Berlin.

In the final days of Reich, he will have the SS blow it up with Dynamite.

Soon the major symbols of France's victory in World War I will be mocked.

Like here in Verdun where a half million French soldiers were killed to come to this 20 years later.

. . . . . .

Hitler jeers as he visits his man who's only just taken the Maginot Line.

. . . . . .

He is more solemn when he enters Strasbourg and its Cathedral.

Alsace and Lorraine are German once again as he promise they would be.

The spoils of the French campaign, two thousand tanks, five thousand cannons, three hundred thousand rifles, four million rounds of ammunition.

At an army supply warehouse, the Wehrmacht finds a stock of long johns meant for the French army, warm woollen garments which will be stored the way for future campaigns.

. . . . . .

The spoils are the factories, the harbours, all the riches of France.

It was the French who declared the war, as a consequence, they will pay the equivalent of one hundred million dollars a day in occupation costs.

General Huntziger goes to Germany for the first meeting of the commission charged with the playing in terms of the armistice.

… …

To spare troops, Hitler decides to let France retain partial sovereignty under a government at his backend core and with a limited army, striped heavy weapons, just maintain order.

The country is split in two.

An occupied zone in the north along the entire Atlantic coast providing the access to all harbours.

Italia controls the Mediterranean area and occupies a narrow ribbon along the Alps.

The rest is called free zone with a new capital, Vichy.

… …

This spa town has been chosen in part for its many hotels.

In early July, Marshal Petain moves into them along with government ministries.

The atmosphere everywhere is abysmal.

. . . . . .

However, this Vichy government continues to control a vast colonial empire and above all a still powerful navy.

Hitler's only request is that his ships be disarmed and remain in their ports for his afraid it may joint forces with Britain.

Churchill's fear is opposite that it will fall into German hand.

He orders the Royal Navy to neutralize it.

A British Naval Force sails to one of France's biggest naval bases Mers-el Kebir in Algeria.

Churchill is taking no risks and ultimatum is dispatched by the joining us sculpt own ships or sail under escort demilitarization in the Caribbean.

The French reject all proposals.

The British open fire.

Two French battleships are heavily damaged. And one, the Bretagne, is sunk.

One thousand two hundred and ninety-seven French sailors are killed.

Seeking to show his people, the world and above all the United States how to determine he is, Churchill strikes out to his former ally whose fleet could help the Germans land on British shore.

Two days after the attack, the Vichy government breaks off the diplomatic relations with Britain.

. . . . . .

All of Germany acclaims Hitler. His lightning conquest France enthrals his generals.

He sees himself as the greatest war leader of all time on a par with Napoleon.

And like the Emperor, no one dares to contradict him anymore.

. . . . . .

The Germans occupied the channel islands, Jersey and Guernsey, stepping stones towards the invasion of Britain

. . . . . .

The British get ready for a German invasion taking measures that might appear trivial.

. . . . . .

Another urgent measure is to send children away to the countryside for safety. (It is) always a painful moment.

. . . . . .

Their elder sisters, their mothers and grandmothers join the war effort.

Every woman must defend her home against the fearsome German paratroopers.

. . . . . .

The man join up the local defence volunteers for the home guard, even veterans of the First World War.

The willing and able are mobilised while the army rescued in Dunkirk reforms.

America supplies rifles, machine guns and anti-aircraft cannons and everyone perfect their skills.

. . . . . .

Churchill delivers a most inspired speech to the British people.

… …

One of Churchill main weapon is the royal air force, along with its remarkable aircraft the Spitfire with its Rolls-Royce engine, one of the best fighter planes in the world.

Britain also excels in the field of electronics. The British at first use the radar for the purpose of defence.

In the ops room, radar is used for detecting planes and guiding pilots towards the enemy.

The pilots from all over the British Empire were joined by airmen who have managed to flee their country on the German occupation, or his government is in exile in London.

Pols, Dutch, Czechs and the first of the free French forces along with De Gaulle.

Many of the British pilots are Oxford and Cambridge students.

One of them Richard Hilary later wrote "We were known as long head boys. We were dissolution and spoiled."

"The press referred to us as the lost generation. Superficially, we were selfish and egocentric."

"The war demanded no heroics but gives us the opportunity to prove to ourselves and to the world that undisciplined though we might be, we were a match for Hitler's dogma fed youth"

These German pilots have been trained by the Hitlerjugend, the Hitler Youth with the idea of revenge.

… …

They feel that they are invincible. Their leader, Goering, is a popular figure in the regime.

. . . . . .

Goering who is a man of luxury often stays in Hotel Ritz in Paris, and turns Luxembourg Palace into the Luftwaffe Headquarters.

He had promised Hitler the Luftwaffe could blitzkrieg the royal air force in days take control of air, and enable Wehrmacht to invade Great Britain.

The Luftwaffe has its disposal of all France's airfields their installations and the equipment.

Its pilots were well trained, like Adolf Galland with his trademark cigar who fought against Republicans in Spain or Werner Molders an ace for the battle of France.

He was one of the pilots shot down, taken a prisoner and then returned to the Germans.

He is now a part of the aerial offensive against Great Britain.

… …

Taking off from these fields in occupied France, the German will attack convoys in the channel, harbours and airfields in southern England.

They will shoot down five hundred British aircraft at the cost of a thousand of their own.

The British pilots hold out giving everything they have.

… …

Churchill proclaims: "Never in the field of human conflict were so much owed by so many to so few."

Hitler decides to postpone his plan to invade Britain. This is his first setback.

His tactics now rely more on nighttime bombings.

He says: "The British will surrender when their cities have been destroyed."

German bombers attack British cities like Coventry and London. This is the blitz daily bombings.

… …

As for the British people, they hold up admirably.

They dig shelters in the garden of their cottages.

And in London, they sleep in the underground stations and go to work the next day.

… …

They never lose their confidence or sense of humor.

Churchill says to the French:

. . . . . .

Roll out the barrel. We'll have a barrel of fun.

… … (Roll out the barrel We'll have a barrel of fun. Roll out the barrel) … …

Hitler is exasperated. He will later call Churchill a Jew-ridden half American drunkard.

From now on, whenever he is exhausted, he will vent his spite against Jews.

On October the 12th, 1940, On the day of Yom Kippur, the Jews of Warsaw are told a ghetto will be set up.

A wall 3 meters high is erected enclosing half a million Jews: man, women, children, the elderly who will suffer horrifically from hunger, cold and poverty.

. . . . . .

In his chalet in Bavarian Alps, the Berghof, Hitler is filmed by his mistress Eva Brown as he celebrates new year surrounded by the children of Nazi dignitaries.

He has another plan up his sleeve. Another big gamble.

His mission now is to conquer new Lebensunterhalt, living space to the east.

He has allied himself with Stalin only to better attack him later on.

His failure to take Britain compels him to move quickly before Churchill is able to draw America in, that will set the world blaze.