The second phase of the Battle of France, called the Fall Rot, began on June 5, 1940. At first, the French troops opposed a strong resistance, but the German air superiority and the mobility of ground forces overwhelmed the defensive. By June 10, the German troops surrounded the Maginot Line and advanced deep into France and four days later occupied Paris.
Hang in there
Before the occupation, the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill tried to convince the French government to resist a few more days because US would enter the war and come to help them. As a response, the French Prime Minister asked for help from the Americans. Frank Roosevelt replied that the US will help them in any way. However, the Secretary of State, Cordell Hull opposed for a public declaration because Hitler would take such a public declaration as a formal declaration of war against Germany. Therefore, no such declaration was made public.
As expected, the help didn’t come. Over two million Parisians had the courage to leave their homes just before the occupation. In short time after the occupation, the Germans made thousands of arrests, interrogations and they were spying everyone that looked suspicious. For the Axis power, the campaign was a spectacular success.
Life in France
Everyday life in Paris (as in the occupied France) has been marked from the outset by endemic shortcomings explained by a numbers of factors:
– The condition of the armistice was to support the costs of over 300,000 German troops stationed in France, amounting to 20 million marks per day. The exchange rate was artificially impost at 1 Mark = 20 Francs. This exaggeration led to a food crisis which eventually led to malnutrition, especially among the children and the elders.
– The transport system was disorganized, except for the railway system which was based on French coal production.
– The interruption of international trade which restricted food imports.
– The extreme gasoline crisis.
In an attempt to overcome the crisis, some products have been placed with substitutes. For example, the coffee was replaced with roasted barley and chicory, the soap was prepared in house from fat and caustic soda. Over time, the Germans stopped almost 80% of French food production because of the lack of fuel, fertilizers and workers. Therefore, the production crisis was quickly reflected on the French markets, which lacked most of the products.
In order to cope with the difficulties of everyday life, the Germans introduced the rationalization through food cards and vouchers. Despite the fact that the rationalization was necessary, it was poorly managed. The official ratios ensured barely 1,300 calories, but most of the times it was less than 1,000. Therefore, the French were obliged to supplement their rations by cultivating any land (which was almost impossible in Paris), but also buying on the black market.
Nightlife in Paris
One month after the occupation of Paris, a German guide for Paris was published. The guide was a great success for Germans. Even more, some other guides recommended Moulin Rouge as one of the most interesting places to visit. Because life for Germans was very good in Paris, a large number of German units were sent by rotation to Paris for rest and restoration. Among the Germans was a saying: “Everyone at least once in Paris”.
The comrades made sure that their soldiers will enjoy the capital. Therefore they ensured their subordinates recreational visits in the city. Probably the only good part of the story is that a large number of famous artists, such as Edith Piaf began their ascension during the occupation.
However, the Paris siege was not imposed with the same stringency as in the Rest of the French cities. But this didn’t stop the French resistance to stand by.