French Resistance

organizations that fought against Nazi German occupation and collaborationist rule in France

The French Resistance (French: La Résistance) was a collection of organizations that fought the Nazi occupation of France and the collaborationist Vichy régime during the Second World War. Resistance cells were small groups of armed men and women (called the Maquis in rural areas) who conducted guerrilla warfare and published underground newspapers. They also provided first-hand intelligence information, and escape networks that helped Allied soldiers and airmen trapped behind enemy lines. The Resistance's men and women came from different levels in the French society, including émigrés, academics, students, aristocrats, conservative Roman Catholics (including priests and nuns), Protestants, Jews, Muslims, liberals, anarchists and communists. The number of French people participating in the organized resistance is estimated at from one to three percent of the total population.


  • I believe in the magic and authority of words.
  • Char's message as a member of the French resistance, to his superiors in London, insisting that certain codewords "The library is on fire" be changed after a disastrous parachute drop which set a forest on fire and alerted the Gestapo to the location of his group of Maquis fighters
    • René Char as quoted in René Char: This Smoke That Carried Us: Selected Poems (2004) edited by Susanne Dubroff,
  • Had all of us in France meekly, lawfully carried out the orders of the German master, no Frenchman could have ever looked another man in the face. Such submission would have saved the lives of many, some very dear to me. But, France would have lost its soul.
    • Commandant le Baron de Vomécourt, as quoted in "What Americans forget about French resistance" by Charles Kaiser, CNN, Atlanta, Georgia. (7 May 2015),
  • 'When Jean Moulin offered his services to Gen. Charles de Gaulle in October 1941, the leader of the Free French based in London accepted with alacrity. Moulin, a former prefect (regional administrator), was the highest-ranking member of the pre-Vichy Third Republic to join de Gaulle’s organization. In addition, Moulin, who had been living in the Vichy zone, possessed knowledge about nacent French Resistance groups and their leaders. In return for money and arms, Moulin proposed to unite the different groups under the Free French banner... He also warned that unless the Free French took action the Resistance would fall under communist influence.
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