Everyday life in the Charente under the Occupation

• German troops entered Angoulême on Monday 24th June 1940. They were billeted in schools and most public buildings. The victors paraded in the streets and the swastika flag flew over the town hall.

• The Gestapo has its headquarters in the "Villa Mon Désir" before moving to 23 avenue Wilson.

• The German military administration was installed with the Feldkommandatur 749 in Angoulême and Kommandaturs in Cognac, Mansle and Ruffec. The de facto government put in place its own structures which controlled the administration and reduced the prerogatives of the elected representatives. On 29th March 1941 the County Councils were suspended.

• The demarcation line cut the Charente in two unequal parts from north to south. communications with the "free zone", roughly speaking the Confolens area, were very limited. Telegrams sent by the administration and by private individuals were monitored. Frontier posts and a customs cordon ran parallel to the demarcation line. The Germans, who controlled 14 crossing points, demanded a pass. Crossing the demarcation line clandestinely was severely punished.

• Everyday life for inhabitants of the Charente in the "occupied zone" was hindered by a multitude of bans and restrictions :

- food rationing on 28th September 1941 with the appearance of ration tickets.

- strict limitations on travelling : vehicle movements were controlled, bicycles had to have registration numbers, opening hours of public buildings were restricted.

- electricity was rationed and requisitioning was introduced (fodder).

- various bans (hunting was forbidden, dances were strictly controlled, outdoor photographs and even the production of pastries were banned, demonstrations in cinemas, meetings and parades were prohibited).



Nazi and Vichy government propaganda

• German propaganda and the "National Revolution" extolled by Vichy were relayed at a local level by political parties with close ties to the Vichy government or national socialist ideology such as the "Parti Populaire Français" or the "Rassemblement National Populaire"; paramilitary organisations such as the "Légion des Volontaires Français contre le Bolchevisme" and the "Service d'Ordre Légionnaire" or by organisations aimed at young people such as "Les Jeunes du Maréchal". ».

• Propaganda was also spread through conferences aimed at informing the population of the "dangers" of the freemasons, Jews, communism and, later, Gaullism

• Propaganda and censorship maintained public ignorance of the reality of the war which was revealed to a few through information broadcast by radio from London, tracts dropped by parachute and clandestine newspapers.




Racial policy and Deportation

• In October 1940, a law was promulgated to determine the status of Jews and to exclude them from a number of professions.

• The de facto government gradually put in place anti-Jewish legislation by introducing a special curfew and by obliging all Jews to wear a yellow star on 1st June 1942.

•These humiliating measures were succeeded in 1942 by the plan for massive deportations which aimed at exterminating all Jews in France.

• In the Charente, to where many Jewish families had moved at the start of the war, the racial policy appeared with the internment of gypsies in the camp at Alliers followed by the arrest of Jews in the summer of 1942. Then came the roundups which led to the deportation camps : on 8th October 1942, 325 Jewish people were gathered together in Angoulême, taken to Drancy and then deported. Other arrests followed.

• Several hundred people from the Charente underwent the worst forms of suffering and many died in the concentration camps.



Compulsory Work Service (S.T.O.)

• In order to replace the thousands of soldiers sent to fight on the Russian front, Germany demanded that occupied countries supply the labour necessary to keep its factories running. de ses usines.

• In October 1941 a census was started of all unemployed young people aged from 17 to 21, heralding the "relief" and then Compulsory Work Service (STO).

• The system of "relief" of prisoners of war by French workers was not sufficient to meet German requirements. This is why, in September 1942, the Vichy government introduced Compulsory Work Service (STO) for men aged 18 to 50 and for women aged 21 to 35. Nazi Germany needed manpower from the occupied countries to continue its war effort. (laws of 4th September 1942 and 16th February 1943).

• Conscription of manpower was organised systematically. 3,581 people from the Charente went to Germany in this way.

•The refractaires (people opposed to compulsory work service) took refuge in farms or with friends and soon swelled the ranks of the maquis.



Civil and military resistance in the Charente

• The Occupation produced several attitudes within the population : an attitude of passivity, sometimes of collaboration with the occupying forces, or, on the contrary, revolt which was soon transformed into Resistance, at first individual and then collective.

• Among the first acts of Resistance in the Charente may be noted the courageous act carried out in Angoulême in September 1941 by two young people : Jean-Jacques RIVIERE and Gontran LABREGERE who tried to set fire to a stock of straw at the railway station in Angoulême. Gontran LABREGERE, who was shot on 12th October 1941, was the first victim of nazi repression.

• Clandestine crossings of the demarcation line were organised in 1941 by Jean LAPEYRE-MENSIGNAC and René CHABASSE

• In 1942 and 1943, civilian resistance against the oppressor was rapidly organised.

• The introduction of STO at the end of 1942 encouraged many young people, opposed to this service for Germany, to join movements of, the Résistance Intérieure Française (French Internal Resistance) or networks of France Libre of General de Gaulle, or English and Americans ones (Intelligence, escape, action networks)



Civil and military resistance in the Charente (con't 1)

• The Charente was cut in two by the demarcation line and came under the influence of two regions : Bordeaux (zone B) in the "occupied zone" and Limoges (region R5) in the "free zone".

•In the "occupied zone", the most important movement was the Civil and Military Organisation (OCM), whereas in the "free zone" the greatest influence was that of the "Front National de Lutte" (National Front for the Struggle), "Combat", "Franc Tireur" (irregulars) and "Libération" which constituted the United Resistance Movements (MUR).

• There were many movements and networks in the Charente. Among them may be mentioned the "B.O.A." (Bureau of Aerial Operations) of René CHABASSE, the "B.C.R.A." (Central Bureau for Intelligence and Action) which organised France into a number of military regions and which sent to the Charente, in November 1943, Claude BONNIER, alias Hypoténuse, the Regional Military Representative (DMR) for B region and his assistant, lieutenant Jacques NANCY, the future organiser of the Special Sabotage Section (SSS).



Civil and military resistance in the Charente (con't 2)

• Claude BONNIER became the indispensable reorganiser of the Resistance in the south-west. Jacques NANCY participated in the arming and sabotage training of resistance groups in the Charente, Charente-Maritime and the Bordeaux area.

• Mention may also be made of the Résistance Fer (railways), Résistance PTT (post office), la Résistance de Sapeurs Pompiers (firemen) which often carried out a perilous liaison between the different organisations and the Maquis.

• from 1943 onwards, armed organisations formed by the maquis began to emerge. On 1st February 1944 the latter officially became the FFI (Forces Françaises de l'Intérieur). General KOENIG became the national chief in March 1944.

•The main maquis in the Charente at this time were [1]:

•- the maquis AS at Brigueuil (from 1/6/43 to 7/12/43)

•- the Special Sabotage Section (SSS) of Jacques NANCY (from 8/1/44 to 1/9/44)

•- the maquis AS 18 BIR-HACHEIM of André CHABANNE (from 1/1/44 to 1/9/44)

•- the maquis FTPF BRICOUT-BERNARD-LELAY (from 25/11/43 to 1/9/44)

•- the maquis AS 15 FOCH (from 1/6/44 to 1/9/44)

•- the autonomous sabotage group (from 1/7/44 to 1/9/44)

•- Charente south zone (from 20/8/43 to 1/7/44)

[1] Combat periods recognised by the Ministry of Defence




Civil and military resistance in the Charente (con't 3)

• The strength of the maquis in the Charente rose rapidly from 1943 to 1944, rising from about a dozen men to several thousand by June-July 1944.

• The Charente maquis were linked to one or other of the two great armed organisations of the Resistance : the Armée secrète (AS), whose first national leader was general DELESTRAINT, represented in the Charente by colonel PENCHENAT and then by André CHABANNE - founder of the maquis AS 18 BIR-HACHEIM -; the R.T.P.F. (Francs Tireurs et Partisans Français) (French Irregulars and Partisans), whose regional chief was BRICOUT with Bernard LELAY in the Charente who directed the F.T.P.F at Pressac Chabanais.

• An "Inter-allied Mission" : the Mission Jedburg Team Ian no. 6 supervised the action the maquis in the Charente. This mission, which was sent to the Charente by Allied GHQ in June 1944, was composed of an American commander, GILDEE, a French captain, DESFARGES, alias DELORME, and an American radio operator, BOURGOIN, and was attached to the maquis AS 18 BIR-HACHEIM of colonel André CHABANNE.



German reprisals and Liberation

• 1944 was the year when the course of events changed and hope was reborn

• The Resistance in the Charente paid dearly for its victories : searches, arrests, death sentences, executions and deportations continued. On 15th January 1944, nine resistants were executed in the forest at La Braconne, including Francis LOUVEL, Armand JEAN and Amédée BERQUE.

• On 9th February 1944, Claude BONNIER, the regional military representative (DMR) was arrested in Bordeaux. He committed suicide by biting on a cyanide capsule to avoid revealing anything under torture.

• On 21st February 1944, René CHABASSE was executed while trying to escape after being arrested.

• On 5th March 1944, Marcelle NADAUD, a nursery school teacher, was arrested and then deported for acts of Resistance.

• This was the year of decisive combats by the Resistance which led to the Liberation of Angoulême on 31 August but it was also the year of German reprisal columns burning and killing. A first column descended on Chasseneuil on 22nd March : 100 people were arrested. Among them, 33 resistants were shot at Biard, near Poitiers, on 8th May 1944.






German reprisals and Liberation (cont'd 1)

• At the same time, the resistants were better armed thanks to Allied parachute drops and better organised thanks to the National Resistance Council (CNR) but also more numerous and motivated by the Allied landing on 6th June 1944. The French Resistance deployed all its means, albeit limited, to disrupt the enemy and to delay the arrival of German reinforcements from the south-west of France.

• As of July, the Germans were no longer able to use the route Angoulême - Limoges. The villages in the Confolens area were liberated one after another. Acts of sabotage and attacks on convoys as planned by the "Green Plan" increased in number : 200 trains in the Vienne and the Charente were thus immobilised and about a hundred attacks on German convoys and engagements disorganised the enemy.

• The German troops, harassed by an unpredictable enemy and at a loss, retaliated with terrible reprisals.




German reprisals and Liberation (cont'd 2)

• Mention must be made of the passage of the Division Das Reich on 10th June 1944 at Oradour-sur-Glane (in the Haute-Vienne, not far from the eastern limit of the Charente) which carried out an atrocious massacre in which 642 inhabitants died, including the entire school and their teacher.

• In July and August, two German columns with Milice reinforcements searched for the maquis in the Confolens area and led a reign of terror, burning farms, hamlets, shooting many civilians and maquisards in the region of Marthon, Champagne-Mouton, Ambérac, Confolens and Chabanais. Even though these reprisal columns counted 500 to 600 German soldiers and French Milice, they failed in their attempt to destroy the maquis : the second column was halted by the Special Sabotage Section under Jacques NANCY and had to return to Angoulême (25th July 1944);as for the third (from 26th July to 3rd August), it forced the maquis FOCH into a retreat at Ambernac but was halted by the FTPF of colonel Bernard LELAY at Chabanais and had to retreat into the Vienne. Result of this last offensive : 130 houses pillaged and burned, 20 maquisards and 13 civilians killed.



German reprisals and Liberation (cont'd 3)

• In August 1944, the objective was the liberation of the county and 2,000 better-armed men were making preparations. From 15th August 1944 the various maquis began to gather round Angoulême : from the north came the maquis Bignac, Foch and Bir-Hacheim; from the east came the FTPF; from the south came the AS 5 Dordogne North, which brought together notably the SSS under Jacques NANCY and the RAC Brigade; from the west, the maquis from Barbezieux, Armelle, Cognac and a group from Tarbes. Fighting began on 31st August at 6 p.m. and Angoulême was liberated that same evening.

• On 1st September a new town council was put in place, changing from the Vichy administration to the Republic. The resistants were maintained, reintegrated, promoted, supporters of the Vichy government were suspended, pensioned off, dismissed. The liberation of Angoulême cost the lives of 42 maquisards.

• In October, the first deportees and prisoners began to return home.

• Fighting continued on the Atlantic front, then in Germany until 8th May 1945. On 3rd and 4th September 1944, part of the Bir-Hacheim regiment, the RAC Brigade, the SSS and parts of the maquis FTP Bernard began to move towards the Atlantic front.



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