The exodus day after day

Photo d'archive : sur les routes de l'exode. 1940

How did events develop from the traumatic exodus of millions of French people to the German Occupation? Follow our thread to chart how these defining events shaped our history.

80 years 5 months ago

23 June 1940.

Adolf Hitler is in Paris. After signing the armistice, the Chancellor of the Reich and Nazi leader carefully stages his visit to the capital. Propagandist photographers and cameramen immortalise the Führer with images taken in front of the Eiffel Tower - the new master of Occupied Paris.

Photo d'archives : Hitler à Paris le 23 juin 1940

80 years 5 months ago

22 June 1940.

The forest of Compiègne. The armistice between France and Germany was signed at exactly the same site as in 1918 in the train carriage in the Rethondes Clearing shown here. Its terms were harsh, the German victor imposed a heavy economic price and carved up French territory into zones. A demarcation line separated the ‘occupied zone’ under German authority from the ‘free zone’ governed by Pétain from Vichy. For Parisians, the armistice marked the end of the exodus.

80 years 5 months ago

18 June 1940.

‘I invite all French people who wish to remain free to listen and follow me’. These were the words of General de Gaulle whose ‘Appeal’ from London called on the French to continue fighting. When he learnt that Maréchal Pétain had been nominated head of government, the future leader of the Free French flew to London. This first speech would become a symbol of the Resistance. 

Affiche ayant suivi l'appel du 18 juin 1940 et reproduisant un texte du général de Gaulle

80 years 5 months ago

17 June 1940.

Jean Moulin is the prefect of Chartres when the Germans enter the city. While their bombs have massacred civilians on the roads, they want to blame these deaths on African soldiers in the French army. Jean Moulin refuses to play a part in this conspiracy. Viciously beaten for refusing to comply, he cuts his own throat out of fear that he might cave in. The future leader of the Resistance will carry the memory of this first battle for the rest of his life. He will get into the habit of hiding his scar with a scarf, such as in this photo sent a few weeks later to reassure his family.

80 years 5 months ago

17 June 1940.

Philippe Pétain, the new head of state, announces that he wants an armistice and that the fighting must stop. His speech leads to the capture of 1, 800, 000 soldiers. Many French people hope  that peace will follow and that that civilians will stop their flightthe exodus will end.

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photo d'archive : portrait du maréchal Pétain

80 years 5 months ago

15 June 1940.

Due to head injuries caused by a bomb, Captain Leclerc is evacuated to Avallon, in Burgundy. As the Germans approach the hospital, he cycles to Paris to evade capture. It marks the start of his long journey towards London and de Gaulle’s Free France.

80 years 5 months ago

14 June 1940.

18 year-old Paul-Charles was last seen in Chartres after getting lost in the crowds of fleeing Parisians. Like him, 90,000 children were lost in the chaos of the exodus, separated from their parents by bombings or because parents handed them over to helpful drivers of passing vehicules who offered lifts.

80 years 5 months ago

14 June 1940.

The Germans enter Paris. They find the capital deserted by its government and two-thirds of its residents. In order to prevent its destruction, it was declared an ‘open city’ where there would be no fighting. 

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aperçu d'une vidéo d'archive de l'INA : les allemands à Paris

80 years 5 months ago

12 June 1940.

The columns of the 2 million or so Parisians who fled were subjected to German bombings and machine gun attacks. No-one was adequately prepared or equipped to deal with the exhaustion and violence they encountered. This child’s picture from the collections of the Musée national de l'Education offers a vivid depiction of what was happening, and is a moving echo of photographic images of events.

80 years 5 months ago

5 June 1940. The Paris exodus has begun.

Struck with fear after the first bombings, Parisians start fleeing the region as soon as they are able to.

80 years 5 months ago

3 June 1940. Paris is bombed.

Parisians lament the deaths of 250 civilians. Villacoublay, Le Bourget and Orly airports are affected as well as buildings in the 15th and 16th arrondissements. The reality of these attacks settles in. War is coming to the capital. 

80 years 5 months ago

27 May 1940. Operation Dynamo is launched.

Faced with the rapid German advance, the British decide to repatriate their soldiers. After battling for 9 days near Dunkirk, nearly 340,000 soldiers were evacuated by the Royal Navy or civilian boats, a third of the soldiers were French. This figure, 7 times higher than expectations, meant that in spite of heavy losses it was morale- boosting for the British. The French, however, were now left alone to face Germany.

80 years 6 months ago

20 May 1940.

For the past week, Belgian refugees have flocked to Paris en masse, in an echo of the spectacle of the Great War. Fed and sheltered, they are quickly sent to the south of France so as not to alarm Parisians.

80 years 6 months ago

18 May 1940.

The situation is serious: the German army has entered France. The "victor of Verdun", Maréchal Pétain, goes into government. His popularity and prestige is reassuring for the French, and does not prepare them for what would happen next.

Portrait du maréchal Philippe Pétain

80 years 6 months ago

14 May 1940. Netherlands capitulate.

4 days into the offensive, 800 deaths in bombed-out Rotterdam bring about the capitulation of the Netherlands. The country comes under Nazi domination while Queen Wilhelmina and her government go into exile in Britain. They were the first of many political figures who would converge on London, which would soon emerge as the capital of European resistance.

80 years 6 months ago

10 May 1940. The ‘phoney war’ is over

There are bombings, ground invasions, airborne operations: the Reich attacks Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. 1.5 million civilians flee hostilities. This mass flight of populations would be the first exodus.