Descartes: French Resistance and the Demarcation Line

When France signed L’Armistice on  June 22, 1940 the Germans set up a whole series of measure to limit the circulation of the people, goods and the postal traffic between two zones either side of the ‘Demarcation Line’ which separated the Free France Zone of the Vichy government and the zone occupied by the Germans.

The demarcation of France, 1940-43

The Demarcation Line crossed thirteen departments: Basses-Pyrénées (Pyrénées-Atlantiques), Landes, Gironde, Dordogne, Charente, Vienne, Indre-et-Loire, Loir-et-Cher, Cher, Allier, Saône-et-Loire, Jura, Ain.

During July 1940, the German military command was installed in Indre-et-Loire (Touraine)and a number of local Châteaux were requisitioned by German officer staff.

The local resistance network organised the escape of many people towards the free zone. The line was supervised by a number of unenthusiastic troops of Wehrmacht. After Nazi Germany’s declaration of war with the USSR, these troops are replaced by customs officers and passage across the line become much more difficult and sometimes dangerous. At the end of 1940 the line was moved northwards and passed to within a few hundred meters of La Haye-Descartes.

Pierre Renard was a member of the local resistance who undertook to cross into the southern zone to assist the escape of escaped prisoners of war, allied pilots and aircrew whose craft had been shot down and also escaping Jewish people. Andre Goupille, who lived in Descartes and was a veterinary surgeon in Grand Pressigny worked with his wife, Jeanne, their 4 children and close relations, it ensure safe passage for both escaping prisoners of war and civilians enabling them  to change zones. Odette Métais and Lucien Marchelidon also belonged to the same network as the Renard family.

People had different  motivations for assisting  passage across the Demarcation Line. Some did so for purely political resistance reasons while others did so for the money they could charge. Not everyone who wanted to pass over the line were escaping Nazi persecution. Some people merely wanted to attend a marriage ceremony, or visit friends or relations. Such people would visit the cafes and hotels in the town and meet up with the local ‘people runners’ who had a list of charges for their services.  There were a number of runners (Andre Goupille says they were very few) who made it very expensive for Jews to make their difficult and dangerous escape across the line. Lastly, there were some which did not accept anything from those that they assisted.

The demarcation line only disappeared on March 1, 1943, several months after the total occupation of France, on November 11, 1942. The actions of the local resistance was then to take another turn .

Source:  Andre Goupille, My village under the Boot.

About Jim McNeill

I am a blogger on 'The Social History of the Touraine region of France (37)' and also 'The Colonial History of Pennsylvania and the life & Family of William Penn'. I am a Director of Fresh Ground Group Ltd.
This entry was posted in Descartes/La Haye, Grand Pressigny, Resistance in the Touraine Region, World War II and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Descartes: French Resistance and the Demarcation Line

  1. Pingback: Liberation celebrations, Descartes, 1944 | Social history in the Touraine ~ Central France

  2. Pingback: Descartes: French Resistance and the Demarcation Line | Social … - -

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s