After the Allied invasion, French resisters were organised as paramilitary 'Forces of the Interior'. This photograph captures a romantic image of a resistance fighter - swashbuckling, confident and well-armed. Yet the image conceals the political and moral ambiguities of resistance, while the children, looking on from the background, remind us of the vulnerability of the civilian population.
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During the Second World War millions were forced to live under foreign occupation. They faced hard choices between resistance, acquiescence or collaboration.
Germany’s early victories subjected much of Europe to Nazi occupation. The experience of occupation varied widely between and within national populations. Jews faced persecution across Europe, while abduction to forced labour was widespread. Resistance could range from guerrilla warfare or sabotage, to distributing anti-Nazi literature. Resistance was extremely hazardous; reprisals were brutal and indiscriminate. Some chose to collaborate, co-operating with and even joining German armed forces. After liberation, social status could be profoundly affected by a person’s choice to resist or collaborate.
The Japanese portrayed their occupation of south-east Asia as liberation from colonisation. It was nonetheless brutal, seeing European civilians interned, abductions for forced labour and victimisation of communities.
For the Allies, resistance movements provided saboteurs and vital intelligence. Britain’s Special Operations Executive and the American Office of Strategic Services smuggled agents and equipment into occupied areas. These operations, often supporting groups with particular political or national aspirations, created post-war political ambiguities.
Final Stages of the German War: Briançon: this sector was held by men of the Maquis, aborted into the 1st French Army, 1945, by Anthony Gross. In early 1945, the War Artist's Advisory Committee sent Gross to draw the main crossing points of the Allied armies along the frontier from Nice to Hannover. In February, Gross travelled to the South of France by train then hitch-hiked northwards via the Alps. Among the French First Army he encountered on his way were the Chasseurs Alpins standing guard in Briancon, Menton and Mont Blanc.