Travel Guides Crafted by Experienced Archaeologists & Historians

World War II & the Holocaust in France

Following Germany’s invasion of Poland in 1939, France was one of the first to immediately declare war on Germany. Despite having a large and well-equipped army, France was quickly defeated by Germany in 1940, leading to the establishment of a collaborationist regime led by Marshal Philippe Pétain. Resistance movements within France fought against both the collaborationist government and the German occupation, with notable figures such as Charles de Gaulle leading the Free French Forces. Many thousands of Jews, homosexuals and Roma were rounded up in internment camps in France, and sent to death camps in the east. France was liberated by the Allies in 1944 and played a significant role in the remainder of the war, including the Normandy landings and the liberation of Paris.

World War II & the Holocaust in Paris

Paris is not widely thought of as a destination where visitors can explore the stories of World War II. For a start, the city itself was not as visibly marked and dramatically scarred by the war as many other European cities were. More significantly, and for understandable reasons, the French capital tends to be overlooked for the D-Day Beaches. Perhaps most visitors know that Paris was occupied by the German Third Reich from 14 June 1940 to 25 August 1944. Few are aware, however, that beyond a few memorials and museums Paris has a number of poignant landmarks that tell the many, varied stories of a city under siege and an occupied nation’s complicity in the Holocaust.

World War II & Holocaust Sites & Museums in France

Petit Mont Chambered Tomb & WWII Bunker

The cairn of Petit Mont is thought to be one of the most significant chambered tombs in Brittany. Although this is for all intents and purposes a ‘Neolithic site’, from about 6,600 years ago, it is an excellent example of how monuments constructed in one period are re-used in subsequent periods. Artefacts recovered during excavations show that this site was also in use during the Bronze Age and the Gallo-Roman period. But the most obvious evidence of re-use is the typical German bunker built into the cairn in 1943.