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France in focus

Looking back at the rise of the French Resistance

FRANCE IN FOCUS
FRANCE IN FOCUS © FRANCE 24

This week, we're following in the unmistakable stride of Charles de Gaulle as we mark 80 years since his June 18 appeal to the French people to join the Free French Forces against Nazi occupation. Of course, it was actually from London, on the BBC airwaves, that the general launched his call to action, just four days after victorious German troops paraded down Paris's Champs-Élysées. But while the date is forever ingrained in France's collective memory, the truth is that it didn't immediately play out as hoped.

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Alongside the general, his British ally Winston Churchill gave him and his rebel army of volunteers asylum. And while only a handful of people actually made it across the Channel in immediate response to that fateful appeal, among those who did were all the able-bodied men of the little Breton island of Sein. In recognition, the community was awarded the prestigious Resistance Medal. We find out more about these pathfinders of Free France.

To learn more about the Resistance Medal awarded to these pioneers of the French Resistance, and the significance of such a prestigious accolade, we take you to the Museum of the Order of Liberation, at the Invalides, to meet historian and museum curator Vladimir Trouplin. 

And the Resistance movement also went quite literally underground in the final weeks of combat, some twenty metres below Paris. Curator Sylvie Zaidman tells us more.

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