WWII French consular stamps
The various forms used during the war.
One of the most profound and traumatic events of the war was the German invasion of France and collapse of the country after several weeks. The country fell under brutal German occupation that lasted for 4 years.
The country, the section that was under direct German control known as the German military administration in occupied France (Militärverwaltung in Frankreich in German), constituted of the north and western sections of formally the Third Republic, while the south and eastern sections was called “Zone Libre”, a notorious fascist anti-Semitic puppet state with the capital at Vichy. This so-called collaborative state acted horrendously towards its own Jewish civilians, first by legislating vile and degrading anti-Jewish measures, then later by assisting the Germans in having them deported to transit camps and later on to their death in the various death camps situated in occupied Poland. After the German full invasion and occupation of the puppet state in the end of 1942, the original occupied part of France by the Germans was called Zone Nord while the former Vichy Sate was termed Zone Sud (following the Allied invasion into French North Africa in what was is known as Operation Torch).
During the period of the occupation, the various French diplomatic missions and legations throughout the Allied and neutral countries went through several changes in their definition and terminology: though France did not exist as a free state anymore, its consulates and embassies abroad where under different titles up to the liberation of Paris on August 25th 1944.
For example, after the fall of France, the government in exile based in London and represented the French abroad was termed Free France (France Libre) and Franc Free Forces (Forces françaises libres), led by Charles de Gaulle. Late October saw the forming of the Empire Defense Council (Conseil de défense de l’Empire) with the aim of controlling and ruling of the French territories and colonies abroad. The councils name changed on September 24th 1941 to French National Committee (Comité national français (CNF)) and again after reclaiming the North African colonies from Vichy puppet state in late 1942, to French Committee of National Liberation (Comité français de Libération national (CFNL)).
The Free French fought the Axis and the Vichy armed troops in every battle field during the war: be it in North Africa, Middle East and in the Far East, in Indochina as well. Free French units served in almost all of the Allied armies: in the British & Soviet Air force and more.
Provisional Government of the French Republic was established in June of 1944, just before Operation Overlord, or as it is well known as D-Day or the Invasion of Normandy. This interim government of Free France lasted from 1944 to 1946, with the proclamation of the Fourth French Republic.
As mentioned earlier, it succeeded the French Committee of National Liberation, and now the government’s temporary capital was situated in Algiers (June 3rd – August 31st 1944); this is also the location where the re-establishing of Soviet-French diplomatic ties that were severed following the German invasion of the USSR in 1941 took place; see previous related article.
For this article I have added several images from various passports bearing the above mentioned different terminology used for the French diplomatic missions abroad during the war.
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