Limoges – French Resistance Museum

Limoges has a museum which is dedicated to the history of the French resistance during the Second World War, so a visit here was essential for me. This was part of the free entry on the first Sunday of the month arrangement which Limoges has, which was most agreeable.

I’m not normally one for audio guides, but as I knew the entire exhibition was in French, I thought it’d be useful. It cost €2, but since entrance was free of charge, I considered that a reasonable deal. The audio guide proved really useful, the numbering system was clear to follow throughout and I would have missed out if I hadn’t have got it.

A map of the French defences in Limoges towards the beginning of the Second World War.

The next section of the museum explains how the French Government split into wanting to enter into negotiations with Germany, and those who wanted to fight to defend the country. The end result was the free zone of France and the occupied zone, with the former being known as Vichy France, led by Philippe Pétain.

This poster was produced by Charles de Gaulle and encouraged French to stand up and fight for the country. At the time the French Government, known as the government in exile, was based in London and most of the posters were distributed in England.

The agreement that Philippe Pétain made to keep part of France free is now seen as highly controversial. Philippe Pétain was imprisoned for treason after the end of the Second World War, and narrowly avoided execution. One of the concessions made by Pétain was to enact anti-Jewish legislation, and the above photo is one French Jew who was sent to a concentration camp.

The political situation in France was inevitably very difficult to justify to the people, so there was a poster campaign to try and defend the regime. One way of doing that was to present the conflict as being a combined one against the spreading of communism from the Soviet Union.

There were numerous photos of members of the French resistance, who sought to bring down the German military forces.

Members of the French resistance were for a long time not part of a unified group, although they had a similar aim of wanting the liberation of France. They presented a real challenge to the German military, whether by attacking troops or damaging military infra-structure.

Many French men were forced by legislation to go and work in Germany for the war effort. Some of them were sent to concentration camps to do that, with nearly 10,000 Soviet and French slaves worked at the Buchenwald concentration camp.

   

This German plane was brought down by fire in 1944 at the town of Jumeau-le-Grand. It was placed on public display for some time, before being restored and brought to the museum when it opened in the 1980s. To do that, they had to bring it in through the roof. The second photo is of the inside of the aircraft, where the pilot once sat.

Overall, this museum took me around two hours to go through, and even though it was free of charge, there was only one other visitor. The displays were laid out chronologically and gave a really useful history of the work of the French resistance and the wider political system with which they to operate within.