View all copies of this ISBN edition:. Buy New Learn more about this copy. Other Popular Editions of the Same Title. Search for all books with this author and title. Customers who bought this item also bought. Stock Image. New Hardcover Quantity Available: 1. Seller Rating:. New Hardcover Quantity Available: 2. New Quantity Available: 1. WCC Corp. Moorpark, CA, U. Published by Simon and Schuster, N. Booksdoc Ottawa, ON, Canada. The High Command had informed the government — to its amazement — that there was nothing to stop the enemy armored columns from reaching Paris within twenty-four hours.
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The route to Paris is open. Seized by panic, high officials at the French Foreign Office began dumping secret state documents out of the windows to bonfires in the yard below, and the smoke had drifted up the Seine to the nearby Chamber of Deputies, giving its members pause for thoughts about getting away in time. Word spread over Paris, and many citizens hastily departed.
But the German panzer columns had bypassed Paris and raced unimpeded westward to the Channel, cutting off the flower of the French army, all of the Belgian army, and nine of ten divisions of the British Expeditionary Force in Flanders. This had given Paris a respite. No doubt they were thinking of the "miracle" of the Marne that had stopped the onrushing Germans before Paris in the second month of battle in and turned the tide of the whole war. Their successors, Gamelin and Weygand and Georges, were of a different stripe.
The prayers, led by the Cardinal Archbishop of Paris, had not been answered. The Germans, after rounding up the trapped French forces which had not been able, or willing, to get away by sea with the British at Dunkirk — the Belgian army had surrendered unconditionally on May 28 — resumed their offensive on the Somme and Aisne on June 5. The French defenders, now outnumbered two to one and assisted by only one British division, quickly gave way.
By June 9 the enemy armor was close enough to Paris to prompt the government to decide to depart the next evening.
When the Parisians learned of the government's flight they joined it. Between June 9 and 13, when the Germans arrived at the gates of the city, two million Parisians, men, women, and children, took off in utter panic toward the south, packing a few belongings on the roofs of their small cars or on the racks of motorcycles or bicycles or in baby carts, peddler's carts, wheelbarrows, or in any wheeled contrivance they could lay a hasty hand on, for many were on foot.
They had no idea of their destination; they wanted only to keep out of the clutch of the Germans, who under Hitler's brutal rule were rumored to be even more barbarian than the Germans of Kaiser Wilhelm II, who had shot so many hostages when they overran Belgium and northern France in No provision for food, drink, and lodging had been made for so many suddenly uprooted millions.
The authorities had not foreseen such a massive and pitiful exodus.
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At night these desperate people, when they were not on the move, slept in their cars or in the fields. By day they scrounged for food where they could find it and sometimes pillaged. The towns and villages through which they inched their way on the jammed roads were usually emptied of their own dwellers, who, in a sort of chain reaction, had joined the first column of refugees that appeared, so that the food stores and bakeries were closed or their shelves empty.
Collapse Of the Third Republic
A few peasants along the route dispensed food and even water, sometimes at a highly profitable price, but this was but a drop in the bucket. In Paris we heard from returning correspondents of this frightened, leaderless swarm of citizenry fleeing down the roads so choked with traffic and so snarled that even when the gasoline held out and the overheated motors continued to revolve, a man was lucky to make twenty-five or thirty miles in twenty-four hours in a car packed tight with the members of his family and bulging with baggage roped down on the roof under a mattress to protect, it was somehow hoped, against bombs from the sky.
For the German Luftwaffe, which first had terrorized the French troops, was now bombing civilian refugees, especially those crowding the approaches to bridges and crossroads, which might have been military objectives had they been defended by French soldiers. For a week the German aviators had been joined by the Italians, who seemed to the terror-stricken refugees to outdo the Germans in attacking them.
On June 10 Italy had entered the war on the side of Germany and had tried to assault what was left of a stricken France. The Italian army had not had any success for a week, nor would it to the end, against the handful of determined French troops defending the Alpine passes and the entrance to the Riviera. But against the logjams of terrified civilians on the roads the Italians, from the safety of the undefended air, were more successful.
Along the congested thoroughfares French soldiers were now enmeshed with civilians in the wild scramble to keep out of the reach of the pursuing enemy.
The Collapse of the Third Republic: An Inquiry into the Fall of France in 1940
Most of these troops, cut off from their units in the confusion of retreat, had thrown away their arms. They blended quickly into the columns of fleeing refugees. Units that were still intact and armed milled around in the towns or villages or at the approaches to bridges waiting for orders that never came. The President of the Republic, Albert Lebrun, himself fleeing with the government from Tours to Bordeaux on June 14, noted that "the towns and villages are full of idle troops.
What are they doing there, inert, when one needs them so badly elsewhere? By blocking the roads the refugees not only impeded the movement of those troops that did try to move forward to stem the German tide but often held up the retreat of units until they were overrun by enemy armored formations and captured. The General Staff of the French Seventh Army, drawing back from the Seine to the Loire, complained that its "movement has been rendered almost impossible by the afflux of refugees encumbering the roads with their cars and carts.
The villages and crossroads are places of indescribable bottlenecks.
MORE BY WILLIAM L. SHIRER
Most demoralizing of all to army units still trying to fight were the efforts of civilians to prevent them from offering further resistance that might damage their homes and shops. At one village on the River Indre the local inhabitants extinguished the fuses of explosives already lit by army engineers to blow the bridge there and slow down the German advance. French troops digging in at Poitiers were surprised to see the mayor driving out with a white flag to surrender the town to the Germans.
He was backed by the inhabitants, who had threatened to tear down the barricades erected by the soldiers. French civilians, like so many of the troops, had no more stomach for the fighting that had started only a month before. Perhaps it made little difference now. The remaining French armies that had tried to stand on the Somme and Aisne and then along the Seine and Marne had either been chewed to pieces by German tanks or were in disorderly retreat toward the Loire and upper Seine east of Paris.
On June 11 General Alphonse Georges, commanding the collapsing front, estimated he had left the equivalent of only thirty divisions — out of sixty in line the week before — from the sea to the beginning of the Maginot Line, and they were exhausted from trying to fight by day and retreat by night.
On June 12 the great Maginot Line of fortifications in the east, which had not been penetrated by the enemy, was abandoned on the orders of General Weygand. But the move came too late, and four days later the , retreating fortress troops were encircled by the Germans. The government itself was in disarray.
There was only one antiquated telephone in each castle usually in the downstairs toilet , none of them in good working order and each connected only with the nearest village, where the operator insisted on taking off the customary two hours for lunch and closing down at 6 P. There was little communication between the cabinet ministers and none at all with the outside world.
Paul Baudouin, Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs, who was in charge of the displaced Foreign Office, found his only source of news in a portable field radio which the British Ambassador had thought to bring along. He knows nothing.
THE COLLAPSE OF THE THIRD REPUBLIC by William L. Shirer | Kirkus Reviews
Foreword, Prologue, 1. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. The Collapse of the Third Republic Cover of the first edition. Shirer, Author, Is Dead at 89". New York Times. Retrieved 8 April Works of William L. Categories : books Books by William L. Namespaces Article Talk. Views Read Edit View history. In other projects Wikiquote.