Occupation and liberation

  • Theme - WW1, WW2 & Military
  • Year - 1945
  • Location - Rouen
  • Filmmaker - Yves Le Bihan


To see more films of Upper Normandy, please visit the website of our cross channel partner, Pole Image Haute-Normandie at www.archivesenligne.fr

"The small town during the time of the Germans, then the liberators arrived. General views of the town, then the streets which are practically deserted, except for the factions of German soldiers goose-stepping through. There is a long queue at the deli. And once more, streets without any people, except for German soldiers. Then, a tank manoeuvres, as it tries to make a U-turn, carts and German soldiers on bikes who seem anxious to leave. Away from the white smoke of the bombings, and in the sky, a path etched out by the bombs. Youngsters look to the sky. Jubilation, the French flag is brought out to welcome the allies. Soldiers come to a standstill in the fields, chatting with the locals. Tanks pass through the Normandy countryside.

In the town, a crowd gathers on the side of the street to greet the liberators. Windows are decorated. They smile, greeting soldiers with the victory V sign. An extraordinary image and staging shows an allied tank driving over a picture of Hitler which has been intentionally placed on the ground. A soldier chews on some gum. A young boy is proud to be surrounded by American or Canadian soldiers. There are so many trucks in the village that there's a traffic jam. At the station, many people wait on the platform, a train has arrived.

""Victory Day 9th May 1945"" The brass band plays, people are cheering, firefighters are in front, children follow. The American flag hangs alongside the French flag in people’s windows. Then there is another celebration, “the Liberation Anniversary 26th August 1945”. There's a large crowd outside the church, the brass band plays enthusiastically. On the parade floats there are signs such as “Free at last, thank you” or “France is reborn thanks to the work of its children” or even “Nach London” crossed out and replaced by “Nach Berlin”. Children, adults, men, women, everyone marches. Children play, trying to catch food suspended from a wire with their hands tied behind their backs – such images are rather funny. The film ends with a sack race. "

* Life for the French became more and more difficult during the four years of the occupation. Many items were rationed, especially clothes, coal and food (ticket system). The occupiers prohibited movements after 22:00, confiscated radios, controlled newspaper content, sent those opposing the occupation and Jews to concentration camps. Those from Rouen and Le Havre, amongst others, also suffered regular bombings by the English, aimed at destroying the Nazi facilities, but which actually ended up also destroying their homes. When the sirens sounded, people sought refuge in uncomfortable shelters. Evacuations were arranged, and in Le Havre, the Mayor evacuated children from 1942-1943 to other areas which seemed safer, in Eure or Lower Normandy

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