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1940: The Exodus

 
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Background History
May-June 1940 : exodus of part of the population of Upper Normandy to the south. End of May- beginning of June 1940 : evacuation before the German menace of French and British troops to England from Dunkerk. 10 June 1940 : to slow the German advance the people of le Havre set fire to the storage facilities of the French Refining Company and the Maritime Industrial Company, in order to deprive the Germans of these petroleum reserves. Similar desperate actions had been conducted the day before at Rouen, with the dynamiting of bridges and burning of the docks, creating spectacular clouds and the first glimpse of chaos. 11 June 1940 : Yvetot is destroyed by the German 25th Panzer regiment, commanded by Rommel. Fortunately the inhabitants had already deserted the town. 18 June 1940 : the Call to Resistance sent out from London by the General de Gaulle. 22 June 1940 : signature of armistice, demanded by Pétain. Churchill and the UK refuse to sign a peace agreement with Germany. France is plunged into a double military and political bankruptcy as the Vichy regime turns its back on the republican ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity and collaborates with the enemy. Many refugees flee before the enemy. At le Havre they try to take to the sea, but several of these boats would be sunk by the enemy, including the cargo ship Niobé with 800 victims. 28 June 1940 : the English recognise de Gaulle as the head of the free French.
Film
Avranches
Film Maker
Fernand Bignon
Year
1940
Format
8 mm, B&W, Silent
Location
Avranches and Gisors
Theme
War
Summary
Exceptional! The war as we have rarely seen it, from aunt Andrée's window, in Avranches! A family is gathered at a relative's place. From the window they film the arrival of many refugees who, like them, have fled the German troops' advance. But they end up by entering the city on the 21st of June. There again, the family watches helplessly as the tanks pass under the windows with closed curtains. All the shops are closed. Later the Germans come past again. They do not know they are being filmed, they are so close under the windows. The family have hidden jewellery and money in disarmed shell cases. They take it out because it is time to leave again. On the way they stop at their friend James' place. They finally get to Gisors, a bombed and ruined city... which they also film from the window of their apartment! An incredible testimony.
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