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Eighty years ago, Stalin extends the joys of Marxist rule to some lucky ex-Rumanians as Marshal Petain sets out his vision for a new France

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Stalin rounded off the latest leg in his programme of territorial expansion which had begun with the seizure of the Baltic republics during June whilst attentions in the west was still dominated by the German conquest of France. Britain and France had issued a guarantee to Rumania in the aftermath of Germany’s occupation of the rump of Czechoslovakia in March 1938 as part of the diplomatic offensive that included the guarantee to Poland that had led the allies to declare war on Germany. This guarantee was no longer worth anything and Stalin simply told Bucharest that he wanted Bessarabia and the north of Bukovina. Everything that Rumania had gained from fighting with the allies in the First World War was lost in two days.The British government recognised General de Gaulle as the leader of “all free French” people without defining precisely quite who these were. The British declared they would give de Gaulle their full support. In the meanwhile, Marshal Pétain, who led the unfree Frenc…

Eighty years ago, Hitler celebrates triumph over France in two stages but one is oddly perfunctory

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Hitler celebrated Germany’s triumph over France by staging a mirror image of the 1918 armistice talks that had brought the First World War to an end in German defeat. The railway carriage in which the armistice had been signed was returned to the same spot in the same clearing in the forest at Compiègne. The procedure was almost the same: the terms were set out to the delegates of the vanquished who then signed them; there was no serious discussion. Hitler sat in the same chair as Marshal Foch had done, gloating over his defeated enemies before departing abruptly, leaving juniors to accomplish the formalities.According to the preamble to the armistice Germany was not seeking to use armistice or peace talks to humiliate France, as the allies had done to Germany at Versailles. In reality the terms of the armistice were far more severe than the 1918 edition. Germany was to occupy all of northern France including Paris and its whole western seaboard, more territory than the Wehrmacht had …

Eighty years ago, the Battle of France ends in utter defeat and an act of heroic resistance

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After less than forty days the Battle for France came to an end with the total defeat of the allies. It was the most decisive and rapid conclusion to any conflict between major European powers of modern times. It was an utter humiliation of Britain and France, leaving left Germany dominant on mainland Europe with the dubious assistance of Italy.The French army had withdrawn from the defence of Paris, allowing the Wehrmacht to march in unopposed. The French government had fled to Tours and then to Bordeaux to escape the advancing Germans.Paul Reynaud resigned as prime minister when he was overruled by the Cabinet which wanted peace. He was replaced by Marshal Petain who immediately called for an end to fighting and opened peace talks with Germany and Italy. A short-he British side did not take it specially seriously either; the man charged with working out the details was Sir Horace Wilson, civil service right-hand man to the recently unseated prime minister Neville Chamberlain, whom C…