Vichy France, Vichy Regime, Vichy Government, or simply Vichy are common terms used to describe the government of France which collaborated with the Axis powers from July 1940 to August 1944, during the Second World War. It officially called itself the French State (État Français) and was headed by Marshal Philippe Pétain, who proclaimed the government following the 1940 allied defeat against Axis Powers.
The Vichy regime maintained some legal authority in the northern zone of France (the Zone occupée), which was occupied by the German Wehrmacht, but was most powerful in the unoccupied southern “free zone”, where its administrative centre of Vichy was located.
In November 1942 the southern zone was also occupied and fully subjected to German rule.
The Milice française (French Militia), generally called simply Milice, was a paramilitary force created on January 30, 1943 by the Vichy Regime, with German aid, to help fight the French Resistance. The Milice’s formal leader was Prime Minister Pierre Laval, though its chief of operations, and operating leader, was Secretary General Joseph Darnand. It participated in summary executions and assassinations, and helped round up Jews and résistants in France for deportation. It was the successor to Joseph Darnand’s Service d’ordre légionnaire (SOL) militia.
The Milice frequently resorted to torture to extract information or confessions from those whom they rounded up. They were often considered more dangerous to the French Resistance than the Gestapo and SS because they were Frenchmen who spoke the language fluently, had a much more extensive knowledge of the towns and land, and knew people and informers.
The Maquis (French pronunciation: [maˈki]) were the predominantly rural guerrilla bands of the French Resistance. Initially they were composed of men who had escaped into the mountains to avoid conscription into Vichy France’s Service du travail obligatoire (STO) to provide forced labour for Germany. In an effort to escape capture and deportation to Germany, what had started as loose groups of individuals became increasingly organized; initially fighting only to remain free, these bands eventually became active resistance groups.
Originally the word came from the kind of terrain in which the armed resistance groups hid, the type of high ground in southeastern France covered with scrub growth.Although strictly meaning thicket, maquis could be roughly translated as “the bush”.
Members of those bands were called maquisards. The term became an honorific that meant “armed resistance fighter”. The Maquis have come to symbolize the French Resistance. They helped British agents in sabotage, spying, and misinformation.