Maquis (World War II)

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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.

Contents

Meaning

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.[1] Although strictly meaning thicket, maquis could be roughly translated as "the bush"[2].

Members of those bands were called maquisards. Eventually the term became an honorific that meant “armed resistance fighter.” The Maquis have come to symbolize the French Resistance.

Operations

Most maquisards operated in the mountainous areas of Brittany and southern France, especially in the Alps and in Limousin. They relied on guerrilla tactics to harass the Milice and German occupation troops. The Maquis also aided the escape of downed Allied airmen, Jews and others pursued by the Vichy and German authorities. Maquisards usually relied on some degree of sympathy or cooperation from the local populace. In March 1944, the German Army began a terror campaign throughout France. This included reprisals against civilians living in areas where the French Resistance was active. The Maquisards were later to take their revenge in the épuration sauvage that took place after the war's end.[3]

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