France was occupied by Germany from May 1940 through December 1944, when the Germans were forced to retreat by advancing Allied forces. There were 49 concentration camps in France during the occupation, and Jewish citizens were required to wear the infamous yellow badge. In July 1942, more than 13,000 Jewish residents in Paris were victims of a mass arrest by the pro-Nazi French authorities and transported to Auschwitz.
World War II was so globally encompassing and the death tolls so massive that no one knows with certainty how many military personnel and civilians perished. Estimates range that between 50-70 million men, women and children lost their lives. In the former Soviet Union alone, the count exceeded 20 million human beings. The numbers are, of course, staggering and necessitate more than a pause to try and comprehend. Almost equally difficult to imagine are the conditions in which so many lived. There were extreme shortages of basic resources, countless families displaced and separated, mourning for fallen loved ones, and suffering by those who were tortured and wounded.
French Victory Day – National Holiday
More than a half-century later, it all seems impossible. Which makes it all the more important to never to forget. Charles De Gaulle announced the official end of World War II to the French people seventy years ago today and made French Victory Day a national holiday. All government services and most businesses are closed, and rows of French and European flags line the streets of Aix-en-Provence, including the Cours Mirabeau, in remembrance.
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