Located on the second floor of the Falaise Memorial, this first space deals with the period of German Occupation in Normandy.

This part describes the specificity of occupied France: its heavy German military administration, but also the presence of what we now call the “French State”.

All the issues raised by the Occupation are discussed on this floor: the daily life of the French, the repression of the Norman Resistance, the persecution of Jewish populations and even the exodus.

The German Occupation in Normandy

The visit begins with a space that immerses visitors in the twists and turns of occupied France.

Mémorial de Falaise, un musée de site consacré aux civils

As soon as the armistice was signed on June 16, 1940, Hitler set himself the objective of pillaging France. He will do this with all occupied countries.

France, whose army is dissolved, must also pay an exorbitant daily allowance. 

A demarcation line is imposed, dividing France into two large zones, one of which is free. It is impossible to cross this dividing line without a pass – identification card.

The French, traumatized, are preparing to experience a painful tomorrow after demobilization and the return of refugees to their homes.

The administration of the occupied zone is placed under German military command. Together, there are around 140 German women and men out of a French population of 000 million.

During the first months of the Occupation, the image of the soldier being courteous to civilian populations was widely disseminated by propaganda thanks to photos and films taken by the soldiers of the Kompanian Propaganda, like here in Allier, in June 1940. 

However, quickly, the population must fight to feed themselves, trying to live despite unsustainable restrictions and shortages.
For more than 5 years, civilians resisted, endured, suffered: famine, injuries, deprivation...

Daily life

For the vast majority of French people, if the German Occupation is firstly illustrated by the restriction of freedoms, it is also accompanied by difficulties in daily life.

The occupying troops are pillaging French territory of all its resources. The damage caused by the German invasion significantly reduced industrial and agricultural production. Fuel shortages are stranding tractors on farms. Women do most of the work to compensate for the absence of male prisoners.
Finally, France covers the costs of occupying its territory; it must provide room and board to the German troops.

In the fall of 1940, to deal with the shortage, a distribution of ration tickets was put in place.
They grant restricted purchasing rations. Depending on whether you are a man, woman or child, the rations vary between 1200 and 1800 calories. Age and place of residence are also criteria taken into account.

In this context, the black market is inevitable.
Everything can now be negotiated, provided you have the means. The black market will then widen the gap in social inequalities and some will seize this opportunity to enrich themselves.

However, civilian populations in the dark years aspired to lead a “normal” life. This is what the Falaise Memorial illustrates through places that punctuate their daily lives: a cinema, the marshal’s school or even the German employment office.


Crossing this corridor on the second floor, the walls gradually reveal what the repression was like for civilians during the conflict.

Répression à Airan

Upon its arrival in France, the Occupation authority established its own judicial system. At the same time, the Vichy government also equipped itself with a legal arsenal to judge and condemn its opponents. This double repression, of which the Resistance will be one of the main targets, becomes even more effective with the creation of the Militia in January 1943. Tens of thousands of women and men resistance fighters and opponents are victims: arrests, incarceration, torture , executions or deportations to Nazi concentration camps.

Joseph Étienne, known as "Jean", helped by two other leaders of the communist resistance of the Front National du Calvados, twice sabotaged the rails as a train of German leavers passed through Airan in 1942.

Jewish populations were persecuted and subjected to exclusion measures introduced by the Vichy government, then by the German authorities. 65 Jewish women and men and 000 Jewish children will be deported to the extermination camps. Only 11 will survive.

French opinion shifted against the Collaboration, due to anti-Semitic raids, police repression, rationing and the first Allied successes on the front.
Through its sabotage and its intelligence work, the Resistance proved to be of great use to the Allies during the 1944 landings in Normandy and Provence.

On April 16, 1942, measures were taken by the German military authorities in Calvados following the first sabotage of Airan: curfew from 19:30 p.m. to 6 a.m.; bars and cinemas closed at 18 p.m.; sports meetings prohibited. Immediate execution of 20 communists and Jews; 25 more to be added subsequently. Deportation “to the east” of 500, then 1 communists and Jews, if the perpetrators are not arrested within a week.