Printing in Secret

Printing in Secret – The Role of the Clandestine Press in the French Resistance Movement of World War II

Project Team

Michael Driscoll, Jesus Garcia, Lisa Zachary, Kelly Lee



For our research project on the Clandestine Press of the French Resistance, we sought to investigate the following questions: how were print technologies used by the Resistance, in what manner wherethese technologies developed, and what were the effects of underground print media on French national unity. We started off with consulting general background information on the Resistance, then delvedfurther into books, journals, and articles that dealt more specifically with the Clandestine Press. Aside from newspapers, we also found interesting information regarding other literature, such as novels andpoetry, printed during the Resistance.

Our research concentrated on France during World War II, gaining an in-depth view of the French Resistance, and learning about underground print media, especially its production, distribution, andeffect. We pieced together information as to how it began and how the general system operated. We also searched for information that explained how this underground system was able to survive under German rule, finding little substantial information to reach a solid conclusion. Ironically, one of the reasons the French Resistance worked so well was due to their secrecy, and many of their documents havebeen destroyed and lost forever. Furthermore, we wanted to keep our focus narrow, so we avoided including too much information regarding possible punishments for the underground press workers. We did learn that some people had been jailed, executed, exiled, or prohibited from working in the press again.

Regarding our most difficult question, we looked to see what the possible effects of the Clandestine Press might have been. There seems to be no real way to measure its importance, as we saw that many scholars had varying opinions or outright claimed that it was impossible to ascertain. However, by observing the increased circulation patterns and the outcome of war, we conclude that the Clandestine Presswas successful with helping to unite France and spreading vital information regarding the ongoing war.

The research was difficult at times because many sources discussed the movement as a whole, but little information on the Clandestine Press was offered. Considering the fact that the resistance movementswere born and named after the Clandestine Newspapers, we argue that these movements were possibly as important as the Free French forces that fought in war. It was the moral, civil, and political effortsof the people involved in the underground press that made it possible for France to survive and win independence.

As we came to an end, we started to wonder how other types of technologies helped with the movement. There were telecommunications (radio), transport, and power networks which all have playedvital roles. Our questions would lead us to research particularly the radio and the railroad system because they were deeply connected to the distribution of the Clandestine Press. We have also realized thatbooks and articles definitely had limitations in regards to learning about the Clandestine Press. Further information would be gathered by microfilm libraries, learning French, and going to the Museum ofResistance in France.


Albert, Pierre. “The Journalism of the French Resistance”. Freedom Forum. <> July 18th, 2009.

Albert Pierre’s article gave a great account on the history of journalism in France during World War II. It gave exact figures of Clandestine newspaper circulations from the years of 1940 – 1944, along with the aftermath of the journalism market in France. The information on the methods of production and distribution came in most handy to my research. The whole article was actually very useful for me; it provided me with the names of major Clandestine newspapers in which the movements were named after and why the whole thing began. It was a short article that effectively organized the history of journalism during the French Resistance. Overall, the numbers of circulation contributed the most to my research because it gave me an understanding of how widely the Clandestine newspapers were distributed.

Aubrac, Lucie. Outwitting the Gestapo. Nebraska: University of Nebraska, 1993. 122-23

Lucie’s Outwitting the Gestapois a firsthand account of her involvement in the French Resistance during WWII. This book was extremely helpful because it provided an account of the French Resistance from an individual who actually lived through it. Lucie explains how her husband helped found the resistance group Libération Sud. She also gives information about how the resistance groups gathered the necessary funds and equipment to print newspapers and circulate the information. It further expands on the many dangerous that these individuals daily encountered trying to counter Nazi propaganda. Overall, Outwitting the Gestapo provided a comprehensive account of what the French Resistance was comprised of since it was Lucie’s diary during the French Resistance.

Hæstrup, Jørgen. European Resistance Movements, 1939-1945: A Complete History. Westport, CT USA: Meckler Pub., 1981. 201-401.

Hæstrup’s book offers an in-depth look at different resistance movements occurring throughout Europe during World War II. The chapter that was the most useful was “The Home Fronts and the Fronts Abroad,” particularly the sections on “The Illegal Press” and “Politics and Supples: France.” The first section helped explain some functions of the clandestine press, as well as suggesting theimpact it may have had on the French Resistance. The second section helped explain France’s political system and what lead to the development of the Resistance. It also went into depth regarding the background of Germany’s occupation of France. Furthermore, this section helped show France’s significance in the war by giving valuable comparative information, as it delved into resistance movements in other countries during the same time. The comparative approach was very insightful and would be very helpful for further research. Hæstrup consulted over 160 sources in order to compile his work, as well as help from other esteemed historians.

Jackson, Julian. France: The Dark Years, 1940-1944. USA: Oxford University Press. 2003.

This book is a comprehensive study of the German occupation of France in the years between 1940 – 1944. He gives an insightful account of the pre-war and pre-Vichy times all the way to the post-war times. It is divided into V parts; IV being the most important part of the research. Part IV: The Resistance, gives a detailed history of the Clandestine Newspapers, the circulation figures, distribution methods, and its connection to the Free French. It also gave the names of the major Clandestine newspapers and its impact on the population to show the size of the resistance at the end of 1942. It definitely laid out the fact that it is impossible to know how many people read these newspapers. Jackson has carefully examined the nature and scope of the whole movement in its relation to the Clandestine Newspapers.

Kedward, Roderick, and Roger Austin, eds. Vichy France and the Resistance: Culture & Ideology. Totowa, NJ: Barnes & Noble, 1985. 199-240.

This work explored the history of France, from before the occupation until the liberation. One section that was particularly helpful, “The Resistance Experience: Teaching and Resources,” gave general background on clandestine newspapers and some information on how they were able to operate. The chapter also gave a close examination of the Resistance novelLe Silence de la Mer, a famous book that encouraged the French public to show their unity by remaining silent. Also, the chapter “France, Soil, and Language” was also very fruitful for our research. This chapter explored examples of French poetry written during the Resistance, including “Mort à nos ennemis” and “Le temps du beau plaisir.” It focused on the messages shown in such works, as well as breaking them down for further symbolic analysis. The inclusion of the poetry helped give our research a new and different dimension to explore. The book was put together by various scholars from the United Kingdom, Ireland, and France and later edited by Roderick Kedward and Roger Austin. They used many archives to search for primary sources, including the Archives Départementales at Mende.

Sweets, John F. Choices in Vichy France: the French under Nazi Occupation. New York: Oxford UP, 1986. 193-221.

Sweets’ work focuses on the country of France during German occupation. The most relevant chapter for our project was entitled “Resistance and Liberation,” which closely examined the beginnings of the Resistance movement and the attitude that the French had during the war. Sweets focused his research specifically on the city of ClermontFerrand and the Auvergne. The book had a wealth of knowledge regarding the start of the underground press, including major leaders and the first newspapers produced at the time. Information regarding the transport of the papers was also included. Choices in Vichy France: the French under Nazi Occupationdiscussed the probable impact that the clandestine press had regarding the organization of the resistance movement, a topic that is often heavily debated and impossible to fully measure. The book continues on with a historical look at military occurrences in France during the war. For Sweets’ own research, he relied heavily on archival collections to gather his information, including the Archives Départementales du Puy-de-Dôme at Clermont- Ferrand.

Whitcomb, Philip W. France During the German Occupation. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. 1957.

Whitcombe’s chronology of life in France during the war provided a comprehensive source from which we drew the overview of the history of the war in France. The book also discusses some of the censorship policies that were in place during the war, and punishments for those who violated them. Furthermore, the book discusses the established media’s collaboration with the German occupiers in the north and the Vichy government in the southern zone. While the governments’ collaboration with the established media was not the primary focus of our project, it allowed us to analyze and compare the contents of the Resistance papers and the ‘legal’ papers. Unfortunately, Whitcombe did not go into much detail about the production and distribution of the newspapers and books; he seemed to be focusing more on the Vichy and Nazi policies towards the majority of the population who were not directly involved in the Resistance. However, he ultimately proved to be a good resource for the history and policies of the wartime governments.

Wright, Gordon. “Reflections on the French Resistance (1940-1944).”Politcal Science Quarterly77.3 (1962): 336-49. Web. July 2009. <>.

Gordon Wright’s article mainly focused on trying to answer ‘why’ and ‘how’ (if at all) the French Resistance is important to not only France, but perhaps history in general. This article was particularly interesting because its main focus was not so much how the various Resistance groups operated, but more so on the politics involved in France before, during and after the War. It also discusses what kinds of Frenchmen were usually involved in the Resistance and how this could have contributed to the movement. Although, this article focused more on the political and theoretical aspect of the French Resistance, it was still helpful in detailing the circulation of French Resistance newspapers and number of people involved in the Resistance.

Further works looked at

Albert, Pierre. “The Journalism of the French Resistance.”The Freedom Forum. Web. 14 July 2009.< y08.html>.

Atkin, Nicholas. The French at War 1934-1944. New York: Longman, 2002. Print.

Davies, Lizzy. “Ici Londres … Free French Radio Honoured”The Guardian. 21 June 2009. Web. 13 July 2009. < radio>.

“The French Resistance.”History Learning Site. Web. 14 July 2009. <>.

“French Resistance.”Wikipedia. Web. 13 July 2009. <>.

“French Underground During World War II, Communication and Codes: Information from” – Online Dictionary, Encyclopedia and much more. Web. 14 July 2009. <>

Maybee, Bryan. “The French Resistance in World War II.”Associated Content – 02 Oct. 2007. Web. 13 July 2009.<>

Sweets, John F. Politics of Resistance in France, 1940-1944: A History of the Mouvements Unis de la Résistance. Dekalb: Northern Illinois UP, 1976. Print.

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