German military administration in occupied France during World War II
The Military Administration in France was an interim occupation authority established by Nazi Germany during World War II to administer the occupied zone in areas of northern and western France. This so-called zone occupée was renamed zone nord in November 1942, when the unoccupied zone in the south known as zone libre was occupied and renamed zone sud, its role in France was governed by the conditions set by the Second Armistice at Compiègne after the blitzkrieg success of the Wehrmacht leading to the Fall of France. For instance, France agreed that its soldiers would remain prisoners of war until the cessation of all hostilities. Replacing the French Third Republic that had dissolved during France's defeat was the "French State", with its sovereignty and authority limited to the free zone; as Paris was located in the occupied zone, its government was seated in the spa town of Vichy in Auvergne, therefore it was more known as Vichy France. While the Vichy government was nominally in charge of all of France, the military administration in the occupied zone was a de facto Nazi dictatorship.
Its rule was extended to the free zone when it was invaded by Germany and Italy during Case Anton on 11 November 1942 in response to Operation Torch, the Allied landings in French North Africa on 8 November 1942. The Vichy government remained in existence though its authority was now curtailed; the military administration in France ended with the Liberation of France after the Normandy and Provence landings. It formally existed from May 1940 to December 1944, though most of its territory had been liberated by the Allies by the end of summer 1944. Alsace-Lorraine, annexed after the Franco-Prussian war in 1871 by the German Empire and returned to France after the First World War, was re-annexed by the Third Reich The departments of Nord and Pas-de-Calais were attached to the military administration in Belgium and Northern France, responsible for civilian affairs in the 20-kilometre wide zone interdite along the Atlantic coast. Another "forbidden zone" were areas in north-eastern France, corresponding to Lorraine and about half each of Franche-Comté, Champagne and Picardie.
War refugees were prohibited from returning to their homes, it was intended for German settlers and annexation in the coming Nazi New Order. The occupied zone consisted of the rest of northern and western France, including the two forbidden zones; the southern part of France, except for the western half of Aquitaine along the Atlantic coast, became the zone libre, where the Vichy regime remained sovereign as an independent state, though under heavy German influence due to the restrictions of the Armistice and economical dependency on Germany. It constituted a land area of 246,618 square kilometres 45 percent of France, included 33 percent of the total French labor force; the demarcation line between the free zone and the occupied zone was a de facto border, necessitating special authorisation and a laissez-passer from the German authorities to cross. These restrictions remained in place after Vichy was occupied and the zone renamed zone sud, placed under military administration in November 1942.
The Italian occupation zone consisted of small areas along the Alps border, a 50-kilometre demilitarised zone along the same. It was expanded to all territory on the left bank of the Rhône river after its invasion together with Germany of Vichy France on 11 November 1942, except for areas around Lyon and Marseille, which were added to Germany's zone sud, Corsica; the Italian occupation zone was occupied by Germany and added to the zone sud after Italy's surrender in September 1943, except for Corsica, liberated by the landings of Free French forces and local Italian troops that had switched sides to the Allies. After Germany and France agreed on an armistice following the defeats of May and June, Marshal Wilhelm Keitel and General Charles Huntzinger, representatives of the Third Reich and of the French government of Marshal Philippe Pétain signed it on 22 June 1940 at the Rethondes clearing in Compiègne Forest; as it was done at the same place and in the same railroad carriage where the armistice ending the First World War when Germany surrendered, it is known as the Second Compiègne armistice.
France was divided into an occupied northern zone and an unoccupied southern zone, according to the armistice convention "in order to protect the interests of the German Reich". The French colonial empire remained under the authority of Marshall Pétain's Vichy regime. French sovereignty was to be exercised over the whole of French territory, including the occupied zone and Moselle, but the third article of the armistice stipulated that French authorities in the occupied zone would have to obey the military administration and that Germany would exercise rights of an occupying power within it: In the occupied region of France, the German Reich exercises all of the rights of an occupying power; the French government undertakes to facilitate in every way possible the implementation of these rights, to provide the assistance of the French administrative services to that end. The French government will direct all off
Wilhelm Bodewin Johann Gustav Keitel was a German field marshal who served as Chief of the Armed Forces High Command in Nazi Germany during World War II. According to David Stahel, Keitel was "well known and reviled as Hitler’s dependable mouthpiece and habitual yes-man" among his military colleagues. Following the war, Keitel was charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity by the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, he was found guilty, sentenced to death and executed by hanging in 1946. He was the third highest-ranking German officer. Keitel was born in the village of Helmscherode near Gandersheim in the Duchy of Brunswick, the eldest son of Carl Keitel, a middle class landowner, his wife Apollonia Vissering. After he completed his education at gymnasium in Göttingen, his plan to take over his family's estates foundered on his father's resistance. Instead, he embarked on a military career in 1901; as a commoner he did not join the cavalry, but the mounted 46th Lower-Saxon Field Artillery Regiment in Wolfenbüttel, serving as adjutant from 1908.
On 18 April 1909, Keitel married Lisa Fontaine, a wealthy landowner's daughter at Wülfel near Hanover. Together they had six children, his eldest son, Karl-Heinz Keitel, went on to serve as a divisional commander in the Waffen-SS. During World War I, Keitel served on the Western Front with his artillery regiment and took part in the fighting in Flanders, where he was wounded in his right forearm by a shell fragment. Promoted to captain, Keitel recovered, in 1915 was posted to the General Staff of the 19th Reserve Infantry Division, he went on to fight in the First Battle of the Marne, the Battle of Verdun, in the Battle of Passchendaele, being awarded the Iron Cross 2nd and 1st Class. After the war, Keitel stayed in the newly created Reichswehr of the Weimar Republic, an army limited to only 100,000 soldiers, played a part in organizing the paramilitary Freikorps frontier guard units on the Polish border, he served as a divisional General Staff officer of the 6th Prussian Artillery Regiment, taught at the Hanover Cavalry School for two years, from 1923 with the rank of major.
In late 1924, Keitel was transferred to the German Ministry of War in Berlin, serving with the "Troop Office", the post-Versailles disguised German General Staff. Three years he returned to the 6th Prussian Artillery Regiment as commander of the 2nd Department. Now a lieutenant-colonel, he was again assigned to the Ministry of War in 1929 and was soon promoted to Head of the Organizational Department, a post he would hold until Adolf Hitler's Nazi Party took national power in 1933. Playing a vital role in the German re-armament, he traveled at least once to the Soviet Union to inspect secret Reichswehr training camps. In the autumn of 1932, he had a heart attack, complicated by double pneumonia. Shortly after his recovery, Keitel began a tour of duty in October 1933 as deputy commander of the 3rd Infantry Division. Following the death of his father in the spring of 1934, he submitted his resignation so he could tend to his family's estate but was persuaded to retract it upon being given command of the 22nd Infantry Division at Bremen.
In 1935, at the recommendation of General Werner von Fritsch, Wilhelm Keitel was promoted to the rank of major general and appointed chief of the War Ministry's Armed Forces Office, which oversaw the army and air force. After assuming office, Keitel was promoted to lieutenant general on 1 January 1936 and to the rank of full general on 1 August 1937. On 21 January 1938, Keitel received evidence revealing that the wife of his superior, War Minister Werner von Blomberg, was a former prostitute. Upon reviewing this information, Keitel suggested that the dossier be forwarded to Hitler's deputy, Hermann Göring, who used it to bring about Blomberg's resignation. Following Blomberg's dismissal, the War Ministry was replaced by the Supreme Command of the Armed Forces, with Keitel as its chief; as a result of his new appointment, Keitel assumed all the powers and responsibilities of Germany's War Minister, was accordingly given a seat in Hitler's Cabinet. Soon after his promotion, he convinced Hitler to appoint his close friend, Walther von Brauchitsch, Commander-in-Chief of the Army.
For a brief period in October 1938, Keitel became Military Governor of the Sudetenland, but left this post in February 1939 to once again assume command over OKW, where he would remain until the end of the war. Despite his designation as Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces Supreme Command, Keitel held little influence over military operations aside from acting as Hitler's messenger to other members of the German high command. Meanwhile, Göring still retained relative control over the Luftwaffe through the Reich Air Ministry, but Admiral Erich Raeder was unable to convince Hitler to give him autonomy over the navy. During World War II, Keitel was one of the primary planners of the Wehrmacht campaigns and operations on the Western and Eastern fronts. According to Albert Speer's memoirs, nearly all of the field marshals and generals viewed him with disdain for succumbing to Hitler's influence and transforming himself from an "honourable, solidly respectable general" into a powerless yes-man with all the wrong instincts, whose only job was to allow Hitler to take control of the army.
Field Marshal Paul Ludwig Ewald von Kleist labeled him as nothing more than a "stupid follower of Hitler"
The United Kingdom the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, sometimes referred to as Britain, is a sovereign country located off the north-western coast of the European mainland. The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland, many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom that shares a land border with another sovereign state, the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border, the United Kingdom is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to the east, the English Channel to the south and the Celtic Sea to the south-west, giving it the 12th-longest coastline in the world; the Irish Sea lies between Great Ireland. With an area of 242,500 square kilometres, the United Kingdom is the 78th-largest sovereign state in the world, it is the 22nd-most populous country, with an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017. The UK is constitutional monarchy; the current monarch is Queen Elizabeth II, who has reigned since 1952, making her the longest-serving current head of state.
The United Kingdom's capital and largest city is London, a global city and financial centre with an urban area population of 10.3 million. Other major urban areas in the UK include Greater Manchester, the West Midlands and West Yorkshire conurbations, Greater Glasgow and the Liverpool Built-up Area; the United Kingdom consists of four constituent countries: England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Their capitals are London, Edinburgh and Belfast, respectively. Apart from England, the countries have their own devolved governments, each with varying powers, but such power is delegated by the Parliament of the United Kingdom, which may enact laws unilaterally altering or abolishing devolution; the nearby Isle of Man, Bailiwick of Guernsey and Bailiwick of Jersey are not part of the UK, being Crown dependencies with the British Government responsible for defence and international representation. The medieval conquest and subsequent annexation of Wales by the Kingdom of England, followed by the union between England and Scotland in 1707 to form the Kingdom of Great Britain, the union in 1801 of Great Britain with the Kingdom of Ireland created the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
Five-sixths of Ireland seceded from the UK in 1922, leaving the present formulation of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. There are fourteen British Overseas Territories, the remnants of the British Empire which, at its height in the 1920s, encompassed a quarter of the world's land mass and was the largest empire in history. British influence can be observed in the language and political systems of many of its former colonies; the United Kingdom is a developed country and has the world's fifth-largest economy by nominal GDP and ninth-largest economy by purchasing power parity. It has a high-income economy and has a high Human Development Index rating, ranking 14th in the world, it was the world's first industrialised country and the world's foremost power during the 19th and early 20th centuries. The UK remains a great power, with considerable economic, military and political influence internationally, it is sixth in military expenditure in the world. It has been a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council since its first session in 1946.
It has been a leading member state of the European Union and its predecessor, the European Economic Community, since 1973. The United Kingdom is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, the Council of Europe, the G7, the G20, NATO, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the World Trade Organization; the 1707 Acts of Union declared that the kingdoms of England and Scotland were "United into One Kingdom by the Name of Great Britain". The term "United Kingdom" has been used as a description for the former kingdom of Great Britain, although its official name from 1707 to 1800 was "Great Britain"; the Acts of Union 1800 united the kingdom of Great Britain and the kingdom of Ireland in 1801, forming the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Following the partition of Ireland and the independence of the Irish Free State in 1922, which left Northern Ireland as the only part of the island of Ireland within the United Kingdom, the name was changed to the "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland".
Although the United Kingdom is a sovereign country, Scotland and Northern Ireland are widely referred to as countries. The UK Prime Minister's website has used the phrase "countries within a country" to describe the United Kingdom; some statistical summaries, such as those for the twelve NUTS 1 regions of the United Kingdom refer to Scotland and Northern Ireland as "regions". Northern Ireland is referred to as a "province". With regard to Northern Ireland, the descriptive name used "can be controversial, with the choice revealing one's political preferences"; the term "Great Britain" conventionally refers to the island of Great Britain, or politically to England and Wales in combination. However, it is sometimes used as a loose synonym for the United Kingdom as a whole; the term "Britain" is used both as a synonym for Great Britain, as a synonym for the United Kingdom. Usage is mixed, with the BBC preferring to use Britain as shorthand only for Great Britain and the UK Government, while accepting that both terms refer to the United K
Bordeaux is a port city on the Garonne in the Gironde department in Southwestern France. The municipality of Bordeaux proper has a population of 252,040. Together with its suburbs and satellite towns, Bordeaux is the centre of the Bordeaux Métropole. With 1,195,335 in the metropolitan area, it is the sixth-largest in France, after Paris, Lyon and Lille, it is the capital of the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region, as well as the prefecture of the Gironde department. Its inhabitants are called "Bordelais" or "Bordelaises"; the term "Bordelais" may refer to the city and its surrounding region. Being at the center of a major wine-growing and wine-producing region, Bordeaux remains a prominent powerhouse and exercises significant influence on the world wine industry although no wine production is conducted within the city limits, it is home to the world's main wine fair and the wine economy in the metro area takes in 14.5 billion euros each year. Bordeaux wine has been produced in the region since the 8th century.
The historic part of the city is on the UNESCO World Heritage List as "an outstanding urban and architectural ensemble" of the 18th century. After Paris, Bordeaux has the highest number of preserved historical buildings of any city in France. In historical times, around 567 BC it was the settlement of a Celtic tribe, the Bituriges Vivisci, who named the town Burdigala of Aquitanian origin; the name Bourde is still the name of a river south of the city. In 107 BC, the Battle of Burdigala was fought by the Romans who were defending the Allobroges, a Gallic tribe allied to Rome, the Tigurini led by Divico; the Romans were defeated and their commander, the consul Lucius Cassius Longinus, was killed in the action. The city fell under Roman rule around its importance lying in the commerce of tin and lead, it became capital of Roman Aquitaine, flourishing during the Severan dynasty. In 276 it was sacked by the Vandals. Further ravage was brought by the same Vandals in 409, the Visigoths in 414, the Franks in 498, beginning a period of obscurity for the city.
In the late 6th century, the city re-emerged as the seat of a county and an archdiocese within the Merovingian kingdom of the Franks, but royal Frankish power was never strong. The city started to play a regional role as a major urban center on the fringes of the newly founded Frankish Duchy of Vasconia. Around 585, Gallactorius is fighting the Basque people; the city was plundered by the troops of Abd er Rahman in 732 after they stormed the fortified city and overwhelmed the Aquitanian garrison. Duke Eudes mustered a force ready to engage the Umayyads outside Bordeaux taking them on in the Battle of the River Garonne somewhere near the river Dordogne; the battle had a high death toll. Although Eudes was defeated here, he saved part of his troops and kept his grip on Aquitaine after the Battle of Poitiers. In 735, the Aquitanian duke Hunald led a rebellion after his father Eudes's death, at which Charles responded by sending an expedition that captured and plundered Bordeaux again, but did not retain it for long.
The following year, the Frankish commander descended again to Aquitaine, but clashed in battle with the Aquitanians and left to take on hostile Burgundian authorities and magnates. In 745, Aquitaine faced yet another expedition by Charles's sons Pepin and Carloman, against Hunald, the Aquitanian princeps strong in Bordeaux. Hunald was defeated, his son Waifer replaced him, confirmed Bordeaux as the capital city. During the last stage of the war against Aquitaine, it was one of Waifer's last important strongholds to fall to King Pepin the Short's troops. Next to Bordeaux, Charlemagne built the fortress of Fronsac on a hill across the border with the Basques, where Basque commanders came over to vow loyalty to him. In 778, Seguin was appointed count of Bordeaux undermining the power of the Duke Lupo, leading to the Battle of Roncevaux Pass that year. In 814, Seguin was made Duke of Vasconia, but he was deposed in 816 for failing to suppress or sympathise with a Basque rebellion. Under the Carolingians, sometimes the Counts of Bordeaux held the title concomitantly with that of Duke of Vasconia.
They were meant to keep the Basques in check and defend the mouth of the Garonne from the Vikings when the latter appeared c. 844 in the region of Bordeaux. In Autumn 845, count Seguin II marched on the Vikings, who were assaulting Bordeaux and Saintes, but he was captured and executed. No bishops were mentioned during part of the 9th in Bordeaux. From the 12th to the 15th century, Bordeaux regained importance following the marriage of Duchess Eléonore of Aquitaine with the French-speaking Count Henri Plantagenet, born in Le Mans, who became, within months of their wedding, King Henry II of England; the city flourished due to the wine trade, the cathedral of St. André was built, it was the capital of an independent state under Edward, the Black Prince, but in the end, after the Battle of Castillon, it was annexed by France which extended its territory. The Château Trompette and the Fort du Hâ, built by Charles VII of France, were the symbols of the new domination, which however deprived the city of its wealth by halting the wine commerce with England.
In 1462, Bordeaux obtained a parliament, but regained importance only in the 16th century when it became the centre of the distribution of sugar and slaves from the West Indies along with the traditional wine. Bordeaux adhered to the Fronde
The Compiègne Wagon was the historical train carriage in which the First and Second Armistice at Compiègne were signed. After the first armistice was signed in the forest of Compiègne in 1918, the wagon was moved to a protective place in a French museum. After being returned for the 1940 second armistice at Compiègne, the wagon was moved to Berlin to symbolize Germany's superiority over France. At some point during World War II it when; the wagon was built in 1914 as dining car No. 2419D, was used as such until August 1918. The car was converted into an office for Marshal Ferdinand Foch, the Supreme Allied Commander, who used it from the end of October 1918 to September 1919. On 11 November 1918, Foch, as Supreme Commander, signed the armistice with Germany in the then-called "Wagon of Compiègne"; this agreement was the final "cease-fire". Sometime after this, the car was returned to the Compagnie des Wagons-Lits and resumed service as a dining car. In September 1919, it was donated in Paris; the wagon was on display in the Musée‘s Cour des Invalides from 1921 to 1927.
At the request of the Mayor of Compiègne, with the support of the American Arthur Henry Fleming, the car was restored and returned to Compiègne. It was housed in a specially created museum building as part of the "Glade of the Armistice" historic monument, with the car a few meters from the exact site of the signing ceremony During the Second World War, Hitler ordered that the wagon be moved to the same location for the signing of the second "armistice at Compiègne", on 22 June 1940; the carriage was moved out of its protective building and returned to the signing-place, several metres away and had been marked out as part of the monument. Subsequently, the wagon was taken to Berlin and displayed a week at the Berlin Cathedral. In 1944 the wagon was sent in central Germany, it moved to Ruhla and Gotha Crawinkel, near a huge tunnel system. There it was destroyed in March 1945 by the SS with fire and/or dynamite, in the face of the advancing U. S. Army. However, some SS veterans and civilian eye witnesses claim that the wagon had been destroyed by air attack near Ohrdruf while still in Thuringia in April 1944.
So, it is believed the wagon was destroyed in 1945 by the SS. Today's historical wagon is the exact copy of the original one. In 1950, French manufacturer Wagons-Lits, the company that ran the Orient Express, donated a car from the same series to the museum — 2439D is identical to its ravaged twin, from its polished wooden finishes to its studded, leather-bound chairs; this car had been part of Foch's private train during the 1918 signing. At the 1950 ceremony, it was renumbered No. 2419D. It is parked beside the display of the original car’s remains: a few fragments of bronze decoration and two access ramps
Armistice of 11 November 1918
The Armistice of 11 November 1918 was the armistice that ended fighting on land and air in World War I between the Allies and their opponent, Germany. Previous armistices had been agreed with Bulgaria, the Ottoman Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Known as the Armistice of Compiègne from the place where it was signed at 5:45 a.m. by the French Marshal Foch, it came into force at 11:00 a.m. Paris time on 11 November 1918 and marked a victory for the Allies and a defeat for Germany, although not formally a surrender; the actual terms written by the Allied Supreme Commander, Marshal Ferdinand Foch, included the cessation of hostilities, the withdrawal of German forces to behind the Rhine, Allied occupation of the Rhineland and bridgeheads further east, the preservation of infrastructure, the surrender of aircraft and military materiel, the release of Allied prisoners of war and interned civilians, eventual reparations, no release of German prisoners and no relaxation of the naval blockade of Germany.
Although the armistice ended the fighting on the Western Front, it had to be prolonged three times until the Treaty of Versailles, signed on 28 June 1919, took effect on 10 January 1920. On 29 September 1918 the German Supreme Army Command informed Kaiser Wilhelm II and the Imperial Chancellor, Count Georg von Hertling at Imperial Army Headquarters in Spa of occupied Belgium, that the military situation facing Germany was hopeless. Quartermaster General Erich Ludendorff fearing a breakthrough, claimed that he could not guarantee that the front would hold for another two hours and demanded a request be given to the Entente for an immediate ceasefire. In addition, he recommended the acceptance of the main demands of US president Woodrow Wilson including putting the Imperial Government on a democratic footing, hoping for more favorable peace terms; this enabled him to save the face of the Imperial German Army and put the responsibility for the capitulation and its consequences squarely into the hands of the democratic parties and the parliament.
He expressed his view to officers of his staff on 1 October: "They now must lie on the bed that they've made for us."On 3 October, the liberal Prince Maximilian of Baden was appointed Chancellor of Germany, replacing Georg von Hertling in order to negotiate an armistice. After long conversations with the Kaiser and evaluations of the political and military situations in the Reich, by 5 October 1918, the German government sent a message to President Wilson to negotiate terms on the basis of a recent speech of his and the earlier declared "Fourteen Points". In the subsequent two exchanges, Wilson's allusions "failed to convey the idea that the Kaiser's abdication was an essential condition for peace; the leading statesmen of the Reich were not yet ready to contemplate such a monstrous possibility." As a precondition for negotiations, Wilson demanded the retreat of Germany from all occupied territories, the cessation of submarine activities and the Kaiser's abdication, writing on 23 October: "If the Government of the United States must deal with the military masters and the monarchical autocrats of Germany now, or if it is to have to deal with them in regard to the international obligations of the German Empire, it must demand not peace negotiations but surrender."In late October, Ludendorff, in a sudden change of mind, declared the conditions of the Allies unacceptable.
He now demanded to resume the war. However the German soldiers were pressing to get home, it was scarcely possible to arouse their readiness for battle anew, desertions were on the increase. The Imperial Government stayed on course and Ludendorff was replaced by Wilhelm Groener. On 5 November, the Allies agreed to take up negotiations for a truce, now demanding reparation payments; the latest note from Wilson was received in Berlin on 6 November. That same day, the delegation led by Matthias Erzberger departed for France. A much bigger obstacle, which contributed to the five-week delay in the signing of the Armistice and to the resulting social deterioration in Europe, was the fact that the French and Italian governments had no desire to accept the "Fourteen Points" and President Wilson's subsequent promises. For example, they assumed that the de-militarization suggested by Wilson would be limited to the Central Powers. There were contradictions with their post-War plans that did not include a consistent implementation of the ideal of national self-determination.
As Czernin points out: The Allied statesmen were faced with a problem: so far they had considered the "fourteen commandments" as a piece of clever and effective American propaganda, designed to undermine the fighting spirit of the Central Powers, to bolster the morale of the lesser Allies. Now the whole peace structure was supposed to be built up on that set of "vague principles", most of which seemed to them unrealistic, some of which, if they were to be applied, were unacceptable; the sailors' revolt which took place during the night of 29 to 30 October 1918 in the naval port of Wilhelmshaven spread across the whole country within days and led to the proclamation of a republic on 9 November 1918 and to the announcement of the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II. However, in various areas soldiers challenged the authority of their officers and on occasion established Soldiers' Councils, thus for example the Brussels Soldiers' Council was set up by revolutionary soldiers on 9 November 1918. On 9 November, Max von Baden handed over the office of Chancellor to Friedrich Ebert, a Social Democrat.
Ebert's SPD and Erzberger's Catholic Centre Party had enjoyed an uneasy relationship with the Imperia
France the French Republic, is a country whose territory consists of metropolitan France in Western Europe and several overseas regions and territories. The metropolitan area of France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean, it is bordered by Belgium and Germany to the northeast and Italy to the east, Andorra and Spain to the south. The overseas territories include French Guiana in South America and several islands in the Atlantic and Indian oceans; the country's 18 integral regions span a combined area of 643,801 square kilometres and a total population of 67.3 million. France, a sovereign state, is a unitary semi-presidential republic with its capital in Paris, the country's largest city and main cultural and commercial centre. Other major urban areas include Lyon, Toulouse, Bordeaux and Nice. During the Iron Age, what is now metropolitan France was inhabited by a Celtic people. Rome annexed the area in 51 BC, holding it until the arrival of Germanic Franks in 476, who formed the Kingdom of Francia.
The Treaty of Verdun of 843 partitioned Francia into Middle Francia and West Francia. West Francia which became the Kingdom of France in 987 emerged as a major European power in the Late Middle Ages following its victory in the Hundred Years' War. During the Renaissance, French culture flourished and a global colonial empire was established, which by the 20th century would become the second largest in the world; the 16th century was dominated by religious civil wars between Protestants. France became Europe's dominant cultural and military power in the 17th century under Louis XIV. In the late 18th century, the French Revolution overthrew the absolute monarchy, established one of modern history's earliest republics, saw the drafting of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, which expresses the nation's ideals to this day. In the 19th century, Napoleon established the First French Empire, his subsequent Napoleonic Wars shaped the course of continental Europe. Following the collapse of the Empire, France endured a tumultuous succession of governments culminating with the establishment of the French Third Republic in 1870.
France was a major participant in World War I, from which it emerged victorious, was one of the Allies in World War II, but came under occupation by the Axis powers in 1940. Following liberation in 1944, a Fourth Republic was established and dissolved in the course of the Algerian War; the Fifth Republic, led by Charles de Gaulle, remains today. Algeria and nearly all the other colonies became independent in the 1960s and retained close economic and military connections with France. France has long been a global centre of art and philosophy, it hosts the world's fourth-largest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites and is the leading tourist destination, receiving around 83 million foreign visitors annually. France is a developed country with the world's sixth-largest economy by nominal GDP, tenth-largest by purchasing power parity. In terms of aggregate household wealth, it ranks fourth in the world. France performs well in international rankings of education, health care, life expectancy, human development.
France is considered a great power in global affairs, being one of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council with the power to veto and an official nuclear-weapon state. It is a leading member state of the European Union and the Eurozone, a member of the Group of 7, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the World Trade Organization, La Francophonie. Applied to the whole Frankish Empire, the name "France" comes from the Latin "Francia", or "country of the Franks". Modern France is still named today "Francia" in Italian and Spanish, "Frankreich" in German and "Frankrijk" in Dutch, all of which have more or less the same historical meaning. There are various theories as to the origin of the name Frank. Following the precedents of Edward Gibbon and Jacob Grimm, the name of the Franks has been linked with the word frank in English, it has been suggested that the meaning of "free" was adopted because, after the conquest of Gaul, only Franks were free of taxation.
Another theory is that it is derived from the Proto-Germanic word frankon, which translates as javelin or lance as the throwing axe of the Franks was known as a francisca. However, it has been determined that these weapons were named because of their use by the Franks, not the other way around; the oldest traces of human life in what is now France date from 1.8 million years ago. Over the ensuing millennia, Humans were confronted by a harsh and variable climate, marked by several glacial eras. Early hominids led a nomadic hunter-gatherer life. France has a large number of decorated caves from the upper Palaeolithic era, including one of the most famous and best preserved, Lascaux. At the end of the last glacial period, the climate became milder. After strong demographic and agricultural development between the 4th and 3rd millennia, metallurgy appeared at the end of the 3rd millennium working gold and bronze, iron. France has numerous megalithic sites from the Neolithic period, including the exceptiona