On 14th June 1940, the German Army occupied Paris. Paul Reynaud, the French prime minister, now realized that the German Western Offensive could not be halted and suggested that the government should move to territories it owned in North Africa. This was opposed by his vice-premier, Henri-Philippe Petain, and the supreme commander of the armed forces, General Maxime Weygand. They insisted that the government should remain in France and seek an armistice.
Outvoted, Reynaud resigned and President Albert Lebrun, appointed Petain as France's new premier. He immediately began negotiations with Adolf Hitler and on 22nd June signed an armistice with Germany. The terms of the agreement divided France into occupied and unoccupied zones, with a rigid demarcation line between the two. The Germans would directly control three-fifths of the country, an area that included northern and western France and the entire Atlantic coast. The remaining section of the country would be administered by the French government at Vichy under Marshal Henri-Philippe Petain.
Other provisions of the armistice included the surrender of all Jews living in France to the Germans. The French Army was disbanded except for a force of 100,000 men to maintain domestic order. The 1.5 million French soldiers captured by the Germans were to remain prisoners of war. The French government also agreed to stop members of its armed forces from leaving the country and instructed its citizens not to fight against the Germans. Finally, France had to pay the occupation costs of the German troops.
Over the next four years Henri-Philippe Petain led the right-wing government of Vichy France. The famous revolutionary principles of "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity" were replaced by "Work, Family, Fatherland". Prominent figures in the Vichy government included Pierre Laval, Jean-Francois Darlan and Joseph Darnand.
The Vichy government kept troops in Syria during the Second World War. Its position on the Eastern Mediterranean coast made it strategically important for both Britain and Nazi Germany. The Allies also feared that Henri-Philippe Petain would allow the Luftwaffe to establish air bases in the country.
On 8th June 1941 the British Army and Free French forces entered Syria from Iraq and Palestine. After facing tough resistance from the Vichy forces the Allies captured Damascus on 17th June. The armistice was signed on 12th July and pro-British regimes were maintained in Syria for the rest of the war.
Joseph Darnand expanded the Milice and by 1944 it had over 35,000 members. The organization played an important role in investigating the French Resistance. Like the Gestapo, the miliciens were willing to use torture to gain information.
After the D-day landings took place the Maquis and other resistance groups emerged to help in the liberation of their country. Henri-Philippe Petain and his ministers fled to Germany where they established an exiled government at Sigmaringen.