After Marshal Henri-Philippe Petain signed the armistice in 1940 the Gestapo began hunting down communists and socialists. Most of them went into hiding. The obvious place to go was in the forests of the unoccupied zones. Escaped soldiers from the French Army also fled to these forests. These men and women gradually formed themselves into units based on political beliefs and geographical area. These groups became known as the Maquis (the name comes from the small scrub bushes in that part of the world which they frequently used for cover against the Germans).
In the spring of 1942, communist militants, acting independently of the leadership of the French Communist Party, organized the first Maquis units in the Limousin and the Puy-de-Dôme. Maquis groups were established in other regions of France. As the Maquis grew in strength it began to organize attacks on German forces.
In the Limousin, the Maquis were led by the Communist militant, Georges Guingouin. At this time Guingouin was not supplied with any weapons. Therefore their main method of resisting the German Army was sabotage. This included attacks on bridges, telephone lines and railway tracks.
The Maquis also provided aid and protection to refugees, immigrants, Jews, and others threatened by the Vichy and the German authorities. They also helped to get Allied airman, whose aircraft had been shot down in France, to get back to Britain.
In March 1944, the German Army began a campaign of repression throughout France. This included a policy of reprisals against civilians living in towns and villages close to the scene of attacks carried out by members of the French Resistance. As one official wrote on 15th April, 1944 that the authorities "wanted to strike fear into the population and change their opinion by showing them that the evils they were suffering were the direct consequence of the existence of the Maquis and that they had made the mistake of tolerating them."
On 5th June, 1944, General Dwight D. Eisenhower asked the BBC sent out coded messages to the resistance asking them to carry out acts of resistance during the D-day landings in order to help Allied forces establish a beachhead on the Normandy coast.
After the war General Dwight D. Eisenhower wrote: "Throughout France the Resistance had been of inestimable value in the campaign. Without their great assistance the liberation of France would have consumed a much longer time and meant greater losses to ourselves."