Joseph B asked in Arts & HumanitiesHistory · 2 months ago

Why Did France Declare War on Germany in 1939 and Then Just Surrender?


Yes, I know quite a bit about the Second World War.  France declared war on September 3, 1939, tried to extend their silly Maginot Line across Belgium to the sea, but otherwise sat on their behinds staring into Germany.  Then, when the Germans came through, the French abandoned Paris and signed an armistice.  So why did they bother declaring war?

10 Answers

  • 2 months ago
    Favorite Answer

    Actually, France at least tried to honour its commitment to Poland.  It invaded the Saar region of Germany on 7 Sep.'39.  However, the attack was 1/2 hearted & soon fizzled out.  The Germans forced the French back across the border in Oct. '39 as veterans from the Polish campaign were sent west.  

    When Germany launched its "Case Yellow" on 10 May '40, the French fought hard & well, but were outmaneuvered by the German armour & driven back.  They fought a fierce rear-guard action as the B.E.F. was withdrawn.  In the campaign they lost 

  • 2 months ago

    Their crystal ball had broken.So like you, they didn't have the insight, to after the event had taken place.

    That's the trouble with declaring war. The German attacks on both France and the UK were pre-emptive attacks, against declared aggressors.Germany hadn't declare war on any of them.

  • Tina
    Lv 7
    2 months ago

    I'm afraid your knowledge of WW2 is on a par with Dave's ('non-partisan') - using phrases like 'sat on their behinds staring into Germany', 'turned tail and ran' 'or words like 'coward' shows that.

    The French put up a good fight.but they were against a country which had been preparing for war since 1933, while the rest of Europe, who had had quite enough of war for that century had not.

    This is unfortunate. If Hitler had been slapped down when he remilitarised the Rhineland a world of blood and pain might have been avoided.

    Read some history and don't insult men who died for their country.

  • gerald
    Lv 7
    2 months ago

    Go and fight a French soldier pal dont talk on here about it there is too much American bravadò who incidentally never won a war on its own 

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  • Anonymous
    2 months ago

    If you actually knew  "quite a bit about the Second World War" as you claim you wouldn't have asked. I cannot explain it here in a few paragraphs. I can't even give you a decent summary in a few paragraphs. Presumably you at least know about the treaty between Poland, France and England and the general expectation that Russia would deter any major moves by Germany after the Munich agreement.  . The fact is,no one in the west really foresaw the German surprise attack on Poland, followed by  the Russian attack of Poland 2 weeks later. And not even the Germans expected  Poland to collapse so rapidly.  They were not a militarily weak country. 


    The English and French didn't know about the "secret protocol" that was part of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact between Germany and Russia that only came about a month before the invasion of Poland, and no one expected France to fall at all, much less so easily because they were one of the worlds major powers. The French didn't just "sit on their behinds". That's a popular misconception, but the lack of adequate intelligence, the totally unexpected German armored thrust through the "impassable" Ardennes forest,  and the general "fog" of war contributed greatly to the collapse.  What happened and how it happened is complicated and the Germans were also very lucky in a lot of ways. It was a huge gamble for them.  I urge you to read these two books:

    STRANGE VICTORY , Hitler's Conquest of France By Ernest R. May

    THE FALL OF FRANCE: The Nazi Invasion of 1940 by Julian T. Jackson

  • Anonymous
    2 months ago

    France did not 'just surrender'.   Look at the dates, look at the record of the fighting.  At least France did fight for a few months.   

    You seem incapable of fighting off the temptations of the "Every word must have a capital" fairy.

    France did not try to extend the Maginot line to the North Sea coast, it did not have the resources to do so in a short space of time.

    Silly Maginot Line?  France was trying to avoid the slaughter of the trenches in WW1 by giving the 'trench role' to far more substantial defences.

  • Fred
    Lv 7
    2 months ago

    It was not as simple as you seem to think.  The French and the British realized that Hitler was not going to stand by his agreement not to attack Poland and realized as they did in !914 that they were the only powers who could have a chance of stopping the Germans by working together.  The French had put a lot of belief into the Maginot Line would be able to hold the Germans back and it would likely be a repeat of WW1 where both sides dug in for years of trench warfare.  The British and the French woefully underestimated the Germans who had developed what they called the Blitzkrieg tactics where the enemy forces are overwhelmed by a combined concentrated air attack combined with tanks and infantry leaving the enemy bewildered and overwhelmed.  The Germans came through the Arden forest which the allies considered to thick to bring vehicles through and therefor left that area poorly defended.  This allowed the Germans to catch the British and French off guard and cut the allies from running back to Paris forcing the French and the British to make a retreat in the only direction they could towards the coast.  The Germans kept the pressure on not giving the allied forces a chance to dig in and trapped them against the sea at Dunkirk.  The British managed to use small pleasure and fishing boats to rescue most of their own soldiers and some French.  Many French had to surrender but after the surrender of the French in Paris some units kept fighting on west of Paris but it was hopeless and finally all France realized it had no choice but to surrender.  The French Navy were anchored in French territories in North Africa and Southern France.  The British worried the French navy would be taken over by the Germans sent British navy ships to the north African fleet with an ultimatum that the French either sail to Britain to join the British fleet, sail to a neutral port and be interned, or be sunk where they sat.  The French did nothing so the British sank that fleet.  The 2nd French fleet in Southern France was left alone after the French Fleet Commander promised the fleet would not be given to the Germans.  When the Germans were on the way to take the fleet the order was given to sink their own ships before the Germans arrived which they did.

      The French had been at war with Germany for nearly 10 months before they surrendered so they did not just surrender soon after they declared war on Germany.  They had put up a good strong fight all that time and deserve more credit than many give them during WW2, and did all they could to not help the Germans in any way they could.  Their stubbornness gave Britain time to build their home defenses ready for their believed invasion by the German.

  • larry1
    Lv 6
    2 months ago

    France's political leadership declared war as a matter of national policy as France was required to do by it's treaties with the UK and Poland. Unfortunately France lost the War in 2-4 weeks (once the shooting started in spring 1940) because it's military was totally unprepared. The military had been gutted by Frances elected 'Popular Front' leftist/ semi communist government a couple years before leaving a huge gulf between the political leadership and the military. The military leadership had come to hate and mistrust it's own governments and were politically rightest. When war came they determined just to go through the motions of fighting then surrendered and appointed one of their old general...right wing dictator and collaborated with the right wing Nazis as 'Vichy France'.

    It was the French generals who surrendered France not the by then moderate government who were hunted down, killed or forced to flee for wanting to continue fighting.    

  • 1465
    Lv 6
    2 months ago

    The trouble with wars is, everyone is signing pacts with everyone else.

    The Franco-Polish Alliance was signed in 1921 and was in effect until the outbreak of WW2.

    France signed a pact with Germany in 1938.

    Then there was the British French Military Alliance of 1939.

    After Germany invaded Poland, France made an effort to honor the British French Alliance with Poland (Britain didn't bother - they had nothing with which to back up their pledge to Poland) y attacking Germany from the west.

    Upon meeting with German resistance, they suddenly remembered the pact they had with Germany (or so it seems since they suddenly turned tail and ran).

    You have to give them credit for one thing - at least they stepped up to the plate. Britain was too much of a coward and never made a serious effort to retaliate until 8 months later.

    @Tina - "The French put up a good fight.but they were against a country which had been preparing for war since 1933, while the rest of Europe, who had had quite enough of war for that century had not."

    Why did the French even involve itself if it wasn't militarily prepared to fight? And how is it that France attacked Germany, but Germany was the big bad aggressor?

    This falls in line with the fact that it was Britain that declared war on Germany, yet the war was Germany's fault. Hitler made several attempts to prevent a war against Britain, was ignored - and yet again, Germany was the aggressor?

    "...while the rest of Europe, who had had quite enough of war for that century had not." - So then, why did Britain declare war on Germany if they were not prepared to back it up?

    There's only one possible answer - by manipulating Poland to provoke an attack by Germany, Britain justified its own declaration of war against Germany. Hitler's respect for Chamberlain bought Britain the time they needed to rearm.

    Hitler never wanted to go to war with Britain - that's why he ended the Polish conflict so quickly. He didn't want it turning into an international issue.

    During the 8 months it took for Britain to respond, they were aggressively rearming - such odd behavior for a country "who had had quite enough of war for that century." This is especially strange behavior in light of the fact that Hitler made so many peace offers.

    Other than a few minor clashes between the two countries the period was quiet (called "The Phoney War").

    There was no reason to refuse negotiations of peace with Hitler - or at least listen to what he had to say. But this is what Churchill did - he wasn't interested in peace, he cared only about going to war with Germany.

    War was declared on Germany by Judea (since you don't like the word "Zionism") in 1933. Minimize it all you want by calling it a "boycott", but it was still an effort to cripple and possibly destroy Germany.

    On Aug 6 Samuel Untermyer again declares war on Germany. This time it's called 'holy war". (This, of course, should be minimalized also, since it's just a war between churches...).

    So then, when does a leader start preparing to defend his country? When the "nobody" Zionists declare war on you - or wait until the countries they're assimilated into and have political influence with declare war on you?

  • Orla
    Lv 6
    2 months ago

    Do you know anything about WWII ?

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