Speaking of metropolitan France (the 'Hexagone' + Corsica), when was France fully liberated of German occupying forces at the end of World War II?

We all know of the D-Day landings in Normandy in June 1944, the liberation of Paris in August 1944. There is also the lesser known Operation Dragoon, the Allied invasion of Southern France also in August. Then comes the Battle of the Ardennes (Battle of the Bulge) and the crossing of the Rhine somewhere in early 1945.

But I am vaguely aware of some pockets of German resistance in some French cities, which held for quite a few months.

At what precise date, if known, was France fully liberated? For the last few months of the war, month by month, which pockets of German fighting forces remained in France?

The question is mainly about metropolitan France. If we include France's colonial empire in Africa and Asia, what would the picture be?

I couldn't find any wikipedia article which provides a clear timeline of the liberation of France.

[Edit: following the first answer to this question, excluding the pockets of German resistance on the Atlantic, I wonder at what date the German army was last pushed back beyond France's eastern border, i.e. beyond the current borders between France and, from North to South: Belgium, Luxemburg and Germany itself.]

2 Answers 2


Atlantic pockets

The answer is surprisingly difficult to find on Wikipedia. I persisted in searching and finally found this:

German military administration in occupied France during World War II

The Liberation of France was the result of the Allied operations Overlord and Dragoon in the summer of 1944. Most of France was liberated by September 1944. Some of the heavily fortified French Atlantic coast submarine bases remained stay-behind "fortresses" until the German capitulation in May 1945.

Atlantic pockets

After the liberation of Brest on 19 September 1944, the Allies decided to lay siege to the remaining pockets and not to take them by force. Only Royan was subsequently assaulted, falling to French forces on 20 April 1945 during the siege of La Rochelle, which did not itself capitulate until 8 May.
The remaining pockets were:
Channel Islands (surrendered 9 May 1945)
Dunkirk (besieged since 15 September, surrendered 9 May 1945)
Lorient (besieged since 12 August, surrendered 10 May 1945)
Saint-Nazaire (besieged since 27 August, surrendered 11 May 1945)

So it seems that metropolitan France was not fully freed of belligerent German forces until 11th May 1945, 3 days after the Armistice.

North-Eastern Front

On the North-Eastern front, the last major battle was in Colmar, Alsace:

The battle lasted 20 January – 9 February 1945 , with the liberation of Colmar on Feb. 2nd and the collapse of the pocket on Feb. 9th.

We can also mention Sarreguemines, a small town in the Moselle departement near the German border.

On December 21–23 1944, the 44th Infantry Division (United States) threw back three attempts by the Germans to cross the Blies River. An aggressive defense of the Sarreguemines area was continued throughout February and most of March 1945.

Articles in French

The following articles in the French wikipedia cover exactly the full scope of the question:

Libération de la France

Chronologie de la Libération en France

  • 2
    According to the French Wikipedia, it is only the surrendering ceremony that happened on May 11th at Saint-Nazaire. The surrendering act had been signed on May the 8th (VE day, but that seems to have been a coincidence). On the other hand, German forces in Saint-Nazaire were still fully belligerent and inflicted hundred of casualties to the allies in April 1945, which is quite remarkable.
    – Olivier
    Feb 11, 2016 at 10:38
  • @Olivier : merci! To all : Link to the French article: fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poche_de_Saint-Nazaire
    – augustin
    Feb 11, 2016 at 11:03

Considering your edit (liberation of the north-eastern border): I would say March 19th 1945 after Lauterbourg was taken back in Alsace. You may also consider the city of Saorge, at the Italian border, liberated in April 24th.

But I don't think it makes so much sense to try to find a definitive day of the French liberation, because of the "pockets" which resisted even after the German capitulation. History tends to focus on the liberation of major cities and the scale of the battle. In this respect, Colmar (Feb 2nd) in Alsace is often cited as the last major battle on French territory. Also remember that the French Army (with the Allies) crossed the Rhine before these "pockets" were liberated on its own territory.


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