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Fighting a war, even as loosely-organised or underground force, is expensive - you need places to stay and keep things; you need to feed and equip people; you need to obtain, maintain and fuel vehicles and so on.

Where did all this money come from, how was it gathered, and how did it travel between parties until it reached the hands of people who needed to spend it in order to engage in the activities of the Resistance?

I'm particularly interested in learning about how the Resistance:

  • collected
  • moved
  • spent

money without attracting unwanted interest. It's the how that I'd like to know more about - not so much where funds came from, as how it actually moved, into the Resistance, within the Resistance, and finally out of it at the point of use, on a practical, operational, day-to-day basis.

  • 5
    Interestingly, this was the subject of a 2016 study Financing the Fight: The Role of Free-French Financial Intermediaries through their Social Network – sempaiscuba Apr 16 at 19:33
  • @sempaiscuba Thanks, downloaded to read. And bizarre to see downvotes (on no apparent basis) on the question appearing within seconds... – Daniele Procida Apr 16 at 19:36
  • 4
    Welcome to History:SE Daniele. I'm guessing that the downvote may have been for lack of evidence for prior research in your question. That's quite a big thing here, especially when the subject has its own Wikipedia page - although in this case that doesn't appear to offer much of any real use. I've no idea why you've attracted the close vote though! – sempaiscuba Apr 16 at 19:43
  • I did read in Jaques Delarue's History of the Gestapo that Joseph Joanovici (a privateer that made a fortune trading with the Germans) was a significant sponsor of some Resistance groups, but I do not remember if actual figures where given. HTH. – SJuan76 Apr 16 at 21:47
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SOURCES

The French Resistance received financial assistance from the British (especially through the SOE and F section) and (later) the Americans' OSS, as well as individuals and banks in France and from the Free French based in London. Resistance groups also 'self-financed' themselves through robbery.

COLLECTING

Money was sent to resistance groups via air drops, or smuggled in by boat, or was carried by operatives who were either parachuted in or came by boat. Whether the resistance moved by day or night depended on circumstances. Some resistance groups could also get money by selling bonds of no value to a 'friendly' bank.

MOVING

Money was sometimes hidden in the seams of clothes or in possessions such as toilet paper. Money was often carried by women as they were less likely to be stopped and searched. Public transport was avoided when possible due to check points; bicycles were a preferred method of transport when practical. However, cars and trucks were sometimes used to transport large sums, especially in rural areas. Money was also moved through bank branches.

SPENDING

Spending money in ways likely to draw attention was against resistance security orders but, despite this, some resistance leaders indulged in conspicuous consumption such as eating at expensive restaurants. When resistance groups used money for purchasing such basics as everyday food and clothing (which they often lacked - food was rarely included in air drops), they would have been unlikely to draw attention to themselves as these were routine activities.

Large sums were spent on arranging the smuggling of Allied personnel and other 'at risk' people across into Spain and Switzerland. The resistance sometimes paid families to hide and feed people being smuggled.

They also had to bribe officials for documents (for example, to obtain petrol or permits), or to get resistance members released from custody. Such 'purchases' could not be made without taking risks; informers were a constant threat.


DETAILS (with some specific examples)

Assistance from the British and the Americans wasn't just financial; they also provided weapons, ammunition, explosives, radios and medical supplies. Thus, much of what the resistance received did not involve the possibly risky business of spending. However, money was badly needed at times to buy food from local producers or items on the black market.

One method of getting money and supplies to resistance groups was by using drop zones:

guiding aircraft to a drop zone could range from the primitive to a more intricately scripted operation depending upon the skill and experience of the resistance group working the drop zone. In the most basic of receptions, four men used electric torches, formed a large “L” and signaled when they heard the sound of the aircraft. The reception party signaled a previously agreed upon Morse letter, and the aircraft dropped the load over the “L” and flew on to another location to drop leaflets elsewhere in an effort to make the Germans believe propaganda was the plane’s only mission.

Supplies could also be smuggled in by boat at night and temporarily stored until it was (reasonably) safe to distribute once the nighttime curfew had been lifted.

Another way of getting money to the resistance was to have individuals carry it with them. SOE and OSS operatives, for example, were sent to France with money (though not necessarily very much). Jean Moulin, a key figure in French resistance, on one occasion personally handed over to a local resistance leader

20,000 francs, a significant proportion of the money he had brought from London.

One Allied operative working with the resistance was told

that there was a message from London to say that money, clothes, and instructions would arrive ‘next month’ for both Alex and me. They would come through a contact I was to meet outside the Church of Saint Sauvin in Toulouse, and I was to be there, according to Raoul, twice daily, at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., from 8 March 1943 for twelve days, until we met up. I was not told who the contact was, but he knew me.

Source: Richard Heslop, 'Xavier: A British Secret Agent with the French Resistance'


Support also came from within France from wealthy individuals. For example, the resistance group Combat:

Initially Combat was mainly financed through gifts coming from all over France, solicited by Frenay from high-ranking members of society.

Financing could come in the form of, for example, funding underground publications. Henri Frenay, a military officer and resistance member, was one such case: he financed the printing of an underground paper with a print run of around 5,000 in 1941. Likewise, Jean Laurent of the Banque de l'Indochine

opened a fictitious account at his bank to finance clandestine Resistance publications,...

Source: Jonathan Marshall, 'Jean Laurent and the Bank of Indochina Circle: Business Networks, Intelligence Operations and Political Intrigues in Wartime France' (Journal of Intelligence History, 2008)

Like the Dutch banker Walraven van Hall (but probably not on the same scale), Paul Baudouin, also of the Banque de l'Indochine,

financed the resistance by buying its worthless bonds.

With branches in both occupied and unoccupied France, as well as in Allied countries, the Banque de l'Indochine was able to avoid Nazi surveillance on many of its activities, and it became a key source of intelligence gathering.


With money and arms in short supply immediately after the occupation and at various times in less well-supported areas, the rural resistance fighters the Maquis

had first to survive, and to do this they had, like any outlaws, to steal – to liberate supplies or the money to buy supplies for themselves in the short term. Lack of equipment was an obstacle all résistants faced when they started out, but Maquis bands often had a basic, urgent need for food and clothing; cooking utensils, fuel, medical supplies were luxuries. Proper uniforms, beyond the ubiquitous beret, lay outside the means of most groups.

These robberies continued even after the SOE started funding resistance groups, and the sums netted at times were substantial:

...they robbed railway stations, post offices, factories on pay day and banks. The Banque de France suffered major losses at branches in Saint- Claude (in the Jura) and Clermont-Ferrand; a whole shipment of money being moved by train from Périgueux to Bordeaux was stolen.

Source: Ian Ousby, 'Occupation: The Ordeal of France 1940-1944'

The Périgueux to Bordeaux money shipment in July 1944 netted the resistance a record 2.28 billion francs. The money was carted off in trucks and hidden at the local resistance group's HQ in some woods.For the distribution of this enormous amount:

The next day Maxime Roux, the treasurer of the Résistance in the Dordogne, along with members of the Comité Départemental de Libération took delivery of the money. For safe keeping it was decided to distribute the money to people in the area who could be trusted. Over the next few months the money was allocated to various heads of maquis groups in the R5 region (Limousin, Périgord and Quercy). It was used to arm and feed the Résistance and their families, pay for hospitals working for the Résistance in regions R5 and R6, pay ransoms to liberate résistants including André Malraux "Colonel Berger" who had been arrested on the 21st July 1944 at Gromat. Some of the money was even paid back to the Banque du France once the region had been liberated.

It wasn't just money that resistance groups stole:

In January 1944, for example, a raid on the Paulhan factories supplying the Jeunes in the Cévennes yielded 1,980 pairs of khaki shorts, 1,455 khaki jackets and 1,640 canvases for tents, together with overalls and forestry jackets.

Source: Ousby


Postscript

Resistance fighters (along with Allied operatives) were, of course, sometimes caught with cash and supplies.

In their four-door Citroen they carried around 1,800,000 Francs, their radios, and the BBC code phrases for their upcoming parachute drops. As they arrived in the village on this warm day, they heard a woman yell, “Malheureux, les Boches!”....


Other sources:

Robert Gildea, 'Fighters in the Shadows: A New History of the French Resistance'

Olivier Wieviorka (trans by J. M. Todd), 'The French Resistance'

André Rougeyron, 'Agents for Escape : Inside the French Resistance, 1939-1945'

  • Thank you, this is informative, interesting and detailed. Your answer refers exclusively to money in the form of cash, which surprised me. I would have expected also that large sums of money moved in other ways - hidden in industrial transactions; via bank orders and transfers and stolen cheques; in falsified business accounts and so on. – Daniele Procida Apr 20 at 6:56
  • @DanieleProcida Added some info on bank activities. – Lars Bosteen Apr 21 at 5:58

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