"A heroic city at the peak of the French resistance and combat for the Liberation. A proud city that fought fiercely and constantly against the Germans, in spite of days of mourning and suffering, in spite of the arrest and massacre of its outstanding people. Braving the obstacles imposed by the invaders and their accomplices, Grenoble expressed, on November 11th of 1943, its conviction of a sure victory and its intent to participate in it. On the 13th, 14th and 16th of November of 1943, the city responded to German retaliation and to the execution of the heads of the Resistance Movements by destroying the explosions factory, the barracks, transformers and other factories used by the enemy… for our country".
(Grenoble, named Companion of the Liberation by decree, on May 4th, 1944).
Located in an area that had not been occupied, the city of Grenoble, after the armistice of June 1940, was a place where great resistance movements began, as more and more of its citizens joined the effort. These great movements included the "Combat" movement (born of the merger of the "Vérités" (Truths) movement led by Marie Reynoard, a teacher at Lycée Stendahl (a high school), and "Franc-Tireur" (led in Grenoble by Doctor Martin, Eugène Chavant, Aimé Pupin and Jean Perrot).
Pretty soon, in the spring of 1941, the Front National took shape as did clandestine newspapers, such as "Les Allobroges". At the same time, a small faction of the armistice army secretly prepared to continue fighting, hiding equipment and tons of ammunition in the ammunition store of the Polygone. The University of Grenoble and its professors provided constant support to the Resistance movement, and towards the end of 1942, several of its departments began producing false documentation for young people – giving them the identity of students – to prevent them from being assigned to forced labor.
Towards the end of 1942, and encouraged by the local "Franc-Tireur" movement, a group of maquis (Resistance fighters) formed in the nearby Vercors region, thanks mainly to the arrival of people who refused to be sent to forced labor. This group became an important symbol of the Resistance.
In November of 1942, the city was occupied by the Italians and a year later by the Germans. This is when the true occupation began. The basic activities of the Resistance were at this time training and providing weapons for forced labor evaders. Little by little they joined the maquis that were organizing in the woods and mountains surrounding Grenoble. Gradually, the irregular groups took action, destroying power lines and transformers, stealing the local forced labor files, destroying the Fort des Quatre Seigneurs and stealing large amounts of stockpiled explosives.
At the same time, on November 11th, 1943, the anniversary of the armistice of 1918, - in spite of orders given by the government of Vichy – an almost general strike and a protest in front of the local collaboration offices were organized. In retaliation for these acts, 500 patriots were deported. In response to this, on November 13th, the Francs-Tireurs blew up the artillery stored at the Polygone, which was a powerful psychological shock for the enemy and for the local population.
Responding to each attack, the invader intensified the repression by arresting and assassinating many Resistance workers. But on December 2nd, 1943, the Resistance fighters blew up the Bonne barracks, which the Germans used as their new arsenal, and the industrial and railway sabotage became more intense.
The Bonne barracks destroyed
On May 4th, 1944, General De Gaulle signed the decree that would grant the Cross of the Liberation to Grenoble.
The Normandy landing was also the time for Resistance fighters in the Grenoble area to reach the height of their combat, with numerous attacks that considerably hampered the activity of the German troops, blocking all the main roads around Grenoble.
On August 15th, 1944, the landing in Provence forced the Germans to abandon the city by August 18th. However, they did not leave without having first massacred several prisoners at the Polygone where the gruesome scene left behind by the Gestapo was found the day after the liberation. Once Grenoble was freed, 840 people had been shot, more than 2,000 men killed in combat, as many disappeared and 1,150 had been deported, half of which did not return.
The Cross of the Liberation is awarded to the city of Grenoble